At 8pm, after the sun set on the historic day on which Nelson Mandela was inaugurated as the first democratic president of South Africa, his fellow Rivonia Trialist and Robben Island prisoner, Elias Motsoaledi, died after a long illness.

The African National Congress, on behalf of all its leaders and members, pays tribute to a man whose life was the struggle, and who lived just long enough to see a new South Africa born.

Born on July 26, 1924 in Nebo, Sekhukuneland, Motsoaledi came to Johannesburg at the age of 17 in search of work. He soon joined the Leather Workers' Union, served on the Committee of Non-European Trade Unions, and later played an active role in the establishment of the South African Congress of Trade Unions.

A lifelong member of the SACP and the ANC, he played a central role in many campaigns, including the Defiance Campaign of 1952, the year in which he was first banned. Detained in terms of the 1960 State of Emergency, Elias was imprisoned for four months. On his release, he went underground and served on the Johannesburg Regional Command of Umkhonto we Sizwe.

Arrested in 1963, Motsoaledi was one of the Rivonia Trialists and was sentenced to life imprisonment on Robben Island, a sentence he served until his release in 1989 - 26 years later. On his release, Motsoaledi was elected to the National Executive Committee of the ANC, and fulfilled his tasks in exemplary fashion.

The ANC extends its heartfelt condolences to Caroline and the six children who grew up without a father. They have lost a loved one; South Africa has lost one of its greatest sons. That we are "Free at Last" bears testimony to Elias Motsoaledi's lifetime of struggle. He will always be remembered by millions who owe him so much.

Issued by:
Department of Information and Publicity
P.O. Box 61884
Marshalltown 2107