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ANC statement on the death of Dr Nthato Motlana

1 December 2008

It is with deep regret and a profound sense of loss that the African National Congress has today (1 December 2008) learnt of passing away of Dr Nthato Motlana, a political activist, an academic, a businessman, and a philanthropist for over half a century.

As a student at Fort Hare University in the late 1940s, Motlana was voted Secretary of the African National Congress Youth League. It was in this capacity that he later played a prominent role in the resistance to the forced removals from Western Native Township in the late 1950s.

In the wake of the 1976 student uprising, Motlana was once more in the spotlight with the founding of the Committee of Ten, which was set up to formulate recommendations on the running of civic affairs in Soweto following the demise of the unpopular Soweto Urban Bantu Council.

The committee was later disbanded to make way for the Soweto Civic Association, which Motlana also headed. Motlana remained active in resistance politics throughout the 1980s, and when Mandela was released from prison in 1990, Motlana became his personal doctor.

Motlana played a prominent role in virtually all the defining moments in the history of politics since the 1950s. In the 1970s, he led civic politics in Soweto, and remained active in resistance politics throughout the 1980s, while pursuing business interests at the same time.

Motlana`s first business venture was a local grocery shop in Mofolo called Sizwe, which was opened in the 1970s. In the late 1970s, he led a group of doctors to form the first black-owned chemicals company called Africhem. Then Motlana became instrumental in the formation of a company called Phaphama Africa, which manufactured uniforms for soldiers and for school children.

But the active role he played in the civic politics of Soweto, as leader of the Committee of Ten, soon landed Motlana in detention. When he was released in 1977, Motlana`s indomitable entrepreneurial spirit led him to establish New Africa Marketing, mainly to provide employment for young people who had been detained.

Dr Motlana formed Kwacha, a company that was to establish a Soweto landmark, Lesedi Clinic, the first privately owned, black hospital in the country. Motlana persuaded 38 other doctors to buy shares in the company. At the same time, the company introduced Sizwe

Medical Aid Scheme, the first such scheme to be owned and operated by blacks.

But Motlana`s flagship is without doubt investment holding company, New Africa Investment Limited (Nail). It was in 1993 that Motlana joined up with other political luminaries, including Dikgang Moseneke, Paul Gama, Sam Montsuenyane, Franklin Sonn and Jonty Sandler, to create Corporate Africa, which later became Nail. The venture was of such a scale that it signaled their intention to play in the big league.

Motlana`s other noteworthy moments included actively campaigning against the Black Local Authority Elections in 1983, being banned and detained under security legislation many times between 1950 and 1987, being denied a passport for 31 years and twice standing trial with Nelson Mandela.

The ANC extends its heartfelt condolences to his family, friends and colleagues as we mourn this noble servant of the people.

May His Soul Rest in Peace.

Issued by:
Gwede Mantashe Secretary General
African National Congress

For more information:
Carl Niehaus 072 343 4007