On the occasion of his 84th birthday, anti-apartheid struggle veteran, Isaac Makopo, was honoured for his integrity, selflessness and dedicated service to the people of South Africa.
Makopo celebrated his birthday on April 21 with family, friends and an enthusiastic throng of comrades, young and old, who lauded him for his unwavering commitment to the struggle.
The event was held at the Zakariyya Park Community Hall. It was hosted by the newly renamed Ward 122 Isaac Makopo ANC Branch and the Ahmed Kathrada Foundation.
Board member of the Foundation and MEC for Roads and Transport in Gauteng, Ismail Vadi, remarked that Makopo is “the real salt of the earth of the African National Congress’s leaders”.
Conveying his birthday wishes, Vadi said, “Isaac Makopo belongs to a legion of activists who have worked with dedication to the movement. Comrade Makopo’s struggle credentials are not just exemplary, but also worth celebrating. He started out as a volunteer to cementing his commitment as a branch member, a branch deputy secretary and member of Umkhonto we Sizwe (MK), the armed wing of the ANC.”
Vadi added that he hoped more people, in particular the youth, would be influenced by the selfless principles of Makopo – who throughout his life demonstrated no sense of entitlement.
Gauteng Education MEC, Panyaza Lesufi, who was also present, said that he hopes the next big school to be opened in the province is named after Makopo. This would be to ensure that Makopo’s name lives on forever, he said.
Emphasising the importance of education and literacy, Lesufi said his department will strive to distribute to provincial school libraries, copies of a booklet on Isaac Makopo. The booklet, capturing Makopo’s 64 years of activism, was produced by the Foundation.
Makopo left the country in the early 1960s for military training with a group of 31 others who would form the first batch of cadres of what later became known as the Luthuli Detachment. He left behind his elderly parents, his siblings, his girlfriend at the time, and his 11-month-old daughter, Maria Lungi. At the time, he thought that he would be infiltrated back into the country as an MK operative after six months. However, the Rivonia arrests took place during this period, which meant that MK’s National High Command had been crushed. Makopo recalls being told by ANC leader Oliver Tambo that he could not send the group back into the country as it was too dangerous. Makopo would return home some 30 years later to a very different country!
During his time in exile, Makopo undertook military training in Morocco and the Soviet Union. He worked at the ANC’s camps and offices in Tanzania and Zambia and was the organisation’s chief representative in Botswana. He also served in the ANC’s Department of National Logistics which determined and acquired the basic necessities needed by ANC members and MK cadres in Zambia, Tanzania, Angola, Mozambique and Zimbabwe.
Upon his return from exile, Makopo served at the Lenasia ANC parliamentary office as a labour officer. He was also the first Chairperson of the Umkhonto we Sizwe Military Veterans Association.
Although in his 80s, Makopo continues to be actively involved, serving on the ANC Gauteng’s Provincial Disciplinary Committee and a member of the Provincial Executive Committee of the ANC Veteran’s League.
Makopo lives in Vlakfontein with his daughters Masechaba and Ndabazana Twambo. His wife, Jenny Daka, whom he met in exile, died in 1997.
Makopo himself says of his contribution, “If there’s anything that really stands out (about my life) and I’m proud of it – I’ll be proud of it till I get to my grave – it’s the sacrifices and commitment to the struggle of our people as a cadre of the ANC. I have no regrets. Even if I have to sleep with an empty stomach, I will not regret it. I will just that I am one of those South Africans in this position.”
By Delani Majola