The Order of Mendi for Bravery in
Profile of Caleb Motshabi
Caleb “Commandant” Motshabi joined the African National Congress (ANC) in 1949. He participated in the 1955 Congress of the People in Kliptown, Soweto where the Freedom Charter was drafted. In 1961, he became the Free State commander of Umkhonto we Sizwe (MK). He was arrested in 1963 and jailed for 12 years on Robben Island. In 1975 he was released but immediately banished to, and placed under house arrest, in Thaba Nchu in the Free State.
However, house arrest did not deter him from his mission to liberate the people of South Africa. During the 1970s he steadfastly recruited young activists, mostly from the Bloemfontein area, into the ANC. He facilitated their travel to Lesotho where the ANC had substantial presence. The link between Bloemfontein and Lesotho was to be the primary axis of ANC and MK activity in the Free State.
Motshabi served as a mentor, role model and father figure to many of the youth he recruited and gave political education. The lack of institutions of higher learning in the province at the time saw him encouraging young revolutionaries to gain formal education outside the province. Some of the renowned Free State activists who acquired higher education included Janie Mohapi, who studied at the then University of the North (now called University of Limpopo) in Turfloop, Max Makhubelo (University of Fort Hare), Oupa Molema (University of the North), Fezile Dabi (University of Fort Hare) and Terror Lekota (University of the North).
Many seasoned members of the ANC and political activists remember Motshabi with fondness in his assistance that saw them cross borders to Lesotho to get political education and a crash course in different military activities.