In 2010, Khwezi and Nellie hosted a delegation of Red Youth, who came to attend the 17th world festival of youth and students in Pretoria. During the day we shared experience with progressive youth from across Asia, Africa, Latin America, and Europe. In the evenings we shared food and drink and political discussion with our generous hosts, who took us into their family.
We had the opportunity to meet Zimbabwean comrades and hear of their experiences in re-distributing land expropriated by European colonial settlers, returning it to the land hungry masses. Their fiery speeches – and ours – were met with rapturous reception from the young South-African and international delegates.
We travelled with Khwezi, his daughters and comrades of the Marxist Workers School to the East Rand, where we saw that despite the benefits brought by the freedom struggle, there is a struggle still to be waged – here as elsewhere – to return the wealth of your country to the working masses of South Africa, as envisaged by the freedom charter. This was the goal for which Khwezi had dedicated his life – during the armed struggle, and in the 20 years since victory – and for which dream he refused all personal privilege and shunned compromise. Neither threats to his life nor promises of gain induced him to give up this noble cause.
Khwezi came to Europe the following year, visiting his German comrades and then touring Britain, speaking at a series of packed meetings, organised by the party and Red Youth, so that he could share his experience of the liberation struggle with politically conscious British workers.
All who met him and heard him speak were touched by his infectious and optimistic spirit, his fervour and dedication to the cause, tempered and sustained by his rational and scientific socialist understanding.
In every sense, Khwezi was a tried, tested and honoured member of our revolutionary family and we are grateful at least, for the opportunity to pay tribute to his revolutionary life. It is fitting, and our hearts are gladdened to hear, that he will rest in Heroes’ Acre, along with many of the comrades with whom he waged the armed struggle to free South Africa from the dark days of Apartheid; not far from the final resting place of comrades Joe Slovo, Helen Joseph and Lillian Ngoyi, Walter and Albertina Sisulu.
As a young man, Khwezi demonstrated his opposition to the political oppression of the racist colonial apartheid system, that profited from the cheap labour of black South Africans, labouring in her mines, factories and fields, to produce fabulous profits for the capitalist and imperialist ruling class, while barely affording a living to those black workers, its real producers and rightful owners.
He took an active role in the student movement and found himself arrested during the Soweto uprising of June 1976, subsequently being detained and tortured for several months. He was inspired by the Black consciousness movement, and was due to meet with Stephen Biko, but events conspired against them and shortly after his release Stephen was captured and murdered by the Apartheid reactionaries.
Far from being cowed by his experience, soon after his release Khwezi sought voluntary exile in order to join MK (Umkhonto we Sizwe), and gain military training in the front-line states, understanding that force was the only logic that could make its mark on these arrogant and ignorant oppressors, infected as they were by their supremacist ideology.
In the course of his training he was seconded to the Palestinian Liberation Organisation, then in exile in Lebanon, forging enduring ties and deep respect for the cause of the Palestinian people in their struggle against the racist and supremacist Zionist state of Israel – which he understood to be another Apartheid regime, in the heart of the oil-rich Middle East, and another front line of the global battle against the rapacious and blood-thirsty rule of monopoly capitalist imperialism. In the 1980s he was attached to the ANC office in London, before returning to South Africa after the unbanning of the ANC to help secure its electoral victory in 1994, that marked the final victory over apartheid.
A noble son of the Russian revolution, Nikolai Ostrovsky, who gave his life to fight the reactionaries and build a bright socialist future penned the following brief but beautiful lines, which are a fitting tribute to the life of our comrade, Khwezi Kadalie, one of the finest sons of South Africa, and the international proletariat that it has been our honour and privilege to know:
“Man’s dearest possession is life. It is given to him but once, and he must live it so as to feel no torturing regrets for wasted years, never know the burning shame of a mean and petty past; so live that, dying, he might say: all my life, all my strength were given to the finest cause in all the world──the fight for the Liberation of Mankind”
Khwezi’s passing fills us, his family, comrades and loved ones, with sorrow, but we can rejoice in knowing that he lived a meaningful life, true to this sacred pledge – and we renew our vow to follow the same example.
We send him our final Red Salute! Power to the people! Amandla!