The measure of a man is not how he died, but how he lived his life. Not what he gained, but what he gave. The greatest thing in life is to live for a purpose
The warrior who was buried on 25 January 2014 for his deserved terrestrial rest and his celestial honour and glory beyond the grave, conferred on him by his Creator and Heavenly Father through that unique Person in all history who conquered death, and said to those who believe, like this African warrior did, that ‘I am the resurrection, and the life: He that believes in Me, though he were dead, yet shall he live....’ (John 11:25), is Bishop Lesaoana Caleb Makanda. He was a freedom fighter for South Africa and Africa, since he was a Pan-Africanist. He was a diplomat and a prophet. This is a man who could without blinking say, ‘I know that my redeemer lives, and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth; and though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh I shall see God: Whom I shall see for myself and my eye shall behold, and not another.’ (Job 14:25-27).
I knew this African patriot during my days at the United Nations in New York where I was an accredited representative of the victims of apartheid colonialism in South Africa (Azania). I found him an energetic, hard-working person and a dedicated fighter for the liberation of African people and mankind. He was a reliable person, a man of integrity with a high sense of duty. I became acquainted with his spiritual life after he retired from his posting as ambassador to five countries in West Africa where he was appointed by the late President Nelson Mandela.
Bishop Makanda was a remarkable person. He always pursued whatever he did with tenacity of purpose and pertinacity of will. This was demonstrated in his early life. He was involved in the Sharpeville Uprising led by the Pan Africanist Congress under the leadership of Mangaliso Robert Sobukwe. He was the youngest prisoner for the Sharpeville Uprising, along with his friends Dr. Thami Mazwai and Dr. Joe Tlholoe. When Makanda was released from jail he left the country for military training to fight against apartheid colonialism. The Pan Africanist Congress of Azania (PAC) assigned him to various posts including the United Nations. He served with distinction in all of them. It looks like everything he touched was bound to succeed; yet he remained a very humble man. Even after he served as a distinguished ambassador with the title ‘His Exellency’, he remained a humble servant of the people. To him leadership was to be a servant of the people, not a master.
I think it is important to point out that Bishop Lesaoana Caleb Makanda has come a long way of a regiment of warriors. It is not an accident that he served the liberation of our people with remarkable dedication, which no one could question. The man known as ‘Makana the left- handed’ is his ancestor. Makana (real name Makhanda) was an African warrior and a prophet. He led the 1819 war of national resistance against British colonialism in South Africa. He stormed the British garrison of Grahamstown (eRHINI isexeko seNgwele) on 25 December 1819. Historians say Makana ‘the left-handed’ as they called him, maintained a strong interest in the Christian faith, combining it with elements of African beliefs. He was a commander as well as a military advisor to King Ndlambe. He was arrested by the British colonial government after the war he led and imprisoned in Robben Island in 1820. He died in 1821 by drowning when he tried to escape from Robben Island and lead the liberation struggle of his people. Makana was recognised as national hero in this country in January 2013. Bishop Makanda was there to witness the honour bestowed on his ancestor, 194 years since he departed from this planet.
Bishop Makanda, like his ancestor, became not only a political freedom fighter but a spiritual leader – a prophet. He had a vision, which is known to those who were close to him. His death should not be considered as ‘a blow’ to this vision. You can kill a visionary, but you cannot kill their vision. You can burn grass, but you cannot burn its roots. You can kill thinkers, but you cannot kill their ideas. We should not be intimidated. We must not fail Bishop Makanda’s vision. It is good for our nation. It is good for Africa. It is good for mankind. It must triumph no matter how dark it may be and whatever the challenges. The greatest honour we can confer on Bishop Makanda is the realisation of his vision. He was a great lover of knowledge. He wanted every African to have knowledge because knowledge is power and liberates a nation.
Every adversity, every heartache carries the seed of a greater benefit. I suppose that is the reason that great the English writer, William Shakespeare, said, ‘Sweet are the uses of adversity which like the toad, ugly and venomous, wears yet a precious jewel in its head.’ Those evil men who murdered Bishop Lesaoana Caleb Makanda have won a cowardly perfidious battle. We must win the war. There is nothing invincible like a vision, called ‘utopia’ today, and flesh and blood tomorrow. There is no crisis that was never a blessing in disguise if harnessed. Life’s greatest achievements are those that look impossible.