“Welcome home Comrade JB Marks. Welcome home our leader, commissar, intellectual, soldier, teacher and accomplished revolutionary,” Zuma said in a speech prepared for delivery in Ventersdorp, North West.
“Your soul may now rest in eternal peace, on home soil, on South African soil.”
Zuma said that Marks was a distinguished South African who was totally committed and dedicated to freedom, equality, justice and human rights for all.
Zuma said Marks noticed when African students and white students were treated differently at the teacher training college he attended and could see that black African students were discriminated against, Zuma said.
“He then made it his mission to mobilise other students and showing them exactly how the conditions they were subjected to warranted a revolt,” said Zuma.
“It was the beginning of the conscientisation of this remarkable revolutionary.”
Zuma said that Marks was one of the leaders who played a key role in the Communist Party-led anti-pass campaign of 1944, which drew 20,000 people, including ANC members.
Marks’ success was “remarkable” and he managed to mobilise workers from various countries from Southern Africa under one banner and purpose, said Zuma.
“He raised their level of political consciousness and collapsed the nationality and tribal divisions that the system had imposed to prevent collective action.”
Zuma said that Marks was “the unifier” and he was an ANC leader, a trade unionist and a communist and saw no contradiction between the three roles.
A political activist and trade unionist Marks, served as president of the Transvaal Branch of the African National Congress and was elected chairman of the SA Communist Party in 1962.
In 1963 he was sent to the ANC external mission in Tanzania.
He became ill in 1971 and went to the then-Soviet Union. He died of a heart attack in Moscow the following year.
Marks was buried in the Novodevichy Cemetery in Moscow.
On Sunday, Zuma said the fact that Marks was to be buried in Ventersdorp should be a source of pride for all residents and said it should open a new chapter of unity, reconciliation and healing in the town.
“We extend our gratitude to the family of Comrade John Beaver Marks for your resilience and understanding that you share Uncle JB with the whole country,” said Zuma.
He said the reburial of Marks was an end of a painful era and the beginning of a new chapter of celebrating his life.
“We should ensure that we tell the story of Comrade JB Marks so that our children and youth would know about this distinguished leader and revolutionary who hated racism and the oppression of people because of the colour of their skin, and who wanted only the best for his country and people.”
Congress of the People on Sunday said it had a very deep and abiding appreciation for Marks, who sacrificed enormously in our common interest.
Cope said that Marks got involved in the freedom struggle when the risks were inordinately high.
“He was not deterred by the choice he had to make because he knew that his struggle as well as that of others like him was noble and a just struggle,” Cope said in a statement.
“He and his fellow comrades focused their minds with a singular concentration on attaining freedom for all the people of our country.”