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James Sebebubijwasekgogobontharile Moroka (Posthumous)

The Order of Luthuli in

James Sebebubijwasekgogobontharile Moroka (Posthumous) Awarded for:
His contribution to the struggle for freedom and for his outstanding contribution in the struggle for a free democratic, non-racial and non-sexist South Africa.
Profile of James Sebebubijwasekgogobontharile Moroka

Dr James Sebe Moroka was born on 16 March 1892, in Thaba Nchu, in the Free State. Moroka was the great grandson of Chief Moroka I of the Barolong Boo-Seleka at Thaba Nchu.

A medical doctor and politician, Moroka became involved in the African National Congress (ANC) and with the support of Walter Sisulu, Nelson Mandela and the Congress Youth League was elected as president of the ANC in December 1949 to replace Dr AB Xuma.

At the December 1949 ANC Conference, Moroka adopted a radical Programme of Action, which sought to move the ANC to new forms of struggle, including mass protest and mass defiance campaigns. During his presidency, the ANC became a more confrontational organisation and it was determined to take direct action against apartheid laws.

Moroka first entered politics as early as the 1920s. At the time of the Hertzog Bills, Moroka was immediately accorded a leadership role and accompanied the delegation of the All African Convention (AAC) that confronted Prime Minister JBM Hertzog in early 1936.

When some in the delegation apparently expressed a willingness to give the prime minister’s proposals a try, Moroka made clear his opposition to any compromise and thereby established a reputation for militancy that eventually carried him to national leadership of the ANC.

When the AAC was organised in 1936, he became its treasurer, believing that the way to expose the hypocrisy of the Natives’ Representative Council (NRC) was to get on it and then denounce them. Again, an important reason was that Moroka wanted the black vote to be available throughout South Africa, hence joining the AAC, and even his bravery to stand up to a white man at the time, was admired by Nelson Mandela.

In 1918, he graduated from the University of Edinburgh in Medicine. Returning from Scotland, after completing his medical studies, Moroka had realised the importance of education and health to the people. This led to him donating land and two institutions were built, the Moroka Missionary School, now the Moroka High School, which has produced many intellectuals and still continues to serve the youth of our country, and the Moroka Missionary Hospital, now the Dr JS Moroka Hospital.

Moroka stood as a candidate in 1942 and was elected from the Transvaal-Orange Free State constituency, thus dissociating himself from the AAC boycott policy. In 1946, he was in the forefront of those denouncing the NRC and the government.

Moroka took part in the planning of the Defiance Campaign of 1952, and was one of the signatories who wrote a demand letter to Prime Minister DF Malan.

Moroka was arrested with other comrades. However, his views and beliefs were misunderstood by the rest of the ANC leadership when he felt that it was a better choice at the time to make use of a Jewish lawyer as opposed to an Afrikaner lawyer. As leader at the time, Moroka made this decision, seeing it as in the best interest of the others and of the country. His decision was unfortunately viewed by the ANC as Moroka organising a separate defense for himself, as opposed to the ANC decision that all those arrested would make a common stand. This led to Moroka being referred to as a sell-out, although he did not turn his back on anyone nor lead anyone to mishap when taking such a decision.

Moroka continued to serve a number of freedom fighters who always came to Thaba Nchu, knowing they had a leader there as he helped them cross into neighbouring countries such as Botswana and Lesotho, from his own pocket. This continued until 1979.

At the ANC Conference in December 1952, he was replaced with Chief Albert Luthuli, and continued being a member of the ANC. He will always be remembered as the ANC president that ushered the ANC into new forms of struggle – more militant and radical, with the inception of the Defiance Campaign of all Unjust Laws. It was also under his leadership that the National Party government was introducing more draconian laws against the African people, which radicalised it politics.

Dr James Moroka died on 8 November 1985.