THE Eastern Cape has lost another giant and son of the soil. The Reverend Makhenkesi Stofile was a man who earned many accolades – as a rugby player, administrator, academic, revolutionary activist and leader of our people.
His death, not too long after that of his brother, Mike, comes just a few weeks after we laid to rest another seasoned revolutionary, Dumisani “Mazolo” Mafu.
Bra Stof as he was affectionately known assumed many roles in his lifetime. I had the opportunity of working with him in the 1980s in the Victoria East region.
I recall him giving me his child’s school backpack carry political material for distribution in and around Fort Beaufort. He would later tease me about it, demanding to know the whereabouts of that backpack.
Everytime I visited him at the University of Fort Hare (where he lectured theology) I was guaranteed of tasty food which I enjoyed. When some of our students were arrested I approached Bra Stof for assistance in the legal services. At the time Bra Stof was away from home and in desperation I left a written message for him.
One morning I was called by my now late aunt, a matron at the provincial hospital in Fort Beaufort, who screamed at me out of concern, demanding to know how it could be that I was phoned by a lawyer. Where would I get money for legal fees?
Like many people not participating in the liberation struggle, my aunt did not know of bodies such as the Detainees Support Committee. Bra Stof had given my contact numbers to Dumisani Tabata, an attorney from King William’s Town.
I knew of Bra Stof’s activities and his involvement in the revolution through Khanyile Maneli who worked at the Post Office.
When I decided to leave the country I approached him and remember how he tried to repel me but I insisted that he channel me to someone who would help me.
After some time he informed me of a contact in Mdantsane. I later realised it was another lawyer. a United Democratic Front leader named Hintsa Siwisa.
Together with Zou Kota and another chap we left through the Mzimkhulu route where there were ANC underground members.
I realised only when I reached Lesotho, after the police had searched my sports-bag, that Bra Stof had sneaked in a report to Silumko Sokupa whom I met later. Fortunately the police never found the report as it was nicely hidden.
In 1990 Bra Stof arrived at Mazimbu, Tanzania to brief the exiles of the political situation at home and on how should we prepare ourselves. I met him briefly at the house where he was hosted. In our discussion I asked him to facilitate a study opportunity for me in Zimbabwe.
He advised me to rather deal with the matter myself as he did not want to appear to be having preferences.
Back home I met him on several occasions, including when he was an ANC leader and Eastern Cape premier.
Less than three months ago together with Monde Mkunqwana he delivered a lecture to a closed small audience of ANC members in the East London city hall. He was very concerned about deteriorating values within ANC structures and leaderships. The current situation in the ANC and how it had deviated from its traditions and culture was discussed honestly and openly. We left the gathering in high spirits as we had opened our hearts.
When I heard of Bra Stof’s illness I took time one Sunday afternoon to visit him. He told me he had been shocked by Mafu’s passing after he had visited him in hospital.
Bra Stof’s wife Sisi Nambitha informed me I was fortunate as he was looking better than on previous days. In private while accompanying me to the lift she said Bra Stof had called all his children and revealed his health condition. I believe he knew his days were drawing to an end.
I was extremely pleased that he had been able to confer on me my university degree in May this year in his capacity as Fort Hare chancellor. To me it was a full cycle.
We shall ever remember Bra Stof for his straight talk, deep analysis, knowledge of history and how well he would remember people. He understood well and defended the tripartite alliance during his leadership. — Phumzile Matikinca, East London
I WOULD like to convey my deepest condolences to the family of the late Rev Makhenkesi Stofile after the passing of this giant of our times. The former Eastern Cape premier, man of the cloth, activist and the former ambassador to Germany opened doors for partnership between the Eastern Cape and Lower Saxony based on a skills transfer between the two countries.
As a premier he believed that the through agricultural production we could fight poverty and stop families going to bed without food.
As a young person from the Eastern Cape, the little time I spent with him in Germany was an eye-opener, including learning the concept of rural development as the Rev preached the gospel of reviving rural peoples’ livelihoods.
His dedication to social and economic upliftment in the province cannot be forgotten and I am proud as a young man from the Eastern Cape that I had a chance to listen to words of wisdom from a giant of Rev Stofile’s calibre. It is privilege to follow the footsteps of such a legend. — Ayabulela Ngoqo, Eastern Cape
BRA Stof, as he was affectionately known, was a stalwart of a high calibre. He displayed unwavering loyalty, dedication, and commitment to the cause of the ANC. He truly embodied the ideals of this organisation, whose purpose was to free Africans from the shackles of apartheid – an organisation which, to this day, continues to fight for the restoration of the pride of black people.
He has served the ANC with distinction, and we are at a loss for words to describe the immense contribution he made in the quest for the improvement of the lives of our people.
For the ANC caucus in the Bhisho legislature, Bra Stof truly epitomised the words of James A Baldwin: “I am what time, circumstance, history, have made of me, certainly, but I am also, much more than that. So are we all.”
We salute you, Bra Stof. You have shown yourself to be a cadre par-excellence. You have indeed fulfilled your purpose in serving the people of the Eastern Cape and South Africa. We tip our hats in admiration and appreciation for all you have sacrificed and contributed towards society.
Hamba kakuhle Faku, Thahla – ka – Ndayeni, Hlamba ngobubende, Ziqelekazi, Nyawuza. You were indeed a legend. — Mzoleli Mrara, ANC Chief Whip, Eastern Cape Legislature
THE SACC-Eastern Cape is deeply saddened by the death of Rev Stofile. The church in the Eastern Cape sends her condolences to his family.
He was among the finest intellectual theologians in the liberation theology of our times. Bra Stof was a source of high level theological debates on issues of moral standing and human dignity.
We will miss umrhabe because of the claim of his church as well as the of Amarharhabe. We remember his role in the 1989 defiance campaign which coincided with the Standing For Truth Campaign organised by the SACC.
As the poet said, “we understand death only after it has placed its hands on someone we love”. — Canon Lulama Ntshingwa, acting ECPCC CEO