Stand­ing tall in years of strug­gle

Daily Dispatch - - Opinion -

I SAW be­hind me those who had gone, and be­fore me those who are to come. I looked back and saw my fa­ther, and his fa­ther, and all our fa­thers, and in front to see my son, and his son, and the sons upon sons be­yond,” said Bri­tish nov­el­ist and play­wright, Richard Llewellyn.

As we cel­e­brate Her­itage Month we, in the “Home of Leg­ends” as the East­ern Cape is known, ac­knowl­edge Llewellyn’s in­spi­ra­tional words by recog­nis­ing the legacy and her­itage of “those who had gone” and those who are still with us, and what they have be­queathed to us.

The East­ern Cape has pro­duced four pres­i­dents of the ANC, two of whom be­came lead­ers in a demo­cratic South Africa, Dr Al­fred Bi­tini Xuma, Oliver Tambo, Nel­son Man­dela and Thabo Mbeki.

We have a proud his­tory of be­ing home to men and women who dared to stand up to the bru­tal apartheid se­cu­rity forces. Many paid dearly for their sac­ri­fices but they will never be for­got­ten.

The list shown here is by no means ex­haus­tive:

Nel­son Rolih­lahla Man­dela, the world’s great­est moral and po­lit­i­cal leader;

Dr Al­fred Bi­tini Xuma, com­monly called Dr “AB”, born in 1893 in Ng­cobo, was the first black South African to be­come a med­i­cal doc­tor, who later be­came ANC pres­i­dent;

Enoch Son­tonga com­posed Nkosi Sikelel’ iAfrika, the first cho­rus and verse in the na­tional an­them of South Africa;

Steve Bantu Biko, founder of the Black Con­scious­ness Move­ment in South Africa;

Chris Hani, po­lit­i­cal ac­tivist, chief-of-staff of Umkhonto weSizwe, the mil­i­tary wing of the ANC, and sec­re­tary-gen­eral of the SACP;

Go­van Mbeki, ac­tivist, jour­nal­ist, writer, au­thor and fa­ther of for­mer Pres­i­dent Thabo Mbeki. After the first demo­cratic elec­tions were held, he was elected deputy pres­i­dent of the Na­tional Coun­cil of Prov­inces;

Al­bertina Sisulu, po­lit­i­cal ac­tivist, found­ing mem­ber of the Fed­er­a­tion of South African Women, helped form the ANC Women’s League;

Wal­ter Sisulu, an ac­tive trade union­ist who joined the ANC and, to­gether with Man­dela and sev­eral oth­ers, formed Umkhonto weSizwe in 1960, re­tired on the eve of South Africa’s first multi-racial elec­tions in 1994;

Robert Man­gal­iso Sobukwe, found­ing pres­i­dent of the PanAfrican­ist Congress, per­se­cuted and banned by apartheid rulers and was sent to Kim­ber­ley, where he was kept un­der house ar­rest un­til his death in 1978;

Oliver Tambo, for­mer ANC pres­i­dent, spent most of his life in ex­ile serv­ing in the strug­gle against apartheid. He re­turned to South Africa in 1991 after over three decades in ex­ile and was elected na­tional chair­per­son of an un­banned ANC in 1991;

Don­ald Woods, editor of the Daily Dis­patch, which was crit­i­cal of the apartheid gov­ern­ment and ini­tially the Black Con­scious­ness Move­ment. But, after meet­ing the move­ment’s leader, Steve Biko, Woods’ view changed and the two men be­came friends. They were ha­rassed and, after Biko was killed in po­lice cus­tody in Septem­ber 1977, Woods helped ex­pose the truth be­hind his death;

Ray­mond Mh­laba was first ar­rested for lead­ing marchers through the “Euro­peans only” en­trance of New Brighton train sta­tion in 1952, dur­ing a trans­port strike that was part of the De­fi­ance Cam­paign;

The Cradock Four: Matthew Goniwe, Fort Calata, Spar­row Mkonto and Sicelo Mh­lauli were ab­ducted at a po­lice road­block on June 27 1985, mur­dered and burnt. Their charred bod­ies were later found on the out­skirts of Port El­iz­a­beth;

Win­nie Madik­izela-Man­dela, prob­a­bly one of the most well­known anti-apartheid cam­paign­ers; and

Thabo Mbeki, anti-apartheid ac­tivist, in­ter­na­tional scholar, the first Deputy Pres­i­dent of a demo­cratic South Africa un­der Man­dela, serv­ing from 1999-2008.

Septem­ber is a month for cel­e­bra­tion, pro­vid­ing a great op­por­tu­nity to re­flect on our his­tory and share the ac­com­plish­ments of men and women whose record is one of ser­vice, ded­i­ca­tion and com­mit­ment to help­ing im­prove the state of hu­mankind.

It is also a time to look to the fu­ture with re­newed de­ter­mi­na­tion, com­mit­ment, ded­i­ca­tion, in­no­va­tion and vi­sion and en­sure everyone re­sponds to the needs of the 21st cen­tury.

We pay trib­ute to our he­roes and leg­ends who had the fore­sight to know it was not enough to con­fine any South African to a small cir­cum­scribed life in a seg­re­gated na­tion, and the strength of mis­sion to undo that racist struc­ture.

Th­ese coura­geous leg­ends knew there was no greater call­ing than ser­vice to the peo­ple of South Africa.

It is from their ex­am­ple that we learn how to re­spond in the face of today’s needs and those go­ing into the fu­ture.

Phu­mulo Ma­su­alle is Premier of the East­ern Cape. Fol­low him on @EC_ Premier and on Face­book at Mas­in­cokole

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