Born in Johannesburg on 12th June 1948
It was deeply saddening that on the evening of the 6th of April 2018, the day we commemorate the hanging and callous killing of Solomon Kalushi Mahlangu by the apartheid regime in 1979, we lost one of our great intellectuals, freedom fighter and
consummate diplomat, Sipho George “Dikgang” Nene.
Born in White City Jabavu, Soweto, Comrade George completed his matric at Morris Isaacson High School in 1968. In 1970, he studied for a Secondary School Teachers Course at the University of Zululand. It was here that he joined the South African Student Organisation (SASO) and where he also became its office bearer. Upon completion, he returned to his alma matter, Morris Isaacson High School, where he taught and assisted in organizing students, some of whom became leaders of the June 16, 1976 uprisings.
Comrade George was recruited into the African National Congress (ANC) and uMkhonto we Sizwe (MK) underground structures to fight effectively against the apartheid system. He was subsequently instructed to leave the country, after which he underwent military training in Pirivanhoe, in the then Soviet Union. He later spent a brief period as a military instructor in Benguela, Angola. He was then deployed to Maputo and Swaziland in the Special Operations.
A gallant fighter of MK June 16 detachment, he survived many attempts on his life, and was briefly detained in Swaziland for his underground activities. Comrade George was sent to Bulgaria where he completed a course in Political Studies at the Aonsu Academy in Sofia. He continued to amass knowledge and skills in Germany, Norway, France and the United Kingdom respectively.
This gentle giant later served under the direct leadership and tutelage of Comrade President OR Tambo, later to be appointed ANC Chief Representative to Nigeria. It was no coincidence that he became the first High Commissioner of a democratic South Africa. Upon his return to South Africa in 1990, he was kidnapped and briefly detained by the Askaries under apartheid enforcer Eugene de Kock. However, through the intervention of then ANC President Nelson Mandela, he was released.
Ambassador Nene served in many positions, including as Permanent Representative of South Africa to the UN in Geneva, Deputy Director-General Multilateral Affairs, Special Advisor to the Minster of International Relations and Cooperation, Focal Point Member of the India Brazil- South Africa Dialogue Forum (IBSA), South African Sherpa to the G20, Board Member of the UN Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR), and Board member of the Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) before his retirement. In recognition of his experience and leadership qualities, Ambassador Nene was elected as the first Chairperson of the South African Association of Former Ambassadors, High Commissioners and Chief Representatives.
As a veteran of the struggle, Comrade George participated in both the conceptualisation and the formation of the MK National Council of Stalwarts and Veterans. He correctly believed that the ANC ought to continue to be the leader of society and advance the course of building a non-racial, non-sexist, democratic, united and prosperous South Africa.
The Nene family, his friends and the entire movement have lost a great intellectual, a selfless revolutionary who put the lives of the people first. He served with distinction and diligence.
May the soul of this gentle giant rest in Eternal Peace.
President of the ANC Veterans League