Address by President Nelson Mandela at the unveiling of the tombstone of Thomas Nkobi

3 August 1996

It was almost two years ago that we buried our dear friend and comrade, Thomas Nkobi. Not one day goes by where we in the democratic movement do not draw inspiration from Comrade TG in our work to deepen and defend the democratic gains that we have made in South Africa.

Comrade Nkobi lived and struggled for the people of this country, an organiser at heart and a fighter in spirit. From the time he joined the ANC in the Roaring Fifties, Comrade TG was a dedicated fighter for our freedom. His name became known far and wide for his role in the legendary Alexandra Bus Boycott.

When he was arrested at the launch of the potato boycott, he went to prison dressed in a potato sack. True to his energetic style, he continued organising for the boycott from his prison cells. It was a great honour for me to have served and defended him in the trial at which he was acquitted.

Thomas Nkobi was the ANC's national organiser. He was the ANC's Deputy Treasurer. He was the ANC's Treasurer-General. He was my comrade and friend, as he was to so many others. In all of these areas, cde TG excelled, built and developed the movement. Through all the phases of struggle, he could be relied on to defend and guide our organisation.

When our children and grandchildren study the history of the people of South Africa, they will surely learn about the heroic contribution of Thomas Nkobi: as an able organiser; as a diplomatic representative of the oppressed, as a capable fund-raiser and a thrifty and reliable custodian of the movement's resources. They will learn, too, of what we seldom acknowledge, that it is these difficult tasks that consumed his life. Our hearts bleed because we miss him. But we do feel the lump in our throats when we remember him because we are proud that our people produced sons and daughters who could proudly say that the struggle was their life.

In Comrade TG's life we can also trace the history of our region. Born of parents who were drawn to our country by the voracious demand of apartheid's mines for migrant labour, he gave his life to defeat the system that oppressed and divided our nation and held the region in its grip. Together with the people of Southern Africa, we lifted the shadow of apartheid and destabilisation from our countries. Today we are building together, knowing that just as no part of a nation can be free in isolation, so too can no country in our region achieve prosperity on its own.

To Winnie and the Nkobi children: our thoughts are always with you - you should know that your husband and father was loved and respected by all.

This tombstone that we are unveiling today is a symbol of our collective memory of our dear comrade, whom we love and honour. In time, heroes like him should have a proper national monument in their honour. Cde. Thomas Nkobi is no longer with us. But he lives in our hearts as we build a better life for all, a cause to which he dedicated his life.

Source: Nelson Mandela Foundation