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A call was made for an annual remembrance of Elias Motsoaledi, the struggle hero who has a clinic, streets and a municipality named after him.
THE normally bustling Elias Motsoaledi Clinic in Mzimhlophe, Soweto was even busier than usual on 11 March as the member of the mayoral committee for health, Bengeza Mthombeni, unveiled a plaque in memory of the struggle hero.


MMC for health Bengeza MthombeniMMC for health Bengeza Mthombeni at the unveiling of a plaque to remember Elias MotsoalediMthombeni was joined by a family representative, Jacob Motsoaledi, who saw the unveiling as an opportunity to pay tribute to a great man. “He did not belong to the Motsoaledi family only; he also belonged to the poor and struggling masses of Soweto, to the ANC and South Africa as a whole,” he said.

“As a family we are happy and proud that he is being honoured. By naming this clinic after him, it shows that he didn’t spend 26 years on Robben Island in vain. If he was still alive, he would be happy about what he saw has been done in Soweto.”

Mthombeni mirrored Motsoaledi’s sentiments, saying: “We are grateful to be able to name the clinic after him as it serves as recognition of his sacrifices for the oppressed masses.”

He used the platform to entreat the public: “Today we can enjoy the fruits of liberty that they couldn’t, so let us look after this clinic. Let’s honour the memory of Elias Motsoaledi by making sure clinic workers aren’t harassed by the public, and are treated humanely. Let’s dare not disgrace his good name.”

Clinic staff were also included in his appeal. “You will understand that the clinic is not just named after any person, but a very important person of the struggle. You need to respect his name.”

It was not all dire warnings, however, as Mthombeni commended the clinic for the role it played in keeping people healthy. “Continue with the good service,” he said. “It would make Elias Motsoaledi proud to see your efforts.”

Refik Bismilla, the executive director of the City’s health department, also focused on Motsoaledi’s contribution in helping to make South Africa a country all of its people could be proud of. “It is important to remember Comrade Motsoaledi for who he was, the work he did and for his commitment.”


Elias Motsoaledi ClinicElias Motsoaledi Clinic in MzimhlopheThis was why he suggested making commemoration of Motsoaledi an annual event. “Ward councillors will need to organise it, so that people can come together to honour him,” he said.

Motsoaledi was a life-long member of the African National Congress and South African Communist Party, and helped to form the Congress of South African Trade Unions, or Cosatu. He played a pivotal role in the 1952 defiance campaign against unjust laws, and as a result he was banned. He was detained and imprisoned for four months during the 1960 state of emergency, whereafter he went underground and joined the Johannesburg regional branch of Umkhonto we Sizwe.

He was arrested in 1963, and sentenced to life imprisonment along with Nelson Mandela, Walter Sisulu, Govan Mbeki and others in the Rivonia Trial. Motsoaledi spent 26 years in prison on Robben Island; he was released in 1989. He was elected to the national executive committee of the ANC on his release and the party bestowed on him with the Isithwalandwe Medal in 1992.

Motsoaledi died on the day Mandela was inaugurated as the president of the newly democratic South Africa, on 9 May 1994, but his legacy lives on through naming streets, clinics and a municipality after him.

The Elias Motsoaledi Clinic is at 13 149 Carr Street, Mzimhlophe, Soweto and is open between 8am and 4.30pm, from Monday to Friday.

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