Johannesburg – The death of Ambassador Billy Masetlha on Sunday has left the African National Congress (ANC) devastated.
“The entire congress movement is devastated by the passing of a freedom fighter and hero of our struggle, Comrade Billy Masetlha,” the ANC said in a communique released by National Spokesperson Mahlengi Bhengu-Motsiri.
“The ANC dips its revolutionary banner in honour of one of its most loyal, disciplined and dedicated cadres.
“Comrade Billy joined the struggle at a very young age at a time when associating oneself with the ANC attracted death and torture for an individual and their family.
“This dedication and choice to side with the oppressed is reflected in his membership of the Soweto Student’s Representative Council in 1976 and subsequent role in the 1976 uprisings.”
The ANC said “Comrade Billy” was a founding member of the Congress of South African Students (COSAS) and also played a role in the formation of the Azanian Students’ Organisation (AZASO).
Comrade Billy joined uMkhonto we Sizwe (MK) – the military wing of the ANC that fought against the apartheid regime.
He skipped the country in 1979 and was exiled in Botswana and Zambia.
While in exile he dedicated most of his efforts to youth and student struggles against the apartheid regime.
“The struggle was his life and the freedom we are enjoying today is his legacy,” the communique said.
“He was a true patriot and activist, an internationalist, a titan who gave his entire life to the cause of humanity, a leader, a principled revolutionary, and a genuine comrade.
“He was always ready to execute any mission he was given by the ANC and always prepared to pay with his life as part of the price of advancing the cause of freedom.
”He did all these things with no expectation of personal gain, material advancement, fame or personal glory.
“Comrade Billy served the democratic government in various capacities including as Director General of the National Intelligence Agency.”
He has also served as a member of the National Executive Committee (NEC) of the ANC.
At the time of his passing, he was serving as South Africa’s High Commissioner to Algeria and Western Sahara, a role which he relished as a conduit for decolonisation of Western Sahara.
“Comrade Billy resented inequality, injustice and racism with passion,” the ANC said, adding that the party “will treasure his contribution as one of our most distinguished sons who consciously chose to fight a cruel and inhumane system”.
The ANC said it “salutes Comrade Billy Lesedi Masetlha for his unwavering commitment to the liberation of our country and commits to celebrate his life and leadership by remaining steadfast in implementing the renewal agenda.
“We extend our heartfelt condolences to Comrade Billy’s family, loved ones, friends and comrades. Hamba Kahle Mkhonto!“