2 December 2008
Former president Nelson Mandela has sent condolences to the family of Dr Nthato Motlana, a leading businessman, close friend and physician of the Mandela family and stalwart of South Africa’s liberation struggle, who died on Sunday night after a long battle with cancer.
“The loss of our old comrade and friend, Nthato Motlana, is a hard blow,” Mandela said in a statement on Monday. “We have travelled a long road together, through many decades of the struggle against apartheid and the years of building democracy.
“His unfailing support for our family during the prison years is something we will never forget. We will miss him. And our country will miss him. His contributions in such a variety of fields made him a patriot of special quality.
He was one of the accused, with Mandela and 18 others, in the 1952 Defiance Campaign Trial. All the accused were convicted for their role in a campaign of peaceful protests against apartheid laws.
“It was the first time that the African National Congress (ANC) and the South African Indian Congress had campaigned together,” the Mandela Foundation said. “They were sentenced to nine months in jail with hard labour suspended for two years.
“A leading member of the Soweto community and vice-chair of the Black Parents’ Association during the Student Uprising in 1976, the late Motlana was detained after the uprising.”
Motlana was also the chairperson of the Soweto Committee of Ten which was formed to run Soweto’s affairs after the collapse of the Soweto Urban Bantu Council.
The Committee of Ten was among the organisations banned by the apartheid government on 19 October 1977 on what became known as “Black Wednesday”.
On 14 March this year, Motlana joined a group of former activists at a reunion with Mandela at the Nelson Mandela Foundation in Johannesburg.
They were the surviving accused with Mandela in three major trials – the 1952 Defiance Campaign Trial, the 1956-61 Treason Trial, and the 1963-64 Rivonia Trial.
Motlana was last year awarded the Financial Mail’s Little Black Book Lifetime Achiever Award in “recognition of his outstanding achievements in the business world and his community involvement.”
The award honoured him as one of the “few individuals who paved the way for black businesspeople who play in the black economic empowerment space today.”