Good afternoon Comrades and Friends;
Let me add my voice in commending the initiators of the 70s Group ̶ Comrade Saths Cooper, Comrade Oupa Ngwenya and Comrade Lentswe Mokgatle.
Milestones impel and inspire us to take stock of distance traversed, success that crowned our efforts, setbacks encountered and the mood and pulse of the people.
The 1970s was a watershed moment for politics in South Africa, in the wake of the banning of the Pan Africanist Congress and the African National Congress in 1960 which ushered in a period of brutal repression. The struggles of these liberation organisations were spoken of in whispers even in the presence of acquaintances. But the emergence of young activists across university campuses inspired by the philosophy of Black Consciousness was at once an eloquent response to the divide and rule tactics of the apartheid authorities and a solid affirmation of the dignity of the oppressed people of South Africa.
We gather here today, to celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the founding of the South African Students Organisation (SASO); the Silver Jubilee of our Democracy; the 60th birthday of the Pan Africanist Congress and to commemorate the assassination of Cde Chris Hani as well as other martyrs whose lives were cut short by the apartheid hangmen.
It is equally important to remind ourselves of that destructive piece of legislation, which was euphemistically named the Extension of University Education Act of 1959. This Act was used to exclude black students from “open” white universities; to transfer control to government and thereafter dismantle the University College of Fort Hare; to establish Turfloop; Ngoye; Durban Westville; Wentworth and the University College of Western Cape along ethnic lines.
In 1972 the Black People’s Convention (BPC) was formed which organised Black people in townships outside of university campuses and in 1974, the South African Student’s Movement (SASM) was formed to widen the reach across universities, schools and townships.
I dare to state that this 70s Group is a powerful message and rebuttal of the current narrative that regards and treats everyone who was involved in the liberation struggle as corrupt. Given the intellectual luminance and erudition that radiates from this 70s Group I believe you are qualified and better placed to help our nation define our national course. There is no doubt that clarity on what our national course is, will enable us to rally the broadest cross-section of the population around it.
I am happy to learn that you are anti-sectarian, anti-sexist and anti-racist in your make up and outlook in your quest for our common humanity. The President of the South African Council of Churches Bishop Ziphozihle Siwa, in a profound sermon had this to say: (B)efore the invention of the mirror human beings could not see themselves and therefore could only see beauty in others.” Today the mirror has turned all of us into actors ̶ we look into the mirror and we fall in love with what we see. We even deliver moving speeches in front of the mirror and so we substitute ourselves for the people.
The struggle for liberation was waged on behalf of and in the name of the people. We need the 70s Group to bring in young people who will no doubt inject new energy and ideas. And we must provide them with the space to innovate and push boundaries. Let us imbue them with the determination to attain political attitude in their world outlook and never to become politicians. Remember, that as elders we tend to adapt to circumstances and therefore lose the will to continue struggling for better changes and progress. The notion that “as it was, so shall it be for ever and ever, amen” is a barrier to progress. Innovation is well understood by musicians because they are trained to push boundaries and never to simply repeat their lessons when playing a solo because any educated ear will easily pick that out and say: that is lesson 15 or 18 it is not expressive of any feeling or emotion. I am also glad that this jazz band is inter-generational in composition and hence all their renditions were so uplifting.
As we mark the silver jubilee of our Democracy I would like to mention two of what I regard as serious omissions during the past 25 years. The first is that we omitted to establish a Chapter 9 Commission to write and document our history. We have failed to compile official apartheid documents such as minutes of cabinet meetings decisions of the C.C.B and all related records.
We narrate the history of the struggle without the details of the fascist monster of apartheid in all its manifestations.
The second, relates to Bantu education and its enduring effects in terms of human capital. In fact all excesses, brutalities and crimes of apartheid pale into insignificance relative to the ravages of Bantu education. Parents take their children out of township schools to enrol them in the suburban schools because they have no confidence in the former schools. Small wonder that more than forty of the schools in the townships stand empty.
We must resist the inclination to romanticise the past and to suffer from false consciousness. History is important because it gives us context. In 1992 Ali Mazrui said the following to us: “you were victims of colonialism and racial oppression, now you are victors over colonialism and oppression, you must guard against becoming the next villains”.
I am told that there are 48 political parties registered to contest the impending elections. If most of them win some seats in the legislatures and parliament, such results may very well settle us with coalitions of some 17 or 30 parties. A calamity in deed. However, all would not be lost if we are able to draw pertinent lessons out of all the outcomes of the Commissions of Inquiry to prepare and guide new leaders to understand that leadership exists in a particular context under shifting set of prevailing influences. In the face of xenophobia, corruption and state capture, we have to grapple with the conceptual reality that there is a correlation between leadership style and moral or ethical principle.
What we begin today, is an effort to restore what we have lost and remind the world who we were and who we can become.
The fruits of our liberation have not filtered down to many sections of our people. People feel left behind, marginalised and crushed by the combined burden of poverty and unemployment as well as condemned to eke out precarious living, in fact, to some, living means not dying. They are vulnerable and hopeless.
The church, in general, preach the message of humility, sacrifice and that we are our brothers’ keepers but today we witness false prophets preying on the vulnerable by promising them loads of luck and hope for a better future. Such charlatans are in the main poorly trained magicians who masquerade as religious preachers. They employ a range of gimcrackery and contrivances to dupe and befuddle the minds of poor people. It may be helpful if the authorities were to consider issuing them with permits to perform their tricks in halls and never in places of worship.
James Baldwin states that the most dangerous creation of any nation is that one man who has got nothing to lose. We have created millions of such men. The current spate of protests and social upheavals testify to this phenomenon.
In his letter from Birmingham jail Dr Martin Luther King junior states in part: – – – when you are forever fighting a degenerating sense of nobodyness ̶ then you will understand why we find it difficult to wait”.
Many of our people are forever fighting a degenerating sense of nobodyness, and therefore we have no right to ask them to be patient and to wait.
Thank you for your kind attention.