The African National Congress (ANC) in the Western Cape today said it was saddened by the death of struggle stalwart the Reverend Chris Wessels, who has died at the age of 83.
The struggle veteran and former political prisoner died on Tuesday morning after succumbing to pancreatic cancer.
In a statement, the party said his fight against apartheid injustices and involvement in the black consciousness movement landed him in prison a few times. In the 1970s he was arrested under the Terrorism Act for his work in helping the squatter communities of the Cape Flats. He was arrested again and labelled “the enemy of the state” for taking part in a pro-Frelimo rally.
Rev Wessels was instrumental in recruiting many activists. His work as the leader of the Eastern Cape council of churches also angered the apartheid regime and in 1976 he made matters worse when he drew up resolutions against the state.
ANC Western Cape provincial secretary Faiez Jacobs hailed Wessels as a hero who was never intimidated, even by the apartheid regime.
“In the middle of the Soweto uprisings in 1976 he wrote about ten proposals to the government and one of the prominent proposals, which probably angered the system the most and got him to jail, was the one in which he asked the police and their machinery to move out of Soweto,” said Jacobs.
The following year he was also arrested and taken to Kinkelbos police station where he was kept and tortured because he and Steve Biko distributed pamphlets that were calling for schools and churches to commemorate the Sharpeville massacre.
Rev Wessels’ family also suffered a lot because his wife was also arrested because of his activities.
“As the ANC, there are many people and families that we can never thank enough. The Wessels family is one of those. It was Rev Wessels who travelled throughout the world looking for bursaries and study opportunities for many young South Africans before and after the 1976 student uprisings,” said Jacobs.
Wessels was born in Genadendal in the Overberg and also lived his last years of retirement there after having worked in various places in South Africa. He was passionate about the history of Genadendal and its people, and was very involved in community issues.
“The ANC in the Western Cape pass its deepest condolences to his wife Nabs, his children, grandchildren and the entire Wessels family. May his soul rest in peace,” added Jacobs.
– African News Agency (ANA)