Adams College – A Beacon of hope for South African Excellence
Abridged Speech by the ANC Secretary General, Comrade Fikile Mbalula, on the occasion of the Fundrasing Gala Dinner in commemoration of the 170th Anniversary of the Adams College, KwaZuluNatal
It is with a great sense of honour and privilege that we are here today at this auspicious Gala Dinner in commemoration of the illustrious history of the Adams College. As we celebrate the remarkable milestone of 170 years of this historic college, we do so mindful that it spanned much of the modern South Africa’s history of struggle against colonialism and apartheid as well as the period of our democratisation post 1994.
Throughout this period, this college has produced African leaders who have shaped the course of our history in a profound way, as attested to by the various speakers here tonight. This moment is therefore not just of celebrating this remarkable feat but also of reflection on the course of history our country has gone through. It is also a moment to decipher any lessons on the exemplary role played by this institution and the leaders it produced as well as the lessons on the things that must never rear their ugly heads again if we are to be the kind of society envisaged by the mission statement of this institution.
My address tonight will centre to a large extent on leadership and the role played by Adams College in this aspect. The current leaders in all sectors and aspects of our country can learn a lot from those produced by this esteemed college. This college is epitome and paragon of the production of leaders’ par excellence.
Adams College has significantly contributed in sculpting and honing leadership that put this country in the trajectory of its democratic dispensation. At least four former Presidents of the ANC went through this institution, those being Dr Langalibalele Dube the founding President of the ANC, J.T. Gumede, Dr Pixley ka Isaka Seme and Chief Albert Luthuli.
And of course other leaders such as Professor ZK Mathews who is accredited with having initiated the idea of convening the Congress of the People to adopt a Freedom Charter, the renowned author Eskia Mphahlele, Oom Gov Mbeki, Mrs Epainette Mbeki, Mama Ellen Khuzwayo, Mr RT Caluza, Prof Mazisi Kunene, Dr John Mavuna Nembula, the founding President of the ANC Youth League Anton Lembede, former President of the PAC Zeph Mothopeng, the recently departed President Emeritus of the IFP Dr Mangosuthu Buthelezi and of course Dr Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma who has served in the post 1994 democratic Cabinet on various portfolios, including being the African Union Commission Chairperson.
These leaders and many others displayed the highest order of leadership. Without leadership, we can neither increase nor sustain the enthusiasm of the people. In order to lead, we as leaders must have credibility. There can be no real leadership without credibility. The credibility of a leader does not come from relying on higher authority or exerting power. It is built gradually by working with and for the people wholeheartedly, with dedication and perseverance. As the governing party we are in the process of building democratic institutions that are responsible, responsive and agile to serve all our people especially those in townships, hostels and rural areas.
At the core of this process is proficient leadership that is untainted and unimpeachable. The ANC has advanced policies that are people-centred and practical in order to advance national development and the building of a capable state with resilient institutions of democracy led by clear and decisive leadership.
Therefore, we have moved from theorising about creating a capable and developmental state and we are now proceeding with implementing it. Of course we are inculcating a culture of meritocracy and diligent management of public affairs based on ethical teachings. All these lessons on leadership that we are putting out there for all those who are in public service were learnt from those who were once students here at Adams College.
Adams College can be proud of its contribution in carving and moulding leadership philosophy of this country. Adams College was not only a beacon of hope for South African excellence but it has become the pride of the continent, producing leaders who later became leaders of society, institutions and even of countries in post-colonial Africa. Amongst such leaders we count the esteemed personalities such as former President of Botswana Sir Seretse Khama, former President of Uganda Milton Obote, former President of ZAPU in Zimbabwe Joshua Nkomo who also became the Deputy President of that country and a host of other leaders.
Many of these leaders went on to become students at Fort Hare, another beacon of hope for African excellence even under the heavy yoke of colonialism and later apartheid. There is therefore no doubt that when we think of institutions such as Adams College and the University of Fort Hare, we think of the continued struggle of the African people against colonialism and apartheid. In this regard, Adams College was pivotal in producing leaders who were at the helm of directing the course of that struggle politically, intellectually and ideologically.
Today is therefore a moment of celebration on the role played by this very important institution as leader of society in many ways, holistically responding to the question of leadership. Whilst we may focus on political leadership, there is no doubt that leadership cuts across the full spectrum of social, political and economic endeavours, producing leaders in health such as Dr John Mavuna Nembula and Alec Skhosana of Athletics South Africa.
In celebrating Adams College I have noted that the main context of celebrating this milestone in the existence of this esteemed institution, is that of the 3R’s, which is under the project theme of Revitalization, Redevelopment and Repositioning of Adams College, in brief referred to as the 3R’s Project. I take this opportunity to applaud all those behind the visionary 3 R’s Project as you seek to relocate the historicity of this great institution within the context of today’s challenges.
Those who have studied historical and dialectical materialism have a deeper appreciation of the need for any living organism or institution to adapt or die, as negation of qualities superseded by those triumphant in the struggle and unity of opposites lead to a qualitative future. I readily admit that tonight is not an occasion for philosophical or ideological debates, therefore, I will limit myself to a conversation that will not upset your stomachs given the delicacies of the dinner being served.
But it is also important to underline the fact that this institution influenced the political and ideological course of our struggle in a fundamental way. It is against this backdrop that we salute the initiative of the 3- R’s Project. Through this 3- R’s Project, we hold alive the hopes for the continued impact this institution will have across the full spectrum of society and thereby live up to the historic high bar it has set.
We do hope that this 3-R’s Project will indeed be emulated by all other institutions that have in various ways played a role in building the democratic society that we enjoy today.
The Renewal Project
We too as the ANC are in the process of our own brand of 3- R’s, as we renew the ANC into the historic mould that inspired the struggle against colonialism and apartheid since 1912. We may not be older than the Adams College as the ANC, but we pride ourselves as being the oldest liberation movement in the African Continent. As the ANC, we have a shared vision with the Adams College on revitalising and producing leaders that will take South Africa to a higher growth and development trajectory, in what we refer to as the National Democratic Revolution as means to realise the ambitions of a National Democratic Society.
True to our mission as the ANC, this National Democratic Society must be characterised by non-racialism, gender equality, democracy and the prosperity for all. Against this background, we have gone back to the masses of our people, following the popular mandate they bestowed on the ANC in 2019 for this sixth Administration. The massive review we are conducting is against the commitments of the 2019 Elections Manifesto as our democratic mandate.
In this regard, we have noted the many successes we have attained, even against the constrained challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic as well as the continued challenges on loadshedding. As we await the release of the 30 Year Review of our democratic mandate since 1994 in the build-up to the historic milestone of 27th April 2024, we are confident that a cursory look tells the singular story that South Africa is today significantly better than it was in 1994!
This is against service delivery record on provision of potable water, access to healthcare, access to basic services, achievements in higher education through targeted funding and bursaries, ownership of housing units popularly referred to as RDP’s as well as subsidized middle income houses, electrification even as we continue to battle the challenges of load shedding, infrastructure development that includes roads, bridges, dams, stadiums, hospitals, schools, universities, job creation even as we battle high levels of unemployment and so forth.
Of course we are the first to say that much can be done to change the fortunes of our people, hence we have no doubt that popular mandate in 2024 which we hope we get, will see an accelerated national transformation agenda to bridge the historic divide across race, gender and class. This is our solemn commitment, and asijiki!
Of-course today is not about the ANC but about Adams College! But none could argue that de-linking the ANC from this institution would be ahistorical as has been indicated here tonight on the dialectical links between the liberation movement here, in the African continent and Adams College. On our part as the ANC, we pledge that we will present the most capable public representatives towards the 2024 National General Elections in order to implement the most robust, comprehensive and accelerated national transformation agenda!
This we are already embarking through a process of the Elections Committee led by former ANC Deputy President and former President of our country Comrade Kgalema Motlanthe. I take this opportunity to call on both the public and private sectors to join hands with the Adams College in their endeavours to position the college as a premier institution of excellence across the board for building leadership and advancing development.
Part of the challenges of the post 1994 era has been the disengagement by civil society in advancing the various causes on the welfare of our people. Many non-governmental organisations would specifically deal with issues on culture, sports, religion, child-care, prevention of gender discrimination and women abuse and so forth. These single-issue organisations were instrumental in the totality of South African society to ensure we have communities that are stable even as apartheid sought to divide us. Many of such organisations joined forces to form the United Democratic Front whose 40th anniversary is being celebrated this year.
UDF represented what active citizenry is all about. Active citizenry is the cornerstone of a robust democracy. Our Constitution enjoins our citizens, civil society and different sectors of our society to actively participate and influence the direction of their government and its work. Instead, we have seen the mushrooming of pretenders to NGO work. Some are in fact mere fronts for imperialism and the destabilisation of South African society to create a client State that serves foreign and mainly western interests.
When we unmask these tendencies we are deliberately misconstrued as being anti-NGO which cannot be any closer to the truth! We should jealously guard the gains of our democratic dispensation lest it falls in the wrong hands of these antirevolutionaries. That is partly why we have welcomed the re-unification of SANCO as a civic organisation that serves as an umbrella for many local civic initiatives. In the same spirit we must support the Adams College because our support is based on the positive impact that this institution has achieved in its illustrious history. It is exciting that the 3-R’s Project is linked to the National Development Plan as well as the African Renaissance, which spells out the genuine and elaborate thrust of this visionary intervention.
As I conclude, I must re-iterate our support to your endeavours as the ANC, and believe that you will succeed as you solicit funding for the revitalisation of your infrastructure such as modernising your buildings and re-purpose them as Bed and Breakfast units for financial sustainability. I have noticed that your programme is quite comprehensive and that if appropriately supported will indeed reposition this great institution to continue building on its impeccable legacy! I take this opportunity once more to profoundly thank you for your kind invite to participate in this history making Gala Dinner! Adams College is indeed a friend of the ANC.