In celebration of Comrade Oupa Lehulere’s life, Khanya College hosted a celebratory memorial on 5 February 2022 at Newtown Park, Johannesburg. Oupa Lehuere was Khanya College’s long-time director and passed away on 29 November 2021 after a nine-month battle with stage 4 colon cancer. In an effort to ensure the celebration reflected things that Comrade Oupa loved, Khanya organised a cultural event and ensured that the people Comrade Oupa loved working with, the working class, participated in the event.
The event was attended by 154 participants from different organisations and solidarity partners including Casual Workers Advice Office (CWAO), Simunye Workers Forum, Benchmarks Foundation, International Labour Research Information Group (ILRIG), Ikageng OVC, Thlokomelo OVC, PUSH OVC, Rena Le Lona OVC, Dirang Ka Kagiso OVC, African Reclaimers Organisation (ARO), the City of Joburg, Afrikagruppenna (AGS), MEDICO, JBF’s Tsohang Batjha (school youth) and other supporters.
Since Comrade Oupa lived a very lively and energetic life and was passionate about educating the working class, the organising team decided not to have a traditional memorial service, but instead to have an event that would celebrate and reflect his cultural life.
With a wet start to the day, the event was a hybrid in that it took place physically and also on Zoom. Some of the morning activities included various parallel workshops on how to play chess, write and perform poetry, and playing soccer. While the soccer was disrupted by the rain at first, participants were determined to play in tribute to Comrade Oupa.
The main programme was emotionally touching as family, friends and colleagues shared their journey with Comrade Oupa. Comrade Oupa was remembered as an activist who worked tirelessly for the working class and to help the working class respond to the challenges imposed by capitalism and neoliberalism. He was at the forefront in the fight for the Community Healthcare Workers in Gauteng to be absorbed as permanent workers of the Department of Health (DoH). Comrade Oupa was described as an intellectual, whose writings and analysis formed part of political education for academics, activists, social movements, and especially the working class.
He was an activist for over 30 years and influenced many people internationally. Tributes poured in from different places globally, which were shared with the audience in the tent and on Zoom as video clips and readings and they all had one thing in common, the shared celebration and deep grief for the loss in the social movements space. This includes a poem from Issa Shivji, and video clips from Shailja Patel, James Kilgore, Shepi Mati, Lindsey Collen and Haidar Eid. Solidarity partners such as Bread for the World, Medico, AGS also sent solidarity messages to Khanya and to the family.
Comrade Oupa, with all his knowledge and brilliance, was a selfless feminist, who rooted for women to take up their space in organisations and their communities, and for organising to be feminised. He was a selfless teacher who was passionate about youth. Comrade Oupa always gave youth an opportunity and loved working with the youth, so it was thus very fitting that his celebration was filled with youth, who participated in the programme and read tributes that were sent.
In and out of school youth participated in the different parts of the programme, but especially during the Cultural Programme in the afternoon, including reading their published short stories, gumboots dance by children at PUSH, pantsula dance by Perfect Storm Productions, music by Soundz of the South, a theatre performance by the Blah Blah Production, and much more. The performances the youth gave to Comrade Oupa were a beautiful tribute to his tireless work.
While Comrade Oupa can never be replaced, his work will always stay relevant, ‘uyibekile induku ebandla’ meaning that he has set a foundation which we are all responsible for continuing. Comrade Oupa made a mark on everyone he came across, this was seen by the magnitude of love and tributes from all corners of the world. We will continue celebrating his life through hard work and the struggle to liberate the working class.
This article was submitted on 1 March 2022. You may republish this article, so long as you credit the authors and Karibu! Online (www.Karibu.org.za), and do not change the text. Please include a link back to the original article.