Johnstone Mfanafuthi Makhathini, ANC’s head of the Department of International Affairs, dies in exile in Zambia

Saturday, 3 December 1988

Johnstone Mfanafuthi Makhathini, the African National Congress (ANC) head of the Department of International Affairs, dies in Zambia. Affectionately known as "Jonny", Makhathini was born in Durban on 8 February 1932. He attended school at Adams College in Durban where he trained as a teacher before teaching in Mzinyathi in the Inanda area. When the apartheid government imposed Bantu Education he resigned and went on to pursue further studies part time at the University of KwaZulu-Natal.

Makhathini joined politics and devoted his time to organizing the people as an activist of the ANC. He became a key youth organizer in and around Durban and rural Natal. For instance, Makhathini was instrumental in organizing the ANC's Pietermaritzburg Conference of March 1961. His political activism resulted in his detention by the police several times. In 1962 Makhathini left the country with a group of the first MK recruits from Natal for military training.  He was stationed in Morocco where he became the ANC's chief representative receiving and overseeing groups of trainees. His stay in Morocco enabled him to learn French which he used to advance the ANC cause in French speaking countries.

After the independence of Algeria in 1963, the ANC opened a mission in that country and Johnny Makhathini was transferred to join the then Chief Representative, Robert Resha. Makhathini became the ANC Chief Representative in Algeria in 1966. From Algeria, Makhathini visited Western European countries lobbying against apartheid. In 1974 Makhathini became a member of the National Executive Committee (NEC) of the ANC.

After his appointment as Head of the ANC mission to the United Nations (UN) in 1977, Makhathini pushed the agenda of the struggle against apartheid in the UN and the Organization of African Union (OAU). His experience in international affairs led to his appointment as Head of the ANC's Department of International Affairs in 1983. After the National Consultative Conference of the ANC held in Kabwe in 1985, Makhathini returned to Africa to give personal attention to his departmental responsibilities and was based in Zambia.

In 1988 after being admitted to the University Teaching hospital in Lusaka, with complications arising from a diabetic condition, Makhathini died on 3 December. In 2010 the South African government engaged the Zambian government to exhume Makhathini's remains and he was reburied in KwaZulu Natal on 27 February 2010.

• Anon (2010), 'Minister to lead exhumation', from News24, 17 February [online], Available at   [Accessed 19 November 2010]
• Maite Nkoana-Mashabane (2010), Speech by Minister of International Relations and Cooperation, Maite Nkoana-Mashabane, on the occasion of the exhumation and repatriation of the mortal remains of Mr Johnny Mfanafuthi Makhathini,  from South African Government Information, 20 February[online], Available at  [Accessed 19 November 2010]
• Staff Reporter (2010), 'Zuma pays tribute to struggle hero Makhathini' from the Timeslive, 27 February  [online], Available at   [Accessed 19 November 2010]
• President Jacob Zuma (2010), Eulogy by the President of the Republic of South Africa during the reburial of the remains of Comrade Johnny Makhathini, Woodburn stadium, Pietermaritzburg on 27 February, from the South African Government Information, 20 February [online], Available at  [Accessed 19 November 2010]

Last updated : 21-Sep-2011

This article was produced for South African History Online on 16-Mar-2011