It is in this month that South Africans from all walks of life, black and white, men and women, young and old are encouraged to reach out to one another as we continue to work together to build a united and prosperous nation.
The founding father of our nation, Tata Madiba, once said:“We were expected to destroy one another and ourselves collectively in the worst racial conflagration. Instead, we as a people chose the path of negotiation, compromise and peaceful settlement. Instead of hatred and revenge we chose reconciliation and nation-building.”
It is in this very month that we also mark the following memories:
- World Aids Day;
- International Day of Disability;
- The passing on of one of the greatest statesmen Tata Nelson Mandela;
- 16 Days of Activism for No Violence Against Women and Children;
- African National Congress (ANC) formed Umkhonto we Sizwe (MK), the liberation struggle military wing of the ANC in 1961;
- Day of Reconciliation, and
- Christmas Day
This day, 9 December, in particular, marks 33 years since the heinous and inhumane raid conducted by the South African Defence Force operatives on ANC houses and a block of flats in Maseru, Lesotho wherein Zola Nqini was murdered with twenty-nine other South Africans and twelve Lesotho nations.
The second Memorial Lecture of Zola Nqini or Bra Z as he was affectionately known as his alias to disguise from the police, happen as we also commemorate the 60 years of the Freedom Charter.
The Freedom Charter continues to guide and inform the transformation path of our beautiful country, of building a South Africa that belongs to all who live in it, black and white.
Zola Nqini contributed immensely to the liberation struggle and to the realisation of our aspirations as espoused in the Freedom Charter.
Zola Nqini was the son of the soil, he was born and bred here in Uitenhage. He dedicated his entire life to the liberation struggle until he met his tragic death.
Zola Nqini was educated. He could have chosen to make himself comfortable with the apartheid regime but he chose to join the ANC to serve and to liberate his people.
He was one of the pioneers who formed the ANC s Military Wing, Umkhonto Wesizwe in the early 60s and belonged to the Luthuli detachment.
He was a leader in the ANC’s Revolutionary Council and was appointed by President O R Tambo to be the ANC’s Chief Representative in Lesotho. He contributed immensely in establishing the escaping route from the Eastern Cape to Lesotho for the young freedom fighters that joined the ANC s Military Wing.
As part of paying tribute to this unsung hero of our liberation struggle, we unveiled his statue just a few metres from this hall. Zola Nqini statue adds to our rich liberation heritage and it must be used to draw visitors or enable tourism to Uitenhage thus providing opportunities for jobs and economic development.
Government, through the Department of Arts and Culture will continue to implement programmes that reflect the transformation of the heritage landscape of the country to ensure that it truly represents the diversity of our society. The Liberation Heritage Route is one of the critical elements in the implementation of this programme. National Liberation Heritage Route will link all liberation heritage sites in South Africa, the SADC region and the entire African continent.
In memory of Zola Nqini and many others who fought for the freedom and democracy that we enjoy today we must harness the uniqueness of our shared heritage, we can help to build the country of our dreams. Our diverse cultures, languages and religions should not be seen as impediments to national unity. Together we can foster a shared national consciousness that embraces our vibrant culture and heritage. Although challenges remain there are more things that unite us as South Africans than push us apart.
In just few days we will be commemorating the Day of Reconciliation at the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University, Mission Campus in Port Elizabeth, on 16 December 2015 at 09:00.
Together we can heal the divisions of the past. Lest we forget the Day of Reconciliation which is commemorated annually is a very significant day in the South African history; the origins of this day can be traced back to the Battle of “Blood River” where the Voortrekker army defeated the Zulu army at battle in the Ncome stream in 1838 over land ownership.
Previously known as Dingane’s Day or Day of the Vow the day was commemorated differently by the two racial groups which was the indication of different ideological orientations that political and cultural groups held in the country. On the other hand, it is also the day that the African National Congress (ANC) formed Umkhonto we Sizwe (MK), the liberation struggle military wing of the ANC in 1961.
During the negotiations that preceded the declaration of our freedom, the new leadership began to envision a new democratic political dispensation whose defining character would be reconciliation, peace and stability. The idea of reconciliation was a result of this new thinking.
After assuming political power, they deemed it appropriate to identify the day which would be dedicated to this ideal. The Day of Reconciliation was therefore the invention of the post-apartheid democratic South Africa. It was impelled by the need to introduce, nurture and entrench new values and mores that sought to rebuild the society that had been ravaged by conflicts and wars.
The Government of National Unity, in its quest to reconcile and build a new nation, decided to rededicate and rename this Day as the Day of Reconciliation. In an attempt to consolidate this national government initiative, a bridge between the Ncome Museum and Blood River Monument was built and unveiled by the President last year to symbolise the removal of racial and social barriers between the different population groups.
Similarly, the building of the Freedom Park, adjacent to the Voortrekker Monument and the building of the road that connects the two institutions was another positive gesture of reconciliation.
I would like to commend the ANC Veterans League in Uitenhage for establishing an annual lecture in honour of the contributions of our unsung hero Zola Nqini in the liberation of South Africa. The first annual lecture happened on the 9 December 2014.
In 2015, the ANC Veterans have partnered with the Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality in celebrating the legacy and immortalizing the values and contributions of this giant through the second annual lecture and the unveiling of his statue.
As I conclude let me quote Zola Nqini’s last few words that he uttered just before he died:
“NDIFELA ABANTU BAKUTHI” I am dying for my people.
“NDIFELA ISIZWE SAKUTHI” I am dying for my nation.
I thank you.