James Arthur Calata

Canzoni contro la guerra di James Arthur Calata

Reverend Calata, a leading figure of the ANC since the 1930s, was secretary-general of the All Africa Convention
in the 1930s. In the 1930s and early 1940s Calata, president of the Cape ANC since 1930, served a term as
secretary-general of the ANC. Calata was also among the 156 leaders charged with treason in 1956.
Born at South Evaton, just outside Johannesburg, on May 13, 1927, Duma Nokwe was educated at St Peter's
school and Fort Hare University. After graduating with a B.Sc. degree and a diploma in education, he took up a
teaching post at Krugersdorp High School. Active in the ANC Youth League from his university days (he was its
secretary from 1953 to 1958), Nokwe went as a member of the South African delegation to the 1953 World Youth
Festival in Bucharest, and afterwards toured the Soviet Union, China and Britain. Nokwe subsequently studied
law, but was effectively prevented from practising his profession by the Native Affairs Department. He was
arrested in December 1956 in the notorious Treason Trial. He was elected secretary-general of the ANC at its 46
annual conference in Durban in 1958. Jailed for five months during the 1960 State of Emergency, he was no sooner
released than he was busy at the task of reorganisation, and was one of the leaders of the multi-party committee
that laid the foundations for the All-In African conference at Maritzburg in 1961. Facing a long period of
imprisonment under the Unlawful Organisations Act for promoting the aims of the banned ANC, Nokwe was
ordered by the underground leadership to leave the country and crossed into Bechuanaland in January 1963,
together with Moses Kotane.


The Rev. Canon James Arthur Calata was born in 1895 in Nxarhumi village in the Eastern Cape. He trained as a teacher and subsequently taught at St Matthews College, Keiskamma Hoek, in the Eastern Cape. He furthered his studies in theology and joined the ministry. He was then ordained as an Anglican priest at the Cathedral in Grahamstown. Rev Calata worked in various towns in the Eastern Cape and ended up in Cradock. He started the St. James Anglican Church in the old location in Cradock before the removals and initiated the Church of Ascension where he retired.

He was the General Secretary of the African National Congress (ANC) in the late 1940s and early 1950s, which saw him in and out of prison, banned and serving house arrest. Rev Calata was a composer and most of the freedom songs were his compositions, as are some choruses and church hymns from the Anglican Church. All his compositions, hymns, freedom songs and writings were confiscated by the security forces to deflate his determination. He was also one of the 1956 Rivonia trialists.

The choir he founded to sing his songs still exists in Cradock, though some members have passed on. It is still known as the Congress Choir. He also started the Boy Scouts and a rugby team called The Blues.

Rev Calata assisted poor families by helping their children to gain access to proper education. Some of these include the Minister of Safety and Security, Mr Charles Nqakula, the author and poet Prof. Peter Mtuze, and many others who are today’s leaders.

Every Easter and Christmas holidays, there were inter-denominational services in Cradock, which saw the staging of plays he had scripted depicting the birth and crucifixion of Jesus Christ.

He started, and was involved in, many community projects. One of these was the establishment of farm schools in Cradock. Some of these schools still exist today, and have been taken over by the Department of Education.

His contribution to the community has not gone unnoticed. Schools and streets have been named after him because of the role he played in the struggle. St. Timothy Anglican Church is built in James Calata street in Motherwell, and not far from the Red Location Museum in New Brighton, there is Calata Street. There is also James Arthur Calata High School and Calata location in Lingelihle. A process has been initiated to establish a James Arthur Calata Foundation, which will host an annual lecture.

Rev James Arthur Calata positively affected the lives of others, enabling many to achieve their long-cherished but until then unrealisable dreams. For this, his legacy has spread far and wide in the Eastern Cape where he shared his knowledge with everyone with whom he came into contact.

Rev Calata married Miltha Mary Koboka from Keiskamma Hoek and was blessed with three daughters, 37grandchildren and 12 great grandchildren. He passed away in 1983.

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