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Zephania Lekoane Mothopeng

South Africa

Zephania Lekoane Mothopeng born on September 10, 1913 and died on October 23, 1990, was a South African political activist and member of the Pan-Africanist Congress (PAC).

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Created: 3rd Jun 2008
Modified: 3rd Jun 2008
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Zephania Lekoane Mothopeng was active in the African National Congress but disapproved of its multiracial philosophy and links with the South African Communist Party. He left with Mr. Sobukwe and others to found the Pan-Africanist Congress in 1959. Mr. Mothopeng was arrested in 1960 for taking part in a defiance campaign against the pass laws used to restrict and monitor the movements of blacks, and he was jailed for two years. After his release, he was detained in 1963 and then imprisoned again in 1964, spending part of his sentence with Nelson Mandela and other political prisoners at the prison on Robben Island before being released in 1967. He was director of a community organization when he was arrested again in 1976 under the Terrorism Act. He and his codefendants refused to plead at their trial, saying they did not recognize the court. He was sentenced to 15 years. Mr. Mothopeng began his struggle against apartheid in the youth league of the African National Congress in the early 1940's, but quit the congress in 1959 and joined Robert Sobukwe in founding the more hard-line Pan-Africanist Congress. He was elected its president in 1986 while in prison. The philosophy of black consciousness developed by Mr. Sobukwe and advocated by Mr. Mothopeng argued that that no political settlement was possible in South Africa unless blacks regained the land that was rightfully theirs. According to this philosophy, whites could stay if they became truly African in their thoughts and actions. It also envisioned an African continent united in a single nation called Azania. "We move from the premise that the whole land of Azania belongs to the indigenous people, the African people, who were here long before the colonialists arrived," Mr. Mothopeng said in an interview published by the magazine Leadership in May. Under Mr. Mothopeng's leadership, the Pan-Africanist Congress refused to join negotiations on South Africa's future proposed by President F. W. de Klerk. While the African National Congress opened exploratory talks with the Government, the Pan-Africanist Congress continued to insist that only guerrilla warfare would end white minority rule, though at the time of his death the group seemed to be reconsidering its stand. "Our liberation will be brought about by Africans themselves, by having to struggle for it," Mr. Mothopeng said in the magazine interview. "They will not achieve it at the negotiating tables." Despite differences with Mr. Mothopeng's group over negotiations, land and the place of whites in South Africa, the African National Congress issued a statement this evening expressing its "immense sadness" at his death, which, it said, "has left the people of South Africa, especially the oppressed, much poorer." The Azanian Peoples Organization, a rival black consciousness movement, urged tonight that blacks of rival political persuasions stop their factional fighting as a tribute to Mr. Mothopeng. Mr. Mothopeng repeatedly refused to submit to the white authorities, who imprisoned, detained and exiled him. In November 1988, Mr. Mothopeng was released early from his last term in prison, a 15-year sentence for his political activities. Left African National Congress
Biographical Information
Zephania Lekoane Mothopeng
(At a Glance)
Date of Birth: Sep/10/1913
Gender: male
Interests: Politique, Culture, Sport
Place of Origin: South Africa
Mr. Mothopeng was born in the Orange Free State, but moved with his family to the Transvaal and later to the Johannesburg area.

He taught high school in the Orlando district of Soweto. His criticism of inferior black education led to his dismissal as assistant principal there in 1952. He went to Lesotho to teach for two years before returning to Johannesburg to apprentice as a law clerk.

While in Diepkloof Prison in Soweto, he became ill with cancer of the throat. After his early release in November 1988, he settled in Soweto but never recovered his health.

Mr. Mothopeng is survived by his wife, Urbania, three sons, a daughter and at least eight grandchildren.

Zephania Lekoane Mothopeng, the president of the Pan-Africanist Congress, which advocates the return of South Africa to its indigenous inhabitants, died on october 23 1990 in Johannesburg Hospital after a long struggle with chest and lung cancer complicated by pneumonia. He was 77 years old.

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