Morena Tiego Moseneke’s leadership, courage and eloquence as a young activist was carried through his life
With the untimely death of Tiego Moseneke in a car crash on 19 April 2023, our country has been robbed of a formidable activist, keen lawyer and astute businessman.
Morena Tiego Moseneke was my President of the University of the Witwatersrand’s Black Students Society (BSS) in 1983, three years after we arrived at Glyn Thomas House residence, which was initially only for black medical students. We all fought and raised funds to open it to all students and to triple its capacity.
He took over from David Johnson (1981 — 1982) who succeeded Firoz Cachalia (1980) and then handed the baton over to the late Chris Ngcobo (1984), Advocate Dali Mpofu (1985), Themba Maseko (1986 — 1987), Terry Tselane (1988 — when the BSS was banned and the late Nepo Kekana served as the Interim President), Dan Mashitisho (1989) and Khaya Ngema (1990, the rebranded BSTC).
Tiego was initially part of the Anglo American Corporation cohort who were housed at the Mofolo Salvation Army Students’ Residence, enrolled for BComm and later changed to law. Our collective sense of justice (or rather, the lack thereof) was heightened by two major issues: the need for “special ministerial consent” from the minister of internal affairs for wanting to study at a university reserved exclusively for white students; and being accommodated at Glyn Thomas House, inside Baragwanath Hospital in Soweto — both occasioned by the Group Areas Act.
We were losing at least two hours a day being ferried by bus (only available from 07:00 to 17:00), and after-hours access to the many libraries on campus was a pipe dream.
Our extra-mural activities were to regularly invite political activists like Morena Dan Sechaba Montsitsi and Murphy Morobe who were underground, to come and talk to us at Glyn Thomas House, where we would also hide them when the security branch was after them.
Or attending political poetry reading sessions by Ingoapele Madingoane, Maishe Maponya, Sipho Sepamla, Mongane Serote, Njabulo Ndebele, Don Mattera, Matsemela Manaka, James Matthews, Jaki Seroke, etc.
The longest bus trip was when we organised to go to the United Democratic Front’s (UDF) launch in Cape Town. We looked forward in great anticipation to going to the movies on Fridays at the nurses’ home inside Baragwanath Hospital.
In some form of “retaliation”, we decided to honour the call for “no normal sport in an abnormal society” by boycotting all university sports and refusing to be members of the Students Representative Council (SRC), and rather creating our own BSS.
In solidarity with our own parents, aunts, sisters and brothers as janitorial workers at the university, we ordinarily had lunch in the “workers’ canteen” instead of the more elaborately supplied and prepared “students’ canteen”.
It was abundantly clear that even as students of the same university, we did not want the same things as the SRC, which was obsessed with students’ parking within the university grounds, while the BSS was seized with finding accommodation for students who were commuting to and from the townships.
Morena Tiego’s leadership was self-evident early on at Glyn Thomas House, his boldness, courage and eloquence were truly admirable.
We were later to attend Morena Moss Mashishi and Tsholofelo Matseke’s wedding where Morena Tiego was the Director of Ceremonies and Ntate Tokyo Sexwale kindly offered old-world wine from his estate.
On Saturday, 28 January of this year, at the unveiling of the Matsekes’ tombstone, Moss Mashishi and I spent the morning reminiscing about Glyn Thomas House, our colleagues and Tiego’s love of life, passion, abundance and infectious energy.
We spoke about attending the first Rugby World Cup win by South Africa at Ellis Park Stadium with our partners and the collective pain of sitting in Mama Nomzamo Winnie Mandela’s Soweto home when we went to pay our last respects on her passing away.
His indelible memories are etched in our hearts as we reflect on his untimely calling to higher order. In a way, his passing on starkly reminds us of our own mortality that “we should not wait until conditions are perfect to begin, precisely because it is the beginning that makes conditions perfect.”
It is not about perfect, but about effort. And that when you bring that effort every single day, that is where transformation happens — that is how change occurs.
That we better start now, where we are. Start with fear, with pain and doubt. Start with hands shaking and with your voice trembling. Start and just do not stop.
Start by choosing the right over the pleasant because that is a sign of power. Just start because like in cycling, you have to keep on pedalling to keep your balance, and a scar does not show your weakness but your strength.
Farmers who wait for perfect weather never plant. If they watch every cloud, they never harvest. Just as you cannot understand the path of the wind or the mystery of a tiny baby growing in its mother’s womb, so stop waiting for things to happen and start making things happen. The best way to pay for a lovely moment is to enjoy it!
Our country has been robbed of a formidable activist, keen lawyer and astute businessman. Our heartfelt, sincere and deepest sympathies and condolences to the Moseneke Family, clan and Friends. A moya wa Moholwane o robale ka kgotso! DM
At the time of his passing this week, Moseneke was founder and controlling shareholder of the Encha Group. He is the brother of former Deputy Chief Justice Dikgang Moseneke.
Bonang Mohale is the President of Business Unity South Africa (Busa), Chancellor of the University of the Free State, Professor of Practice in the Johannesburg Business School (JBS) College of Business and Economics, and Chairman of both The Bidvest Group Limited and SBV Services. He is the author of ‘Lift As You Rise’.