UMagogo is a woman who owned, ran and managed a house that harboured, sheltered, conscientised and developed members of the ANC, in particular operatives of MK, since the early 1970’s.

This house would later be known as kwaMagogo, which is the title of a book published in 2007, written about the house, uMagogo as well as the activities of the ANC in Swaziland.

The book, “Number 43 Trelawney Park; kwaMagogo” has enjoyed prominence both in South Africa and Swaziland for its human touch and in particular the spirit of uMagogo, which was enjoyed by many. It has been nominated for the Alan Paton Award for 2007.

The house has been described in many ways by many different people. It can aptly be described as, “A home away from home; Haven; Fortress; Intelligence repository; key meeting point; A battleground for many; as well as A playground for both Swazi and South African police – for over 40 years!”.

UMagogo was born Rebecca Makgomo Kekana (married Masilela), but would later in her life be known simply as uMagogo, a title bestowed to her by people showing respect and admiration for the motherly position she held amongst South Africans exiled in Swaziland. Even her children switched to referring to her as uMagogo, as opposed to uMama. Because of her abundant love and care for people in general, as well as her passion for the liberation movement. Many comrades and friends have always seen her as their mother as well.

UMakgomo met with Solomon Buthongo Masilela, popularly known as “Thongo”, soon after the Second World War in 1945, when uButhongo returned from the warfront. Both uMakgomo and uButhongo attended the Lutheran church in Kekanastaad, where they met and started courting. They courted for close to five years and finally got married in 1951.

The description of uMagogo can never be complete if it is done in isolation of her family history. Her disposition and vision are defined by this very history, not purely because it is appealing but because it is laced with royalty and grace.

UMagogo was born on the 12th of December 1928 in Hammanskraal, north of Pretoria, previously Farm 396 Leeuwkraal. This is an Afrikaans name for a place of the lions. The Chief of the Ndebele then, Abraham Jambo Kekana (Father to uMagogo), bought Leeuwkraal on behalf of the Ndebele people and later named it Kekanastaad. This was a transaction spearheaded by Jan Kekana, a grandfather to uMagogo.

UMakgomo was born to Abraham Jambo Kekana and Batseba Magogodi Mkhonwana. Abraham was on three occasions acting Chief of the Ndebele people until his death on the 6th of June 1964, of an unknown ailment. This is what makes uMagogo’s history a royal one.

Together they were blessed with nine children. All of which contributed to the struggle to varying degrees. The details of the family’s involvement are documented in the book. Some of these activities are documented in the TRC report through the accounts of various friends, comrades and foes that operated from and around Number 43.

One fateful day, one that will go indelibly inscribed into the annals of the Masilela’s history and that of the extended family of Number 43, is the 30th of September 2007. That is the day uMagogo gracefully “bowed out of this world, profoundly content with her contribution to the livelihoods of people around her.” This was exactly three months from the historic launch of Number 43 Trelawney park to the world.

The Death of Magogo

30 September 2007

One fateful day, one that will go indelibly inscribed into the annals of the Masilela’s history and that of the extended family of Number 43, is the 30th of September 2007. That is the day uMagogo gracefully “bowed out of this world, profoundly content with her contribution to the livelihoods of people around her.” This was exactly three months after the historic launch of the book about her very eventful yet humble life, Number 43 Trelawney Park; kwaMagogo. What a shock this was. It continues to reverberate to this very day.

This was a dark year for the Masilela’s. It was not only because of the passing on of uMagogo, but also the passing on of a few other members of the extended family as well as people who are key to the history of Number 43, namely:

19 March 2007 – uNokzola Mabilisa
March 2007 – uSis Peggy Manyatsi
29 March 2007 – uAlettah Masilela
14 October 2007 – uNcamsile Masilela

The family was showered with blessings, from the many people who extended soothing words of condolences. The Masilela family would like to thank everybody for the prayers, warm thoughts and words of comfort. We deeply remain indebted to each and everyone of you.