Sakumzi (Saki) Justice Macozoma

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Biographical information

Synopsis:

Student activist, businessperson, member of SASM, PEBCO, UDF and ANC National Executive Committee

First name: 
Sakumzi (Saki) Justice
Last name: 
Macozoma
Date of birth: 
12 May 1957
Location of birth: 
Port Elizabeth, South Africa

Please note: This biography is a modified extract from the following source: Gastrow, S. (1992) Who`s Who in South African politics Number 4.p.67. If you would like to contribute to this biography please click on the contribute tab.

Sakumzi (Saki) Justice Macozoma was born in Port Elizabeth on 12 May 1957, the eldest of the six children of Edward Nzima Macozoma and Nobanzi Beauty Macozoma. He grew up in a politicised home, with his father often relating the political history of Port Elizabeth during the turbulent 1950s and 1960s. His playmates included the children of political prisoners serving time on Robben Island.

Because his parents wanted him educated in English, rather than through mother tongue medium as prescribed by Bantu education, Macozoma attended mission schools in the Transkei. These included the All Saints Anglican Mission Primary School, alma mater of ANC deputy president Walter Sisulu, and the Dutch Reformed Arthur Tsengiwe Training School. Life at the Anglican Mission accentuated issues such as racial inequality through the obvious differences in the lifestyles of white and black staff. At the Dutch Reformed Mission a cruder ethos existed. Every Sunday the white staff would drive 40 km to Elliot to go to church rather than worship with the black people at the mission.

According to Macozoma, his interaction with the white mission staff between 1971 and 1973 increased his political awareness. This was further bolstered by the arrival of students who had been expelled from Fort Hare, who came to teach at high schools in the Transkei, and brought with them the black consciousness philosophy of the South African Students Organisation (SASO). In 1973, Macozoma was barred from attending any school in the Transkei, after he had refused to submit to corporal punishment. He returned to Port Elizabeth and enrolled at the Loyiso Secondary School, where he formed an important personal and political bond with Stone Sizani, who later became a prominent leader in the United Democratic Front.

Macozoma singles out 1974 as a major formative year in his life. It was the year he became politically active as opposed to being merely interested. His friendship with Sizani played an important role in this. Both had been expelled from previous schools and together they became involved in the Students Christian Movement (SCM) and in sport activities linked to the South African Council on Sport (Sacos). The whites-only election of 1974 raised their consciousness of national politics.

In 1975 Macozoma enrolled at KwaZakhele High, a highly politicised school in Port Elizabeth. Contact with Steve Biko and other Black Consciousness leaders followed, and this lead to his involvement in the South African Students Movement (Sasm). By the end of 1975, student activists were under pressure from the security police, and a number of them decided to leave the country. Macozoma was amongst those who set up structures to facilitate their departure.

In a police crackdown, Sizani and others were arrested and charged. As a consequence, Macozoma had his first contact with security police, who put him under pressure to turn state witness against Sizani in March 1976. Macozoma's refusal subjected him to constant police surveillance.

Although Afrikaans was not used as a medium of instruction at schools in Port Elizabeth, other issues were highlighted by students from this area in the 1976 schools protest. From July onwards they participated in several demonstrations, and in September Macozoma was one of 43 students from KwaZakhele who were arrested following a major outbreak of violence in Port Elizabeth. They were at first charged with conspiracy to commit public violence for planning to take the demonstration to the city centre. At their second court appearance, they were charged under the Terrorism Act. Macozoma was among the 33 students found guilty of terrorism on the grounds that they planned a march in the city centre which, according to the state, would have caused an enormous amount of damage. He was sentenced to five years' imprisonment.

In January 1977 Macozoma started his sentence on Robben Island. All political prisoners arriving after September 1976 were placed in the same section, and no contact was allowed with other prisoners. Black Consciousness leaders from the Saso trial were already in this section, and by 1977 an enclave of Black Consciousness was firmly rooted on the Island. Soon, however, differences emerged over the interpretation of Black Consciousness and, specifically, its relationship with the ANC.

Battles with the authorities led to Macozoma and a number of other prisoners from the special section being moved to the isolation section where they were put into single cells. Here, the Black Consciousness grouping came into contact with the Rivonia trialists and new ideas. By late 1978, Macozoma and others had become increasingly critical of Black Consciousness and were questioning its role. The debate raged from 1977 until 1979. As a result of a ban on studies by the prison authorities, political debate became the only form of intellectual stimulation. The intensity of the debates had a profound influence on Macozoma and instilled in him a 'discipline for argument'.

In January 1981 Macozoma returned to Port Elizabeth and joined the Port Elizabeth Black Civic Organisation (PEBCO), which had become the leading force in the area. Macozoma was employed by the Eastern Cape Council of Churches as a field worker of the Dependents Conference, which looked after the families of political prisoners. He was also active in the Port Elizabeth branch of the Detainees' Parents Support Committee. Contact with Progressive Federal Party provincial councillor Molly Blackburn resulted in Macozoma taking Blackburn and fellow PFP councillor Di Bishop into the Port Elizabeth townships. This led to the first structured contact between black and white political groups in the area, and the development of an important friendship between Macozoma and Blackburn, which lasted until her death.

At the end of 1983 Macozoma, who had completed a BA through the University of South Africa, received a scholarship to study in the United States. A week after attending the UDF launch in the Eastern Cape, he enrolled for an MA degree in journalism at Boston. While in America he was active in the anti-apartheid movement and in the anti-investment campaigns.

In 1986, during the state of emergency when most of the UDF leadership was in detention or in hiding, Macozoma returned to South Africa and was immediately employed by the South African Council of Churches. With most political and civic bodies under severe restriction, the church was the only major institution left ungagged. Macozoma played an important role involving the church as a central player in the mass democratic movement, which began emerging in 1988.

After the unbanning of the African National Congress in February 1990, Macozoma was approached by the ANC to join its Department of Information and Publicity. He was elected on to the ANC's national executive committee at its July 1991 congress, held in Durban. Macozoma is married to Yolisa Makubalo, and they have a son.

Last updated : 18-May-2016

This article was produced for South African History Online on 17-Feb-2011