Tribute to an extraordinary and visionary man: a solemn salute to uBaba Musa Hlophe

Tribute to an extraordinary and visionary man: a solemn salute to uBaba Musa Hlophe
Words often fail even the most articulate and erudite of people, when the task at hand is to write or speak of great and extraordinary human beings. What to say and how to say it? Death has come like a thief to rob us of this illustrious son of the soil.
The task of honouring a soul so prodigious, is as insurmountable as reversing the rising of the sun from the east to the west. Indeed, so great is the task of this tribute, that penning it is one of the greatest honours of my life. For, rarely do mortal men rise from the dusty and rural precincts of eSwatini, to become indomitable believers in human rights and social justice that uBaba Musa Hlophe was.
I learnt with a heavy and painful heart of his passing earlier this week, rudely taken away from us at a crucial time when our country has begun to experience the birth pangs of what is yet to become the freedom of our people. Yes, uBaba lived his entire twilight years ferociously fighting for his people, my brothers and sisters, to be free, to live in a society where they, like other nations of the world, can choose their leaders freely. He fought with abundant fortitude for the torch of open society to shine upon his beloved country, our beloved country.
uBaba Hlophe was also a universal cadre of open society who believed in the freedom of people, not just in his own country, but also in the African continent and the world at large. He believed in the principles that underpin service to the people – a principle that called upon him to show fidelity to the struggle against injustice everywhere. He spent his entire retirement life tirelessly organizing, campaigning and relentlessly expressing his opinions on human rights, justice and peace through a weekly column in the eSwatini Sunday Times.
He was a true patriot who gallantly sacrificed the comfortable trappings of retirement life to contribute to a struggle he strongly believed would ultimately be successful. He leaves us at a time when the fruits of his labour are beginning to bear fruit. Recently, he spoke fondly of how it pleased him that the youth of eSwatini have finally found themselves, and that they have arisen to make it known that they are the last generation to be oppressed in that country. When history is written, his contributions to youth mentorship shall not be forgotten.
During his stint as Board Chairperson of the Open Society Initiative for Southern Africa (OSISA), the organization that I lead, uBaba tirelessly reminded us that we could only ignore the youth in this continent at our own peril. He emphasized that there can be no future for this region and this continent if the majority of its people remain outside the circle of economic opportunity, political participation and social up-liftment.
Under his leadership of the Swaziland Coalition of Concerned Civic Organizations (SCCCO), the struggle for the second independence of the people of eSwatini was heightened, both through support for platforms such as the Sidla Inhloko and the Luvatsi National Youth Movement. These robust people-centred platforms laid the foundation for the awakening of a nation by affording opportunities for socio-political engagement in the context of a closed society.
No doubt, the contributions he made can only be a subject of history – immortalized for all posterity.
In June 2010, eSwatini security forces harassed uBaba and his family ostensibly on the charge that he was harbouring bombs in his home. The country and the world watched in utter shock as the then 72-year-old man was publicly humiliated as if he was a hard-core criminal. He was called a terrorist worthy of jail time for his beliefs. His only crime was to steadfastly stand for the truth – to speak truth to power and unwaveringly call for democracy in his country. We shall never forget! Ours is to honour his legacy – it is to continue on the path less travelled that he chose.
Ubaba Hlophe chose to remain young both at heart and in action. Even at age 83, he was always first to the battle front, rallying the forces of freedom to radically heighten the tempo of the struggle. In many ways, he was a moral compass to a generation far younger than he was. He stood resolute even as many questioned why he simply could not retire in silence as many of his peers. He chose the side of the people; he obstinately chose the side of history. And, for this, he immortalized himself forever. May his resilient and powerful soul eternally shine upon his people! Siyabonga Baba! My sincerest condolences to his wife and entire family as well as the people of eSwatini for this monumental loss.
Lala ngokuthula Mkhulu! Lala ngokuthula Mabhengu!
The struggle continues!
By Siphosami Malunga

*Siphosami Malunga is the Executive Director of Open Society Initiative for Southern Africa.