Disciplined, soft-spoken, approachable, calm, exemplary, role-model and more, I cannot finish the list of features that defined Reuben Beyile.
Mr Beyile was one of those at forefront of the struggle against oppression.
We were a youth with too much energy that needed to be controlled at times. Not everyone or any elder would be able to do that. That did not suggest we were not disciplined but as a youth we could have been naïve at times. This led us to acting out of anger without proper reasoning.
Mr Beyile was one of those elders, soft-spoken as he was, who knew how to approach us both individually and collectively. Before belonging to the ANC-aligned structures in Langa, he was a member of the Release Mandela Campaign (RMC).
Though RMC was also ANC aligned or part of the United Democratic Front, it was treated with disdain. He ignored that and therefore did not lose focus on what RMC was all about.
One freedom song he always loved was, “Mandela wethu somlandela, noba siyabotshwa somlandela”. He was involved in the Western Cape Civic Association as well.
After the unbanning of political parties, he became the treasurer of the ANC Langa Branch. He Later became deputy chairperson. I was honoured to serve with him in the Langa Welfare Committee after the unbanning of the political organisations. This committee aimed at comforting the families of the comrades who had passed away, especially in exile.
We would start with prayer, and he was the most suitable to lead as an elder from his church. He would also preach. If there was a preacher like him or more than him in the struggle in the 80s in the Western Cape, I would be glad to be reminded. With his preaching even cowards would never feel butterflies in their stomachs.
He also served as the board member of Phandulwazi Education and Skills Centre in Langa. The centre aimed at empowering members of the public with skills such as sewing and making of bricks. He would spend time there for the sake of the community.
This year marks the 25th anniversary of his passing. I hope that this piece will haunt the traitors to feel guilty for not having honoured him the way he deserves.
I wish this opinion piece will be at least a consolation prize to the family and make them feel proud of tata’s legacy. They must know that these facts are not fiction about tata and therefore will never be erased by anyone.
They must be proud and happy to be his family, “qhayi qhayi…” as he would say when preaching. His hymn was “Lizalis’idinga lakho”. Relevantly to the situation we were in during the hype of the struggle he would start in the middle towards the end:
“bona izwe lakwethu,
uxolel’ izono zalo;
Ungathob’ ingqumbo yakho
Luze luf’ usapho lwalo
Yaala, Nkosi, singadeli
Iimfundiso zezwi lakho;
Sive inyaniso yakho.
What I pen down about him, without fear or favour, is not only his legacy but part and parcel of the history of the struggle of our country.
They must not worry about oomavukengceni, people who slept being nothing but woke up as leaders. They will never have legacy. They will only end up with their fake political credentials which are being exposed as time progresses.
Beyile was not in the struggle for his benefit, but for the freedom of the people. He stuck to the freedom until the end. As a person, a social being, he was a gentleman with integrity, and that is what he was even politically.
Our parents were very much impressed to see that we are walking with dignified elders of that calibre.
He also assisted in mixing with other tatas from so-called emaholweni (Hostels). The latter felt more comfortable in seeing an elder of their age from the location. What a gentleman, both inside and outside! To us, the youth, he was a comrade, utata, a role-model and… many more. Amandlane akwazi ukuzala asizalela ilwelazwe, utata, nomzekelo wokuziphatha. Usebenzile uMndlane uTutuse uNomdimba.
The Bible says there is a time for everything. He returned to the church and continued where he left off as a preacher and an elder. I am sure mama was happy to see her husband back in church again. He was born on 3 March 1933. He died on 19 June 1998 and was buried on 4 July 1998.
This is a disciplined, orderly, calm, exemplary with integrity, a soft-spoken role-model who even sacrificed his church duties. Part of honouring him was renaming the street that separates Zone 3 (where his house is) and Zone 4 after him, Reuben Beyile Street.
I am honoured to pay tribute to him by writing this piece. Like to many of our activists, heroes and heroines, we are indebted to keeping their legacy. The question is how do we sustain it. The answer is also from us.
- Thembile Ndabeni is a Langa author.