Maverick Citizen

DEATH OF AN ACTIVIST

Tributes pour in for Unemployed People’s Movement leader Ayanda Kota

Tributes pour in for Unemployed People’s Movement leader Ayanda Kota
Comrades and family are mourning the death of Eastern Cape activist Ayanda Kota, saying it is a big loss for civil society and loved ones. (Photo: Supplied)

Activist Ayanda Kota died in Cape Town on Thursday at the age of 48. Friends and fellow activists described him as a selfless leader who was determined to empower and liberate the poor, black working class.

Tributes poured in for human rights activist Ayanda Kota, who died on Thursday in Cape Town, almost three weeks after he was diagnosed with cancer.

The leader of the Unemployed People’s Movement (UPM) in Makhanda died aged 48 after being transferred from Gqeberha in the Eastern Cape to Cape Town.

Kota was instrumental in organising thousands of unemployed people in Makhanda to take on corruption in the municipality and advance a politics of love that was aimed at addressing the dehumanising conditions of the poor and the unemployed.

UPM chairperson Mahlubandi Hlubi Kuhlane said he was sad and angry at how the Eastern Cape health system failed his friend.

ayanda kota

Ayanda Kota was a founder of Zabalaza for Socialism, the Unemployed People’s Movement (UPM), the Assembly of the Unemployed and the Makhanda Citizens Front. (Photo: NeilAggettLabourStudiesUnit / X)

“Our health system failed Ayanda. He was fighting for that all of his life, the betterment of our health system. But it was in a worse manner when he needed it most, in the hospital he was in, they only provided him with a drip, and he now becomes a statistic of people who shouldn’t have died but died due to the public health system,” Kuhlane said.

He told Daily Maverick Kota had a good heart and fought for what was right without being disrespectful or hateful.

“People came first to him. He was so selfless, he lived in poverty but that didn’t stop him from helping others, I think that’s what he would want to be remembered for, being selfless.

“We send our deepest condolences to Babalwa, his partner and mother of his children, his five children, his sister Mandisa, who has been constantly at his side, and all his family. Our thoughts are with them. Hamba kahle, comrade Ayanda.” 

Tributes pour in 

Kota’s friend Ferron Pedro, a leader at the environmental rights organisation 350Africa.org, said, “We are deeply saddened to hear of his passing. Comrade Ayanda was a committed leader who made great sacrifices for the working-class movements he dedicated his life to. We will miss your revolutionary energy and humbly thank you for your contribution, dear comrade.”

The International Labour, Research & Information Group said, “We will always remember his sharp mind, uncompromising socialist politics, and dedication to the lives and struggles of the poor/working class. Your energetic spirit and your consistency of radical praxis will be sorely missed comrade Ayanda. We will always continue the struggle!”

Read more in Daily Maverick: Election Q & A: UPM’s Ayanda Kota

Mining Affected Communities United in Action said, “In the quiet embrace of the Eastern Cape’s soil lies the spirit of a warrior, Ayanda Kota. With unwavering courage and boundless compassion, he carved pathways of hope for the marginalised, the forgotten, and the oppressed in South Africa.” 

Sinesipho Soxujwa, a young mentee, penned a heartfelt message for Kota, saying he was “a true activist and an uncompromising tower and a shoulder to cry on for the whole community of Makhanda. Ayanda Kota was more than just a comrade to me, he was also my mentor.

“I am proud to say that he is one of the reasons why I am an activist. This tower had so much confidence in me. He would always urge me to speak in front of crowds because he wanted me to overcome my fear of public speaking. As a struggling student, bhuti Ayanda was the first person I would call if I needed anything, sometimes before I even called my parents. Tower may be gone but he will forever remain in our hearts.” 

Read more in Daily Maverick: ‘How are we going to survive without water?’ — Makhanda residents and Rhodes students up in arms

Jass Southern Africa described Kota as “a visionary and revolutionary thinker of our generation. Ayanda’s courageous activism is well known in South Africa and abroad and is celebrated as an internationalist, who sought to break borders and link struggles. We honour his remarkable legacy by continuing the struggles he championed, striving for full liberation!”

The Neil Aggett Labour Studies Unit (Nalsu) at Rhodes University said in a statement it was honoured to have worked with Kota.  

“Like many black working-class people of his generation and background, much of his schooling took place under the apartheid regime.

“Matriculating in 1997, he was locked like so many into the cycle of low-wage jobs and unemployment. He did not enter the government, and secure a lavish position, but stayed the course with suffering humanity, living in humble circumstances,”  Nalsu said.

Read more in Daily Maverick: Ayanda Kota: Unapologetic ANC apostate

Abahlali baseMjondolo leader Mqapheli Bonono told Daily Maverick, “We feel for the Kota family. This is shocking news. We know the wonderful work Kota did fighting for access to water in the Makhanda community, we have worked with the UPM. He was great at networking and connecting with all comrades.”

Precious moments

Kota’s friend, author Veli Mbele Ka-Sompisi, shared a tribute that described their time together as activists in the Azanian Students Convention at Penisula Technikon, now the Cape Peninsula University of Technology, in 1997:

“There are so many precious brotherly and revolutionary moments between us. I remember your never-ending capacity for storytelling. On campus in Cape Town, you would have us in stitches up until the early hours of the morning, as you unleashed one story after the other. 

“You also had a profound sense of compassion. You were a soft-spoken but sharp and articulate thinker with a deep grasp of phenomena and an irrepressible sense of justice.

“I will also remember you as a patient teacher, who was always eager to help others understand the complexities of the black condition. 

“In my book, you are one of the greats of our generation of black consciousness activists and it is no exaggeration to state that, as a people, we are going to be poorer without you.” DM

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Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Busi Pilane says:

    May Ayanda Kota’s soul rest in peace. God’s Loving and Endearing Overwhelming Comfort to his wife, kids and extended family, comrades, and the Makhanda community. Although to us, his time may seem short, a life taken too soon… He has started/fought a good fight for a just cause… A selfless Hero, Qhawe lama Qhawe! Thanks Naledi for this touching tribute.

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