Job Shimankana Tabane (largely known as Cassius Make, his alias name) was born in Maile village (Diepkuil) just outside Rustenburg on 6 December 1942. Tabane began his primary education in 1949 at Diepkuil Primary School and had to balance his school work with tending his grandfather’s cattle. At the age of 12 he left his paternal home in Mosenthal and enrolled for Standard two at Tweetepoort Bantu School where he studied until completing Standard five in 1956.
In 1957 Tabane went to Bierkraal Bantu School at Tlaseng village where he graduated with a Standard Six certificate. The following year he went to Alexander Township where he joined his parents and also began his secondary school education at Moemise-Sekitla Secondary School in Hammanskraal north of Pretoria. Tabane began attending African National Congress (ANC) and Pan Africanist Congress (PAC) meetings at school, a privilege restricted to students in higher grades. At the end of 1960, Tabane completed his junior certificate, but his life was disrupted when his family was forcibly removed to Diepkloof in Soweto under the Group Areas Act.
At the beginning of 1961, he enrolled for matric, but his involvement in a food protest at the school resulted in his expulsion. Subsequently, he enrolled at Bethel Training College in the Transkei from where he was also expelled at the end of the year. In 1963 Tabane returned to Johannesburg and found work at a pharmacy. Political developments in the country during the period, such as the arrest and trial of Nelson Mandela, Walter Sisulu and others in the Rivonia Trial, politicised him as he followed the trial. He also began reading political books under the guise of studying medicine.
In March 1964 Tabane left Johannesburg by train to Zeerust on his way to exile through Botswana to join the ANC. Around this period he adopted the alias name of Cassius Make which has been popularised more than his real name. Still in 1964, together with other members of the uMkhonto we Sizwe (MK), he was selected to go to Odessa in the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) for military training. While undergoing training, Tabane assisted his less literate Tswana comrades by translating material from English into Setswana.
After his return to Dar es Salaam, he went to Kongwa where he ran a literacy program focusing on arithmetic, mathematics and English. He was later appointed head to Radio Freedom. Tabane also worked closely with other liberation movements like the South West African People’s Organisation (SWAPO). In 1972 Tabane was sent back to the Soviet Union where he attended the Young Communist League Party School commonly known as Komsomol.
As scores of young people left South Africa after the Soweto Uprising to join the armed struggle, Tabane was as the ANC’s chief representative in Angola. Amongst his chief tasks, was to establish an ANC office and training camps to receive the arrived young cadres in Angola. He became an important link between the ANC, the Angolans and Cubans. Tabane was actively involved in the training of these recruits until his redeployment to Lusaka Zambia in 1978 where served as the Deputy Secretary-General of the Revolutionary Council (RC). During this period he was also appointed Chief of Ordinance where he was responsible for logistics, identifying infiltration routes, identifying suitable places for the setting up of dead letter boxes (DLBs) inside South Africa, arms registration and deployments. He later served in the ANC’s Politico Military Council (PMC).
On 20 June 1979, Tabane married his wife Thokozani Grace, (aka Nozipho Modisane), and in December 1979 their first child was born. Their second child was born in February 1982.
Tabane’s work resulted in his arrest by the Botswana police authorities in early 1982. He was sentenced to a six month prison term in Botswana for illegal weapons transportation. After his release he resumed his underground work for the ANC. In June 1985 at the Kabwe Conference, Tabane was elected to the National Executive Committee (NEC) of the ANC. He became the youngest member to serve in the NEC. He also served as a member of the Central Committee of the South African Communist Party (SACP).
On 9 July 1987 Tabane, together with a fellow comrade Peter Sello Motau, were assassinated by the Apartheid security forces in Swaziland just after they arrived from Maputo. Tabane left behind his wife and two children. He was buried in Lusaka, Zambia.
The government made plans to repatriate his remains for burial in South Africa. On 20 June the remains of Tabanewere flown to South Africa. In recognition for his role in the struggle against apartheid, the provincial hospital in the North West Province in Rustenburg was named after Tabane in 2008.
ANC, Reburial of Cassius Maake A freedom fighter returns home, from the African National Congress, [online] Available at www.anc.org.za [Accessed 13 November 2012]|
ANC, (1987), ANC National Executive Committee statement on the Assassination of Cassius Make and Paul Dikeledi in Swaziland, from the African National Congress, 16 July, [online] Available at www.anc.org.za [Accessed 13 November 2012]|