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Fish Keitseng (1919 - 2005)

The Order of Luthuli in

Fish Keitseng (1919 - 2005) Awarded for:
His excellent leadership and contribution to the struggle for the ideals of a free, just and democratic South Africa.

Profile of Fish Keitseng

Fish Keitseng was born in 1919 in Botswana. At the age of 23, he came to South Africa as a mineworker and became one of the original members of the African Mineworkers' Union, led by J B Marks. In 1949, he left the mines, moved to Newclare in Johannesburg and became a factory worker. Joining the African National Congress (ANC) in the same year, he became a leader of the Newclare Congress branch and its volunteer-in-chief during the 1952 Defiance Campaign. In 1956, he was involved in an incident with the police who had arrested a group of pass offenders. Taking the lead in a crowd of angry onlookers, Keitseng ordered the police to release their victims after which they complied. Keitseng was later sentenced to 12 months in jail and lost an appeal to the Supreme Court in mid-1957.

He was charged along with others in the Treason Trial. Through his unbending commitment to justice, Fish Keitseng made an extraordinary contribution to South Africa's liberation. Prosecuted in the famous Treason Trial, he was deported to his native Botswana a few months before the Sharpeville Massacre that resulted in the ANC's banning and its resorting to armed struggle. He established and successfully ran an underground transit system for the ANC that secured the movement of refugees through Botswana. This operation was of vital importance as it enabled many freedom fighters to leave South Africa for political and military training abroad.

This, in turn, allowed the ANC to establish itself in exile as a liberation movement ultimately capable of assuming state power. Fish Keitseng has been described as an extremely brave freedom fighter and a daring and fearless man.