Joy as JB Marks and Kotane’s remains are repatriated

Pretoria: They left South Africa for Russia in 1963 to lobby the international community to support the fight against Apartheid. And as Apartheid’s repressive laws intensified, JB Marks and Moses Kotane both died in the 1970s and were buried in Moscow.

Almost 50 years later, their mortal remains have been returned for reburial in South Africa, a country they fought four until they met their death.

Family representatives of the two heroes gathered at Waterkloof Air force base on Sunday to witness the return of their loved ones remains in a ceremony attended by President Jacob Zuma. They expressed gratitude to government’s efforts in bringing home the mortal remains of their beloved ones. They described the home coming of the struggle stalwarts from Moscow as a joyous occasion has brought a sense of relief to the families. Moses Kotane’s son, Sam Kotane, said receiving the mortal remains of his father brought a lot of emotions to his family.

Speaking to SAnews, the young Kotane said: “My 103-year-old mother, her children, grandchildren and relatives were in the tent with me when we received the remains of my father… just about everybody had tears in their eyes when the coffin was taken into the tent,” he said. He said the day was very emotional for the whole family although they were happy that Moses Kotane’s mortal remains have been brought back to a free South Africa.

“We are sad in the sense that, he fought over a period of five decades for the liberation of this country. Unfortunately, he never lived long enough to see a free democratic South Africa. “Yet, we are happy that we are bringing him back to a liberated South Africa, and we take his remains and spirit. Our hearts are filled with joy,” said Sam

Earlier on Sunday, a delegation led by Arts and Culture Minister Nathi Mthethwa arrived from Russia with the mortal remains of the two struggle heroes.

The reception service was attended by various government dignitaries, Ministers and members of the African National Congress and the South African Communist Party.

Mixed emotions for families

Roswyn Marks, who is a grandson of JB Marks, said the day has brought a sense of relief and comfort to his family.

“It has brought back a lot of memories. I have been monitoring my father and grandmother, especially. There are mixed emotions, taking them back to the old days. My grandmother had previously (for a long time) been instructed to find him (JB Marks)… so this day has definitely brought comfort especially to her. She feels like her job has been done,” he said.

Roswyn said it was an honour to still have his grandmother, Maria Marks– JB Marks’ wife–around when this happened, whom he says is the eldest family member alive at the age of 87. He thanked the Kotane family for the support during negotiations with government to bring back the mortal remains of their members.

“If Ma’Kotane didn’t write the letter to the government we wouldn’t be here today,” he said.

To him, hi grandfather has been an icon and could not find proper words to describe how great he was.

“He’s been described amongst legends… today has definitely been overwhelming. There are just mixed emotions amongst us, and we will definitely cherish this memory for life,” said Roswyn.

Minister Mthethwa said Kotane and Marks will be granted official funerals in their hometowns, with Kotane’s being on 14 March in Pella, and Marks’ following on 22 March in Ventersdorp. He said a memorial service will be held in Gauteng before the funerals.

They fought for a free SA

President Jacob Zuma said South Africa is today a democratic country based on the rule of law and fundamental human rights, largely owing to the sacrifices made by Kotane, Marks and all other leaders as well as activists of their generation.

“We are receiving their remains from Moscow, Russia which was for them like a home away from home, where they were cared for and treated warmly by the friendly people of the former Soviet Union, and now the Russian Federation,” said President Zuma.

He expressed gratitude to President Vladimir Putin and the government of the Russian Federation for caring for the stalwarts in life and in death. He said their tombstones at the cemetery, which became their temporary home in Moscow, indicated the respect and the status that they were accorded in that country, and further the cemented the strong historic ties between South Africa and Russia.

“The cooperation of the Russian Federation in our efforts to bring these two giants of our struggle back to their land of birth, and the remarkable and stately send-off yesterday when they left Russia will also forever be remembered by the South African people as a gesture of true friendship,” said President Zuma.

He said their homecoming is a beginning of a new chapter, which enables South Africans to celebrate their contribution and to raise awareness amongst people, especially the youth, of what the two stalwarts did for the country.

“Although Comrades Marks and Kotane were unflinching members and leaders of the African National Congress and the South African Communist Party, we must as South Africans, across all political lines, celebrate their home-coming,” he said.

SOURCE: SOUTH AFRICAN OFFICIAL NEWS