Former student activist Tando Nyati leaves lasting legacy

Tando Nyati has died at the age of 53 after collapsing at his home in Port Elizabeth
HIGHLY RESPECTED: Tando Nyati has died at the age of 53 after collapsing at his home in Port Elizabeth
Image: Supplied

He was a judo instructor, a devout Christian and played a leading role as a student anti-apartheid activist.

Messages of respect and affection flowed in on Monday following the sudden death on Sunday of the Rev Tando Nyati, 53, who died in hospital after collapsing at his home in Port Elizabeth on Friday.

Long time friend Mlungisi Ncame, Confederation of African Football integrity officer and South African Football Association corporate affairs general manager, said Nyati had distinguished himself even while still at high school as being a great organiser.

“That was at the height of student resistance including class and consumer boycotts and this skill of organising stood out.

“Subsequently In 1985 during the state of emergency many of our leaders were going into exile or being detained.

“He and I and other young people were asked to fill the gap. That is when when we became friends.”

Nyati spent a year at Rhodes University and then moved across to Fort Hare in Alice where once again he distinguished himself as a young leader, Ncame said.

“That was the transition period 1989-93. Tando must be credited for the leading role he took as a student  activist demanding that the racist administration of the time must transform because indeed that process started then.”

Nyati was at the same time organising visits by senior ANC leaders to come to Fort Hare to speak about negotiations and the vexed question of whether the armed struggle should be halted or not, Ncame said.

“People like Dullah Omar, Chris Hani and Thabo Mbeki visited and spoke at these symposiums  because they knew we would help take the message to the community.

“In recognition of this and his transformation work Tando was elected to the national executive committee of the South African Students Congress.”

After university, Nyati worked for the department of education and then at VW in the labour relations department before becoming an independent labour relations consultant.

Divorced with two children, he started becoming strongly involved in the church about 15 years ago, Ncame said.

“He was a judo instructor and an avid reader of liberation theory. He was very passionate about political education classes.”

Anti-apartheid struggle stalwart and businessman Khusta Jack said Nyati was an exceptional man.

“He was a very kind guy, a wonderful person. He was a gentleman, deep-thinking and humble.

“He was highly respected by young and old.”

In a post on behalf of Fort Hare Alumni Chapter, Thando Mpula also paid his respects.

“We salute a life well lived. His role in the liberation of our country is recorded in the archives of the Mass Democratic Movement.

“We thank God that in his last days he dedicated his life to be a solider of the cross.”

The Fort Hare Alumni Chapter had been looking forward to Nyati’s ideas as they sought to build a strong alumni community, he said.

ANC regional spokesperson Gift Ngqondi said Nyati had left a lasting legacy.

“He has left permanent and discernible footprints, landmarks which will serve as a beacon to those who remain.

“We say farewell to an extraordinary human, devastated by our loss, fortified by what we have been given and moved by a deep and abiding affection.”

“He taught us that no life could be complete if it was not lived in the service of others.”

Ngqondi said the Eastern Cape branch of the ANC sent condolences to the Nyati family, friends and colleagues in the religious fraternity.

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