Back to top

Michael Kitso Dingake (1928 - )

The Order of the Companions of O.R. Tambo in

Michael Kitso Dingake (1928 - ) Awarded for:
His excellent contribution to the struggle for liberation, democracy and human rights, and for waging a concerted struggle against racial oppression as an ANC activist and operative both in South Africa and from Botswana, including engagement in underground work.

Profile of Michael Kitso Dingake

Michael Kitso Dingake was born on 11 February 1928 in Bobonong Village, Bechuanaland Protectorate (now Botswana). He attended primary school at Bobonong Primary between 1936 and1941.

He then came to South Africa where he did his secondary schooling at St Ansgars Institution, Roodepoort, in the then Union of South Africa from1942 to1943, and Pax College, in modern-day Polokwane, in 1946. He obtained his senior certificate through private studies from Damelin College of Johannesburg.

Dingake joined the African National Congress (ANC) in 1952 during the Defiance Campaign and went on to serve in variouscapacities in different structures of the ANC. In 1957, he was elected secretary of Alexandra Branch Six; in 1959, he was elected chairperson of Johannesburg Northern Region; and in 1960, he was appointed member of the State of Emergency Committee, Johannesburg Region (at the declaration of the State of Emergency). At the end of 1960, he was co-opted into the underground ANC Transvaal Regional Committee; in 1962, he served on the ANC National Secretariat as publicity secretary (responsible for the production of propaganda material for the liberation movement); and later he assumed the chair, after the Rivonia arrests when the National Secretariat virtually served as the underground National Executive of the ANC.

In 1960, he was recruited into the South African Communist Party (SACP) during the State of Emergency and in 1961 he was also co-opted into the SACP District Committee. He served on the MK Johannesburg Regional Structure, handling the recruitment of trainees abroad. After Wilton Mkwayi’s arrest, Dingake assumed all responsibility for MK operations, including the infiltration of trained MK cadres.

Dingake skipped the border back to Botswana where, from February 1965 to December 1965, he was the external contact with the underground machinery in Johannesburg while he organised infiltration routes for MK guerrillas from Zambia through Botswana. The route had been opened and the first trainees had come through when he was kidnapped on his way to Lusaka, through Ian Smith’s Rhodesia.

Dingake was illegally transferred to Pretoria, where, after torture, he was indicted for membership and activities of banned organisations – the ANC and the SACP – and for statutory sabotage. He was sentenced to a total of 15 years on 6 May 1966.

Yearning for more knowledge and education, Dingake later obtained his BA (Political Science and Economics), B. Admin (Public Administration and Local Government Accounting) and B. Com (Business Economics and Accounting) while serving his jail term on Robben Island.

He was released on 5 May 1981 and repatriated to Botswana, although the apartheid regime had, ostensibly for trial purposes, claimed that he was a South African citizen.

As a member of the ANC Volunteer Corps, Dingake participated in all the campaigns of the period – Against Bantu Education, Congress of the People, We Stand by Our Leaders, the Alexandra Bus Boycott of 1957, Potato Boycott, Sophiatown removals, One Pound-a-Day, the Women Anti-Pass Campaign of 1959, the Pass Burning after the Sharpeville massacre in 1960 and the Anti-White Republic Protests.

A writer with a strong intellectual mind, Dingake published the following works: My Fight Against Apartheid (1987), Apartheid, Questions and Answers (1989) and Politics of Confusion – The BNF Saga 1984-1998 (2004). In the pipeline is Better to Die on One’s Feet…, an autobiography.

Dingake saw himself first and foremost as an African duty-bound to fight for the liberation of Africans on their continent. The fact that he was a Botswana national never prevented him from engaging in sacrificial struggles to realise the dream of a free, non-racist, nonsexist, just and democratic South Africa.

Michael Kitso Dingake is currently a columnist for Mmegi, a Botswana local daily newspaper.