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Zephania Lekoane Mothopeng (Posthumous)

The Order of Luthuli in

Zephania Lekoane Mothopeng (Posthumous) Awarded for:
His exceptional contribution to the struggle for democracy. Multiple arrests and torture did not stop him from continuing to work for the liberation of South African people.
Profile of Zephania Lekoane Mothopeng

Zephania “Zeph” Lekoane Mothopeng was born on 10 September 1913, near the town of Vrede in the Free State. His family moved to the then Transvaal where he completed his primary schooling at the St Mary’s Anglican School, Daggakraal and then went to St Chatswold Training College. He then enrolled at Adams College, Amanzimtoti in KwaZulu-Natal where he was one of the first students to obtain a post Matriculation Teacher’s Certificate.

Mothopeng started teaching at Orlando Secondary School in 1941. In 1946, he obtained his BA degree from the University of South Africa. Mothopeng taught Maths and Physical Science at Orlando High School for about 13 years.

Mothopeng’s political life began as early as 1943 when he was a member of the African National Congress Youth League. He later aligned himself with the organisation’s Africanist section, which was critical of its policies of engagement with white liberals. In 1959, the Africanists broke away from the ANC and formed the Pan Africanist Congress (PAC).

He was elected to the PAC’s National Executive and National Working Committees. In 1960, Mothopeng was arrested and sentenced to two years for his role in organising the Anti-Pass Campaign, under the Suppression of Communism Act. He was rearrested in 1963 and convicted in 1964 for promoting the aims of a banned organisation, the PAC.

When Mothopeng was released from prison in 1967, he was taken to QwaQwa and banned for two years. In 1969, his banning order was renewed for another two years effectively making his banning order four years. In the 1970s, Mothopeng continued doing underground work for the PAC. He visited Robert Sobukwe who was banished to Kimberley. Together with former Robben Island inmates, a recruitment programme was established with the PAC in Swaziland.

He was arrested again in 1976 and his trial commenced in 1978. At the time of his arrest, Mothopeng was employed as a director of the Urban Resource Centre, a voluntary community organisation. He was charged with promoting the aims of the PAC and, together with his co-accused, refused to enter a plea arguing that the court was illegitimate and it did not have a mandate from the African people.

He was held in solitary confinement for about 16 months before being brought to court. His trial, which lasted for 18 months, was held in the small town of Bethal, several hours’ drive from Johannesburg. He and 16 others were found guilty of terrorist activities and furthering the aims and activities of the banned PAC. The PAC Central Committee elected him President at a meeting in Tanzania in August 1986. Mothopeng was released from prison in 1989.

Mothopeng died at the age of 77 on 23 October 1990.