Volume 15, No. 33, 28 September 2016
The SACP dips the Red Banner to a fallen hero, Comrade Mokhafisi Jacob Kena, aka Zhukov, aka Jeremiah Mosotho
Comrade Mokhafisi Jacob Kena, in an SACP Moses Kotane t-shirt
Kena asked for the t-shirt in memory of the working relationship he had with Kotane
PIC taken recently in 2016 by: Umsebenzi Online
The great internationalist warrior from the mountains of Lesotho has ceased to breath.
The South African Communist Party (SACP) received with profound sorrow, the sad news of the death of the founding member and longest serving General Secretary of the Communist Party of Lesotho (CPL), Comrade Mokhafisi Jacob Kena. Ntate Kena, as he was also known, was hospitalised. He died in Lesotho on Sunday, 25 September 2016 at the age of 91. Kena was born in 1925. "I was told that I was born in 1925", he said with a very good sense of humour in a recent interview with Umsebenzi Online. Ntate Kena is survived by his wife Maleseko Kena, three daughters, one son, nine grandchildren and five great-grandchildren. The SACP expresses its message of sincere condolences to all members and relatives of the Kena family, to friends and comrades, as well as to the people of Lesotho.
The SACP through Umsebenzi Online guided by the Soviet-trained exile veteran Party Central Committee member, Comrade "Charles" Sechaba Setsubi recently visited Kena at his home in Tsoelike, Qacha's Nek District on the mountainous banks of Orange River in Lesotho. The visit was a rare moment in the process of research and documenting the history of our shared struggle for liberation and socialism. Our history of struggle is an integral part of the history of all the people of Southern Africa and Africa, as well as of the oppressed and exploited people of the world at large. This came out strongly during the three-day discussion with Kena, who concluded that:
"The dislodgement of the apartheid regime in 1994 and the ascendency of the ANC (African National Congress), the main mass political organisation of the revolutionary alliance of South Africa, marked not only the end of the first phase of the African revolution but also the beginning of a new radical phase. The new phase should focus on production development, economic transformation and emancipation, self-sufficiency and the total elimination of neo-colonial and imperialist domination across Africa and the world over. The ANC, in alliance with the progressive and revolutionary forces of South Africa, inclusive of the SACP (South African Communist Party), has a leading role to play given that the ANC-led government is presiding over the largest and most advanced economy with strategic capacity in Africa."
Kena's first interaction with anything to do with communism was when he went to the Second World War between 1939 and 1945, among others against the German imperialist dictator, Adolf Hitler's forces of Nazism and broadly fascism. He vividly recalled how he wanted to go to war accompanying his King as a patriotic Lesotho boy, despite being young and underweight - weight played a decisive role in the selection of soldiers in Lesotho. Kena had to find other means to increase his weight as quickly as possible. He did just that.
He recalled how, during his participation in the war, he was impressed by the high level of discipline, dedication, combat brilliancy and intelligence of the Red Army of the Soviet Union under the leadership of Marshal Zhukov, General Georgy Konstantinovich Zhukov. While Kena participated in the army that was led by Britain, they used to receive reliable intelligence gathered by the Red Army and the communist underground in Europe known as the "Red Orchestra". Due to that admiration, Kena was nicknamed "Zhukov" by other combatants.
After the war, Kena went back to school in Lesotho, at Eagle's Peak High School where he completed his secondary schooling and then left to work in the mines of South Africa. While he was working in the mines, he met White South African communists, who were part of the Springbok Legion, who fought alongside him in the Second World War. Their discussions about the Red Army and the Soviet Union further increased his interest in communism. He later left the mining industry to further his studies.
It was at Fort Cox College of Agriculture in the Eastern Cape that he began to be more consciously involved in liberation politics. He actively participated in political education and activities at the University of Fort Hare, situated not far from his college. His political consciousness was sharpened during this period, after which he returned to Lesotho where he participated in the Basotholand Congress Party.
Comrade "Zhukov" Kena's politics were refined as revolutionary left after 1956 when he met Comrade Joe Mathews and other underground SACP activists in Lesotho who were on a mission preparing for exile work against the apartheid regime that had banned the Party in 1950 under the Suppression of Communism Act. Little did Comrade Kena know, at that time, that a law with the same title - the "Suppression of Communism Act" would later be passed in Lesotho against him and his comrades and banning his Party eight years after it was founded.
It was in 1961-1962, after meeting in 1956, that Mathews advised Kena that the SACP directed that he and his comrades form the Communist Party of Lesotho. This directive had three objectives.
The first was to establish a Communist Party in Lesotho to lead the working class in alliance with the peasants in pursuit of the struggle to achieve social emancipation from economic exploitation and develop democracy to its full potential through the creation of a socialist republic.
The second was to construct an exile base not only for the SACP but also for the entire South African liberation movement in the struggle against apartheid oppression and capitalist exploitation. The SACP did not have a reliable ally in Lesotho and the ANC had also been banned, in 1960. The third objective was to connect the class struggles in South Africa and Lesotho, weld them together into a single whole, the Southern African, African and broader international struggle of the working class and its allies against national oppressors, capitalism and imperialism.
The Communist Party of Lesotho was thus established, on 5 May 1962, with Comrade John Motloheloa as its founding General Secretary and Kena as part of its founding leadership. Kena became the General Secretary of the Party in 1964. This decision impacted on him financially as he had to leave his full-time job. Nevertheless he soldiered on guided by the ultimate goal of the struggle.
The long lasting relationship between the SACP and the Communist Party of Lesotho was established through processes leading to the formation of the latter, the CPL. Among others Kena worked with SACP General Secretaries, comrades Moses Kotane - who he had met in the Soviet Union at a political school, Moses Mabhida, Comrade Joe Slovo and Comrade Chris Hani.
Hani and Kena are widely credited for the formation of the Committee for Action and Solidarity for Southern African Students (CASSAS) in 1976. The National University of Lesotho, also known as Roma, 34 kilometres Southeast of Maseru, the Capital of Lesotho, served as the centre of student politics and by and large a base for political education and activism for the South African liberation struggle in Lesotho. CASSAS's main objective was to recruit students and build leadership in the struggle against oppression, including neo-colonialism and apartheid.
However there were serious challenges. There was a massive anti-communist propaganda in Lesotho, identified, in the main, as emanating from the church. This disadvantaged the Communist Party of Lesotho in many ways, including in the first post-independent elections in which Kena stood as a candidate. One of the Arch-haters who propagated for the suppression of communists and communism in Lesotho was a prominent South African religious figure. What struck Kena about this was the contradiction between the person, on the one hand portraying himself as supporting the South African liberation movement in Lesotho and on the other hand, just across the border in South Africa, being vocally anti-communist even saying things he did not say in Lesotho about the communists and the ANC.
Kena's resilience was toughened in the struggle and traversed different unfavourable circumstances. He played an active role in recruiting SACP, ANC and the joint SACP-ANC military wing, uMkhonto we Sizwe (MK) operatives among migrant and other workers in the mines and elsewhere. His home became a transit operation centre for MK as well as for SACP and ANC exiles, with members of his family playing a supportive role. The SACP's sincere gratitude to the whole of the activist Kena family cannot be over-emphasised.
Kena wrote extensively, and published internationally, including contributions to the World Marxist Review. As part of this work he wrote mostly under the alias name "Jeremiah Mosotho", given by Kotane. He worked among others in the ANC with Comrade Alfred Nzo and Erick "Stalin" Mtshali, an SACP, ANC, progressive trade union and internationalist veteran. Kena recalled that it was Mtshali who organised his passport through the World Federation of Trade Unions (WFTU).
During the interview with Umsebenzi Online, he asked for his special greetings to be conveyed to Mtshali. The request was accordingly carried out. We now express our condolences to Comrade Stalin on the death of his comrade plus brother in the struggle.
The funeral service of Ntate Kena will be held on 8 October 2016 in Lesotho.
The SACP says:
"Robala ka Khotso Comrade Kena, a dedicated combatant, hero of our struggle, proletarian internationalist, above all, a vanguard cadre par excellence!"
A luta continua!!!
- Tribute by the South African Communist Party
Umsebenzi Online is an online voice of the South African working class