ANC stalwart Dr Meshack Radebe, who died at the weekend, has been praised for his role as a peacemaker between clashing ANC and IFP factions in the early 1990s. Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi of the IFP lauded Radebe for helping to bring peace and stability to the Mpumalanga township, near Hammarsdale, at the time.
Radebe and his late IFP counterpart, Sipho Mlaba, were instrumental in achieving this when ANC and IFP factions in the township clashed.
According to the Durban Local History Museums, the Mpumalanga township experienced political divisions between 1987 and 1991 and they transformed into brutal and socially devastating forms of violence.
However, peace negotiations between the factions started before the end of 1990 and, over two years, community leaders established a truce and finally concluded an agreement that brought an end to open hostilities.
Radebe, affectionately known as “Umkhumbi Wokunethezeka”, died over the weekend after a short illness.
Radebe was a struggle stalwart, chair of chairs, former deputy speaker of the KZN Legislature and former social development MEC and agriculture and environmental affairs MEC.
He and Mlaba were recognised by the University of Natal and awarded honorary doctorates for their role in the Mpumalanga township. In 2006, Radebe was part of a government delegation that met and assisted a UN Mission of Iraqi parliamentarians involved in bringing peace to that country. He shared his experience in Mpumalanga and educated the delegations on transitional justice and national reconciliation.
When Radebe turned 70 in 2019, Buthelezi lauded him for the role he played in ending the political violence that had ravaged the Mpumalanga township.
After learning of his death, Buthelezi described Radebe as a friend of peace and a champion for reconciliation. He was one of the few who was committed to bringing about reconciliation between the IFP and the ANC.
“I recall his intervention during the black-on-black violence of the 80s and early 90s, particularly in the violence-torn township of Hammarsdale. The ANC’s mission-in-exile commissioned him to engage in negotiations with Inkatha’s representative in Hammarsdale, Sipho Mlaba. Together, they quelled the violence and saved our people from the ravages of bloodshed,” said Buthelezi.
He said it haunted him that their last meeting was months ago in Durban, sharing a meal and celebrating the late Sibusiso Ncube’s birthday.
“I can only thank the Lord that I had a chance to pay tribute to Dr Radebe while he was still alive, in the presence of his family and friends. Speaking at his 70th birthday in 2019, I expressed my gratitude for all that he has done to further reconciliation talks between the IFP and the ANC,” said Buthelezi.
“With his passing, I am left in despair. Without his voice of reason coaxing his comrades to the path of reconciliation, will this journey ever be completed?”
Funeral arrangements have not yet been announced.