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Moses Kotane

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Moses Kotane

Moses Mauane Kotane
Secretary-General of the South African Communist Party
In office
Succeeded by Moses Mabhida
Treasurer General of the African National Congress
In office
Succeeded by Thomas Nkobi
Personal details
Born (1905-08-09)August 9, 1905
Tamposstad, Transvaal
Died May 19, 1978(1978-05-19) (aged 72)
Political party South African Communist Party, African National Congress

Moses Mauane Kotane (9 August 1905 – 19 May 1978) was a South African politician and activist. Kotane was secretary general of the South African Communist Party from 1939 until his death in 1978.[1]


Early life

Kotane was born in Tamposstad/Matlhako/Pellain Maphusumaneng Section, Transvaal (now North West) to a devout Christian family of Batswana origins. He received little formal schooling prior to entering the workforce. In 1922 at the age of 17, Kotane began his working in Krugersdorp, where he worked in various jobs including as a photographer's assistant, domestic servant, miner, and bakery worker.[2]

Trade unionism and early party politics

In 1928, Kotane joined the African National Congress but left it, considering it weak and ineffectual.[2] Later that year he joined the African Bakers Union, an affiliate of the new Federation of Non-European Trade Unions then being built by SACP. Kotane joined SACP a year later in 1929, soon becoming a member of the party's politburo. In 1931, he became a full time functionary of SACP. Within the Communist Party, Kotane worked on Umsebenzi, the party's newspaper. As a promising young party member, Kotane was sent to Moscow to study Marxism-Leninism at the International Lenin School. In Moscow, Kotane studied under Endre Sík, 1967 recipient of the Lenin Peace Prize and other Marxist theorists.[1] Returning to South Africa in 1933, Kotane advanced through the Party until the point where he became the party's general secretary in 1939.

Political legacy

Kotane was a well-respected member of the struggle for majority rule in South Africa by even non-communist leaders. Walter Sisulu credited him as a "giant of the struggle" because of his logical and non-dogmatic approach.[3] Kotane was also a leading member of the African National Congress at the same time as the SACP. With the African National Congress, Kotane served as Treasurer General from 1963 to 1973 when he was replaced by Thomas Nkobi.[4] Kotane, representing the Communist Party, attended the 1955 Asian-African Conference in Bandung, Indonesia. From 1956 to 1961, Kotane was a defendant in the Treason Trial alongside fellow South African leaders Nelson Mandela, Albert Luthuli, Joe Slovo, Walter Sisulu and 151 others. Despite years of prosecution, none of the defendants, including Kotane, were convicted.[2]

Later life

Kotane's Grave at Novodevichy cemetery in Moscow.

Kotane suffered a stroke in 1968. Following the stroke, he went for treatment in the Soviet Union, where he died on 19 May 1978.[1]


Kotane was honoured with the Isitwalandwe Medal by the ANC in 1975. A local municipality is named after him in North West Province, South Africa.[5]


  1. ^ a b c Tribute to Moses Kotane South African Communist Party
  2. ^ a b c Biography at
  3. ^ Walter & Albertina Sisulu by Elinor Sisulu, viewed on Google Books
  4. ^ Statement on Thomas Nkobi African National Congress
  5. ^ Moses Kotane Local Municipality

External links

  • Moses Kotane, South African Revolutionary, A Political Biography by Brian Bunting. Published by Inkululeko Publications, 39 Goodge Street, London W1. © Inkululeko Publications, 1975.
  • Moses Kotane's tomb
Party political offices
Preceded by
General Secretary of the South African Communist Party
Succeeded by
Moses Mabhida
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