Philemon Kiribane “Jefty” Bokaba, born on the 19th of June 1959 in Eastwood, Pretoria, was the second child of Paul Maruputlane and Fredah Lekoso Bokaba.
He attended his schooling at Rakale Primary, Tshepo Middle, Top and Rantailane Secondary Schools, all based in Garankuwa, where he obtained his matric certificate.
After losing his father at an early age, he assumed the responsibility of a father in the family and helped his mother to rear his siblings, nieces, nephews and other relatives.
Driven by his selfless and unparalleled desire to serve people better, he pursued various qualifications in finance, management, labour and international relations part-time while working.
Jefty, Cosatu, Majeff, Comrade Phil, as he was affectionately known by family, friends, colleagues and comrades, was the founding member of St Philip Anglican Church in Ga-rankuwa, Zone 3, where he served in various leadership positions and was a committed chorister.
Comrade Phil had a brief stint at the then Hyperama Store in Pretoria in July 1979, before joining ATC on the 30th of September 1980. He was promoted to the position of training specialist at ATC on June 1 1995. While at ATC, he soon joined the Metal and Allied Workers Union (Mawu), a forerunner of the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa.
He was elected a shop steward and a full time shop steward in 1999. He served in that capacity until he chose not to stand again during shop steward elections in 2011. From 1991-1993 he served alongside Cde Mtutuzeli Tom as acting vice president of the union.
He also served as the regional chairperson of the Hlanganani Region, a position he held until being elected first vice president in 2008. Cosatu regional chairperson of the Northern Transvaal region was another leadership position that he held.
He was the embodiment of Numsa’s view that shop stewards must be leaders at work and where they lived. However, this does not come automatically. His many personal sacrifices, drive, dedication and loyalty to high values and moral standards saw him being a leader at work, church and in the community, from a young age, and at a time when it was risky to do so.
As general secretary of the Garankuwa Civic Association in the early 1990s when there were street battles with the then President of the Bophuthatswana Homeland, Lucas Mangope, he was forced to flee and live in a hotel for three months because of attacks and intimidation at the hands of Mangope’s security forces.
As a result, his company fired him and other activists, but his comrades who believed in the noble struggle that he waged against a repressive Mangope regime, embarked on a 13-month battle to get him reinstated.
Cde Phil brought professionalism to organisations that he worked closely with, especially Numsa. He was strict on time and he was strict on finances. He was often impatient with participants in meetings but this was because of his desire for people to get to the root of the problem so that it could be analysed and a solution found.
His passion for workers to control their assets saw him serving in the Sizwe Medical Scheme for many years, at some point becoming a Chairperson of the Trustees Board. He also accepted the responsibility bestowed on him by the Manufacturing Worker’s Trust to serve in the Numsa Investment Company Board of Directors.
As a long-standing union leader at factory, local, regional and national level in Numsa and Cosatu, he was a memory bank that he would tap to provide ideas and solutions to frequent challenges that the union faced. Numsa will find it hard to replace someone of his calibre.
He is survived by his mother, two sisters, a brother, nieces and nephews and a daughter, Tshepang.
Hamba kahle qabane. Lala ngoxolo
Robala ka kagiso Kgabo!