South Africa’s ambassador to Germany, former minister of sport and recreation and former Eastern Cape premier Makhenkesi Arnold Stofile died at his home in Alice in the Eastern Cape last week. He was 72.
In sending his condolences, President Jacob Zuma said: “The nation mourns the passing of this distinguished freedom fighter and a dedicated servant of our people.
“We wish to convey our deepest condolences to his family during this painful and difficult period.”
Born on December 27 1944, Reverend Stofile was a true and fearless politician who would speak his mind. A former political prisoner, he was a sound theologian, academic, sports administrator and sports player.
He was sports minister from 2004 to 2010. At the time of his death, he was serving as ambassador to Germany.
Bra Stof, as he was affectionately known, studied towards a master’s degree in theology at the University of Fort Hare. He also obtained a master of arts degree from Princeton University in New Jersey, US, in 1983.
Stofile joined the ANC in 1963. He was charged with harbouring terrorists by the Ciskei government and served a three-year jail sentence. He optimised and upheld the true values and principles of the other founding fathers of the ANC, such as Oliver Tambo, Walter Sisulu, Nelson Mandela and revenants including John L Dube, Zac Mahabane and many others.
Stofile was also an ordained minister of the Uniting Presbyterian Church in Southern Africa.
He was a great rugby player, a swift fly half who knew how to coordinate the offensive strategy with absolute capability to read the mood of the game. This was a strategy he applied in his political career as well.
Stofile mastered how to shut off the rucks and mauls in the play. This skill saw him appointed captain of the University of Fort Hare First XV at scrum half and wing at an early age.
In 1984, he travelled to New Zealand, where he led a successful campaign against the planned All Blacks tour of South Africa.
Subsequent to the 1994 democratic elections, he was appointed ANC chief whip in Parliament, a position he held until he took on the role of premier of the Eastern Cape in 1997.
Stofile was a distinct rugby administrator, coach and a campaigner for sports transformation. Remarkably, in 2009, he threatened World War 3 over gender test results pertaining to athlete Caster Semenya. This is a position that the country has eventually won, which saw Semenya booking herself a place in the women’s 800m final at the 2016 Rio Olympics that took place early this morning.
As the successor to Bra Stof, I am proud to see his efforts enjoyed by many in sports across racial lines.
May his soul rest in peace.
Mbalula is the minister of sport and recreation