Peter Mokaba Road Formerly North Ridge and Ridge roads Peter Mokaba,

 

 The outspoken former ANC Youth League President and Deputy Minister in Nelson Mandela’s government, was born in Mankweng Township near Polokwane (Pietersburg at the time) on 7 January 1959. His parents, Albert Mogodi and Priscilla Mapitsi Mokaba, were poor migrant workers. Mokaba’s childhood prepared him for a life of struggle, exposing him to the injustices and violence of the apartheid system. His family had been forcibly removed to Mankweng, where they lived as squatters. While at Hwiti High School in Mankweng, Mokaba became a leader of the school boycotts in the north. He was inspired to early political action by activist Onkgopotse Tiro, the black consciousness poet, and more directly, by Winnie Kgware, the Black People’s Convention founding president. He slept in the mountains to evade arrest but was eventually captured in November, 1977. The authorities banned him from attending school so he completed matric on his own in 1978. In 1980 he registered at the University of the North.

 

His education was repeatedly interrupted by state harassment and arrest, but Mokaba maintained a lifelong passion for learning. He never stopped studying, completing a Masters degree in Development Management at the University of Witwatersrand. At the time of his death he was studying for a second Masters degree, this time in Economics at the University of Stellenbosch. By the 1980s he had got involved in the underground organisation and decided to leave the country for military training in Angola. Later, he returned to the country with the task of setting up bases, training new recruits and conducting economic sabotage. He was arrested in 1982 and tried for membership of the ANC, possession of weapons, undergoing military training and recruiting for the ANC. Sentenced to six years’ imprisonment, Mokaba was sent to Robben Island. However, one year later the Appeal Court set aside his conviction, and he was released. He was immediately rearrested on similar charges and tried. The court sentenced him to three years’, suspended for five years.

 

Once more Mokaba went to work among the youth. His energy, experience and fiery vision soon gave him a place in the leadership. When the Mankweng Youth Congress was formed in 1985, he was elected to its leadership. He then served as education officer for the Northern Transvaal UDF Regional Youth Co-ordinating Committee. He also played a key role in opposing the planned independence of KwaNdebele in 1986. In March 1987, although threatened with arrest, he was elected South African Youth Congress (SAYCO) president at its secret launch. During the apartheid years more than a dozen attempts were made to kill Mokaba. Shots were fired at him, his home was fire-bombed, and a would-be assassin once confessed he had been ordered by security police to kill him. After the unbanning of the ANC, SAYCO was dissolved and in December 1991 he was elected ANC Youth League president.

 

He bowed out of the league on 14 January, 1992. Elected as a Member of Parliament in April 1994 and again in June 1999, Mokaba served as Deputy Minister of Environmental Affairs and Tourism in the government of former President Mandela. He died on 9 June 2002 after being admitted to hospital with respiratory problems. He is survived by his former wife and three children, daughters Nomzamo and Thandiwe and son, Siyabulela. The World Cup stadium in Polokwane has been named in his honour.

swazid@durban.gov.za