Joseph Morolong (Posthumous)
The Order of Mendi for Bravery in
Profile of Joseph Morolong
Joseph Morolong was born on 1 July 1927 in what is now known as the Northern Cape. He was a member of the South African Congress of Trade Unions. He was also widely involved in the anti-apartheid campaigns organised by the African National Congress in Cape Town. Morolong’s passion for racial equality and human rights generally saw him become one of the activists involved in the Defiance Campaign of 1952, along with Ruth First.
Morolong’s determination to raise and champion the aspirations of the politically excluded majority of South Africans, whose exclusion was solely based on their skin colour, put him at the centre of the liberation struggle in the mid-1950s. He was one of the people who were arrested for participating in the drafting and adoption of the seminal Freedom Charter in Kliptown, Soweto in 1955. Their arrest eventually led to the infamous Treason Trial. After a stressful trial that lasted over four years, Morolong was eventually acquitted.
He continued to endure constant harassment from state security forces and was at some point incarcerated for nine months in solitary confinement. He was later banished to his place of birth, Ditshipeng, in the Northern Cape and was monitored to ensure that the banishment was observed. In 1977, Morolong was assassinated and laid to rest in his beloved Ditshipeng Village.
His contribution to the liberation of South Africa is unquestionable. Morolong was one of the prominent drafters of the Freedom Charter, which espoused the political aspirations of ordinary people, influenced the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa of 1996 and continues to feature in debates as South Africans take stock of the journey travelled since 1994.