Following the successful reburial of liberation fighter, Moses Mauane Kotane, the Special Official Funerals Category 1 culminates with the reburial of struggle stalwart John Beaver Marks in Ventersdorp.

These sons of the North West province were born a mere 120 km and two years apart. They shared a companionship which led them to Tanzania in the 1960s where the two contributed to solidifying the South African liberation struggle in exile. While death claimed their lives seven years apart the two comrades were buried side by side at the Norvedivechy cemetery in Moscow, Russia.

John Beaver Marks was born in a small North West town of Ventersdorp more popularly known as an infamous right-wing town, home to the likes of Eugene Terre’Blanche’s Afrikaner resistance movement – the AWB. This teacher, trade unionist and political activist was the seventh child of an African railway worker, John Thelelwa Marks and Betty Esau, who was of White descent. Marks ascendance to politics was influenced by his father who was a staunch supporter of the African National Congress.

President Zuma reflected on need to uplift icons such as Marks

In his oration at liberation icon, Moses Kotane’s reburial President Jacob Zuma reflected on the need to uplift icons such as Marks to reflect their selfless contribution to the freedoms enjoyed today. “Our people need to know all the illustrious men and women who made it possible for them to live as free as equal citizens in the land of their birth. They should know that this country produced more than just Nelson Mandela; it has produced Moses Kotane, JB Marks.”

Marks joined the ANC in 1928. In 1942, he was elected president of both the Transvaal Council of non-European trade unions and the African Mine Workers Union – the first trade union of African mine workers in South Africa. This trade union led the famous 1946 strike as it commanded the respect of about 400 000 mine workers.

Frans Baleni of the National Union of Mine Workers says present day South Africans need to pick up the baton and forge ahead from where the likes of JB Marks left of.

“I would wish that as remembering JB Marks, there can be maximum unity within the alliance in ensuring that we eliminate poverty, unemployment, and inequality – having attained freedom which these leaders never saw and tasted having perished in a foreign land,” says Baleni. For the Marks family, this is the fulfillment of a long awaited promise to Marks’ late mother. “He may not be alive today but his mother had asked his brother and I that when she was no longer alive we should go find his body. I lived with the old lady and she was my mother in law – there was never a meal she had where she never thought of her son,” says Marks’ sister in law.

John Beaver Marks will be reburied in Ventersdorp on Sunday, 22 March – a day after what would have been his 112th birthday.This auspicious ceremony will highlight this icon’s contribution to the war over oppressive systems of governance and the achievement of a world recognized model of reconciliation and nation building.

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