It was with a deep sense of shock and sadness when I was informed that Page had passed away. I had been to his house the previous month to see him, but it never crossed my mind that today we would be gathered in this venue to bid farewell to this gallant fighter and a veteran of our struggle.
I got to know Page when he arrived in Botswana in 1976 together with Moss Mothupi Malaka and Zenzo-who passed on when were studying in Bulgaria- may His Soul Rest in Peace. By then I was based in Botswana and with comrades Keith Mokoape and Isaac Makopo. We were responsible for setting up an ANC underground office, recruiting, training and infiltrating ANC combatants into South Africa.
But then I really got close to him when, after we had been made prohibited immigrants in Botswana. We were instructed to leave for Lusaka, Zambia, where the ANC Head Quarters was based, and after a time, I proceeded to Sofia, Bulgaria where I studied Journalism.
It is here that we developed a close bond of friendship with Page. It was especially so because we got to study the same course at the University of Sofia.
A serious student, Page was always immersed in books. He believed that education was the best investment and read voraciously, from Gorky to Baldwin, from Alex La Guma to Kgositsile and Mazizi Kunene, from Karl
Marx,Lenin to Breytenbach – books, political, poetical and aesthetical. He had even read James Hadley Chase, especially his “No Orchids for Miss Blandish”.
But above all he liked his music and was haughty, and jealously guarded his rare LP’s. Yes, he compiled these and we would enjoy them with him as and when we visited him. Page Bluesman was always with Blues.
Page was a snazzy dresser and quality clothes simply fitted him like they were made specially for him. Nobody can deny the fact that he was neat and tidy and was finicky when it came to disorder.
He was one of those comrades who would not miss the annual brigada, a voluntary exercise undertaken by ANC students in Bulgaria. Every year, without fail, he would be part of the ANC Youth that volunteered during school vacation to work under the sweltering sun from dawn to dusk. From the proceeds of this toil, we would buy the necessary paraphernalia like sowing machines, powerful radios from the then Soviet Union, underwear and the like. These would be shipped to forward countries in Southern Africa where our ANC- Umkhonto we Sizwe combatants resided like Angola, Lusaka, Tanzania and Mozambique.
Our friendship blossomed when we came back home in the early nineties. We would meet occasionally during those testing times and we never forgot where we came from and what our mantra was, for we were moulded by the likes of Oliver Tambo.
We never lost sight of the fact that the struggle did not end with the political power we had attained. As former students from Bulgaria, we regularly met and still meet to further strengthen the bond of yesteryear.
In 2005, when I left the Department of Labour after a three year successful and exciting stint, Page took the baton and ran with it. He worked at the Department of Labour until last year, when his illness forced him to take leave of the department.
We, members of the ANC Veterans League and of Umkhonto we Sizwe, the spear and shield of the struggling masses of our people ,say with firm conviction, we shall always strive for unity of our organisation, even in times of stark adversity and seeming phase of near helplessness.
Lastly, death do not be proud, as you robbed us one of our own. Till we meet again dear comrade, dear brother, dear friend.
To your wife Nkwadi and children, be comforted by the fact that your husband and dad was one of a kind.
He will forever be remembered as a member of a generation of young people who took upon themselves to fight the apartheid regime and build a better life for all our people in South Africa.
Rest in peace Paigeno as we fondly called him. Robala ka kagiso..
SNUKI ZIKALALA PRESIDENT OF THE ANC VETERANS LEAGU