11 March 2015
Promoting Brand South Africa
PBN H+K Moscow continues to work closely with Brand South Africa and the South African Embassy in Russia as part of a long-term professional relationship that stretches back to 2011. This month we have been providing communications support around the repatriation of two prominent anti-apartheid activists who died in Russia almost 40 years ago.
Tai Adelaja, a senior account manager in our Moscow corporate communications team and member of the Russia-RSA Business Council, reports on the story.
Remains of South African Anti-Apartheid Heroes Repatriated Home from Russia
The remains of two prominent anti-apartheid activists, who were among Nelson Mandela’s mentors, have been taken back to South Africa, nearly four decades after they died in Russia.
The bodies of Moses Kotane and John Beaver Marks were exhumed from Russia’s prestigious Novodevichy Cemetery in Moscow, where they were buried around the corner from writer Nikolai Gogol and Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev.
The move follows a request last year by Moses Kotane’s widow, Rebecca, to South Africa’s president, Jacob Zuma, who laid wreaths at Kotane and Marks’s graves during a visit to Moscow and raised the matter with his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin. Kotane’s reburial on home soil will fulfil the wishes of Rebecca, who is now 103 years old and wanted her husband back home while “I am still alive.”
South African Arts and Culture Minister Nathi Mthethwa speaks at MGIMO.
South African Arts and Culture Minister Nathi Mthethwa, who led a delegation consisting of state officials and members of the heroes’ families to Moscow, described Kotane and Marks as “two legends” in a commemorative speech at the Moscow State University of International Relations (MGIMO).
“They championed the struggle for democracy in this country, in the African continent and, most importantly, in Europe, especially the former USSR now known as Russia. Russia was a country that gave our struggle unconditional support,” Mthethwa told a gathering of state officials, diplomats and students.
Kotane was ex-general secretary of the South African Communist Party (SACP) and a former executive committee member of the African National Congress (ANC). Along with Nelson Mandela, he was one of 156 defendants in the notorious 1956 treason trial and one of the main organizers of the ANC’s military wing, Umkhonto we Sizwe. To avoid constant police harassment, he left South Africa in 1963 and went in to exile in Tanzania. He later suffered a stroke and went for treatment in Moscow, where he remained until his death in 1978.
Marks was president of the Transvaal branch of the ANC and was elected chairman of the SACP in 1962. He was sent to the ANC external mission in Tanzania the following year. He became ill in 1971 and went to the Soviet Union, where he died of a heart attack in 1972.
The Soviets were allies of the ANC and SACP during the Cold War and provided military training to ANC activists, including current South African president Jacob Zuma.
President Zuma has said that both men would be given official funeral honors.