“He is gone but not forgotten. We will always remember how religious he was. He would always start everything with a prayer. He was God-fearing,” villager Abel Rantoi said on the sidelines of Mangope’s funeral service in the village on Saturday.
“He created jobs; he built the infrastructure the North West province enjoys today. He was a visionary leader working for his people. He never believed in making promises he could not keep. Instead he did without promising,” Rantoi said.
Mangope was buried in Motswedi on Saturday. He died on January 18 in Motswedi. Hundreds of people turned up for his funeral service despite the overnight rain that continued in the morning.
One of the speakers at the funeral, former deputy chief justice Dikgang Moseneke, said Mangope had been a leader of great stature. “Like him, hate him, he has made a tremendous contribution in that particular part of our country, where he comes from, and I think he deserves our recognition and respect. No leader is perfect, but we must recognise true and great leadership…,” he said.
Two former ministers who served in Mangope’s Bophuthatswana cabinet told mourners how he was fond of education and agriculture. They called on former members of the United Christian Democratic Party, which Mangope founded, to renew their party membership and revive the party in memory of their former leader.
Bart Dorrenstein, who worked in Mangope’s government, told mourners the former homeland leader had been a “giant man” who served his people well.
“He was a giant man, a leader who was there for his people, not for himself. He created jobs, built schools, and created national parks. His legacy will live forever; he was an amazing man.”
Dorrenstein said he had been lucky to work for Mangope. “His vision for the North West is the vision South Africa should have. He invested in the people, he was there for the people and not for himself… he did not die a rich man… he [was] an incredible guy.”
Mangope became president of Bophuthatswana in 1977, one of many several “independent” black homelands which only apartheid-South Africa recognised. He had been accused of using police brutality to suppress protest.
In 1988 he was reinstated by the apartheid government following a failed coup led by Rocky Malebana-Metsing, leader of the People’s Progressive Party.
In 1993, in the build-up to the first non-racial elections in South Africa in April 1994, Mangope stated that Bophuthatswana would remain independent of the new South Africa and that he would not allow the elections to take place in Bophuthatswana. However, he was removed from office by then South African foreign minister Pik Botha and transitional executive council member Mac Maharaj in March, 1994.
– African News Agency (ANA)