Above Photo: Chris Matlhako speaking at the First International Conference Against US/NATO Military Bases, in Dublin, Ireland, in November 2018. Ellen Davidson.
Chris “Che” Matlhako was a Central Committee member of the South African Communist Party (SACP) and served as Secretary for International Relations at Party Headquarters when he passed away on April 20, 2023.
Comrade Che joined the liberation struggle against apartheid as a student and remained committed to the socialist cause for the rest of his life. He was a Pan-Africanist and an internationalist who served as the General-Secretary of the Friends of Cuba Society – South Africa (FOCUS-SA) and as a member of the South African Peace Initiative. He was a Steering Committee member of the Black Alliance for Peace US Out of Africa Network. He was outspoken against imperialism and he was in solidarity with the people of Palestine, Cuba, Iran, Venezuela and other nations.
These are my remarks at a tribute endorsed by Black Agenda Report and hosted by the International Manifesto Group on May 14, 2023 .
Thank you all for joining us as we pay tribute to Chris Che Matlhako, a comrade and friend. I first met him in 2018 at the First International Conference Against US/NATO Military Bases, which was held in Dublin, Ireland.
I chaired a panel on the US Africa Command, AFRICOM, and Chris was a participant along with Paul Pumphrey and Ann Atambo. It was my first encounter and only in-person encounter with him, but it was very meaningful to me. It played an important role as I learned more and more about internationalism, especially as it pertains to Africa.
This is a small portion of Chris’ remarks for that panel, “There are US bases, compounds, port facilities and fuel burners in 34 African countries, including in regional hegemons Kenya, Ethiopia, and Algeria. Under the guise of countering terrorism, and through joint partnerships, Washington has infiltrated continental security organizations and has touted the idea of establishing on the ground liaison offices. American military officials and policy makers view the continent as a full-scale battlefield in the competition against China, and through promoting regionalism. US officials are successfully circumventing continental institutions including the African Union.“
Some of that has changed, most obviously in the relationship with Ethiopia, but Chris was spot on in his analysis of what is happening on the African continent as a result of US interference and its imperialist imperatives there.
It was a great pleasure meeting him and learning more about the activities of the South African Communist Party. South Africa is a nation which threw off its racist apartheid system, only to be captured by capitalist interests. The story is frankly rather tragic, one in which Cuba in particular played a huge role in freeing that nation from apartheid but it nonetheless succumbed to international imperialist pressures. We cannot remember comrade Che Matlhako without acknowledging the work of the South African Communist Party and others, who struggle to regain the liberation that comes through socialism.
I’m also proud to be here on behalf of Black Agenda Report. We have been presenting news and analysis from a Black left perspective since 2006. It is very strange in this country, the US, that is so right wing, that the word left has lost a lot of its meaning, and conservative democrats who are pro-war, pro-imperialist and capitalist manage to call themselves the left. But at Black Agenda Report we know that means socialist, and as such we make clear our connections, that is to say that of the African diaspora, and the absolute necessity of connecting with the socialist world and stating clearly that that is the solution to the plethora of problems faced by African people around the world.
I also knew Comrade Che through my work with the Black Alliance for Peace. He was a member of our US Out of Africa Network Steering Committee, which is the formation which guides our anti-AFRICOM work. He was very committed in that regard, as we manage a variety of nations and time zones to come together to discuss our work. The Black Alliance for Peace is I think the chief formation in the US, and also very important internationally, in mobilizing against the US Africa Command, AFRICOM, and all of the US military commands which attempt to exercise hegemony around the world.
We USians are all very much underprivileged, a word most often used to describe low-income people, but it applies to us all unless we strive to learn more, because our country is so retrograde and works very hard to keep people here ignorant of the rest of the world and of the role of this state we live under in maintaining imperialist domination. That is doubly true of Black/African people, that there is a sustained effort to keep us separated from and ignorant of the struggles of African people internationally. That is why it was so important for me to travel to Dublin or anywhere else where we engage in educational work.
I was deeply saddened to hear of Comrade Che’s passing, he was young, younger than I am, and had so much more to accomplish. But we are all here today in this meeting and around the world, actively working to make real his hopes and dreams, and we are all dreamers, are we not? And we must be, in bringing true justice to South Africa and to people all over the world.
Chris Che Matlhako presente! Thank you so much.