PETER MOKABA MEMORIAL LECTURE DELIVERED BY ANC DEPUTY PRESIDENT CDE DAVID MABUZA, LIMPOPO PROVINCE, POLOKWANE, JACK BOTES HALL.
Provincial Secretary of the ANC in Limpopo, Cde. Reuben Madadzhe,
Members of the ANC Provincial Executive Committee,
Chairperson and Officials of the ANC Mopani Region,
Regional and Branch Executive Committees,
Leadership of the Tripartite alliance present here today,
Family, friends of the late Cde. Peter Mokaba,
The life and times of a revolutionary fighter
On behalf of the National Executive Committee of the African National Congress (ANC), we are humbled by your invitation to have us address this important gathering of the cadres of our movement as well as South Africans at large.
We stand before you in this Jack Botes Hall today with a profound sense of gratitude, to reflect and draw lessons from the life of a revolutionary servant of our people, a fiery student leader, an effective underground operative of Umkhonto we Sizwe, and a gallant fighter, defender and liberator of our People.
Let me take this opportunity to thank the organisers of this programme, who have appropriately scheduled us to take yet another moment, to reflect on aspects of the life of a Lion of the North, Cde. Peter Mokaba, during this year of the Letsema!
There have been numerous memorial lectures about Cde. Peter Mokaba’s life. Many more will be granted in the future. We have instead selected to examine the fundamental question of how Cde. Peter Mokaba would have responded to the current dynamics that are manifesting within the movement and in society as a whole. We do so to pay tribute to his memory and inspire ourselves to be better leaders of society.
He was a leader of the Young Lions who was characterised by revolutionary discipline, wisdom and maturity to extend the struggle for liberation across all walks of life. As a leader, he believed that the unity of the people and of our organisation was paramount to advance the struggle to which he had dedicated his life.
He was a commander of our youth movement, expressing the energy and impatience of young people in the struggle against apartheid and racial oppression. This skilled and talented gigantic leader of our movement, fought to free our country from the bastions of years of apartheid and colonialism.
As we take this opportunity to remember the life and time of Cde. Peter Mokaba, we celebrate his impressive contribution marked by bravery, radical thought and militancy. It was this energy that helped in unifying various progressive youth formations at the unbanning of the National Liberation Movement, leading to the establishment of the African National Congress Youth League structures in the country.
He fought and triumphed against the notion that it was not necessary for the United Democratic Front and SAYCO to disband in order for the ANC to lead the democratic forces following its unbanning, since he understood the value of UNITY!
In this regard, he campaigned aggressively for the dissolution of all youth organisations and their integration into ANCYL. It is therefore, evident that had Cde. Peter Mokaba been alive, he would not only have avoided the bizarre and disruptive phenomenon of slate politics, but would also have persuaded each one of us that we are in the ANC to serve and not to be served.
In recognition of his dedication, commitment and willingness to serve his country, Cde. Peter Mokaba was then elected to the ANC National Executive Committee in 1991. With the dawn of democracy in 1994, he was elected into the first democratic Parliament and subsequently appointed as Deputy Minister of Tourism in the Cabinet of President Nelson Mandela.
The manner in which Cde. Peter Mokaba pursued the fight against apartheid and colonialism highlights his 42 years of life grounded in selflessness and devotion to freedom. “Freedom or death, Victory is certain!” embodied his spirit and the youth of the era, ensuring that the enemy lived in continual fear!
Lessons for building a stronger and united ANC as a leader of society
Comrades and Compatriots
Given the issues we face in the ANC and society today, it may be unavoidable to periodically pause throughout this reflection and ask: “What would Cde. Peter Mokaba have done if faced with the same challenges we face today? How can we draw inspirational lessons from his life?
We must continually ask this question because we know that the person we are commemorating today is a giant who walked amongst other giants whose lives exemplified a clarion call for young people to occupy the battle trenches in the fight for freedom of our people.
He walked the path of great ANC leaders, and lived up to the leadership example of Anton Lembede, the first President of the ANC Youth League, who stated:
” We are not called to peace, comfort and enjoyment, but to hard work, struggle and sweat. We need young men and women of high moral stamina and integrity: of courage and vision. In short, we need warriors. This means that we have to develop a new type of youth of stoical discipline, trained to endure suffering and difficulties. It is only this type of youth that will achieve the national liberation of African people”
At a young age, Cde. Peter Mokaba distinguished himself as someone opposed to corrupt apartheid system, which survived on state-sponsored theft of our country’s resources in pursuit of an unjust system of racial segregation and white economic domination against black people.
From this, we know that Cde. Peter Mokaba would have equally despised modern-day corruption as much as he hated apartheid corruption. He would have frowned upon the emergence of reported corrupt practices within our ranks, more especially in cases where some ANC members are continuously reported to be involved in corruption. This very phenomenon destroys public confidence in the ANC, and causes majority of the ANC voters to withhold their votes for our organisation.
Corruption in its nature is not just a political matter that affects voting outcomes for parties in parliament and in government. It also suppresses economic growth, drives away new investment, and creates uncertainties regarding socio-economic rights, and ultimately deprives the ability of the economy to create additional jobs that our people are desperate for.
As we rally our people behind the Letsema Campaign, we must seek to emulate Cde. Peter Mokaba and be unambiguous in our stance against corruption. We must reassure our people that, like Cde. Peter Mokaba, we will not relent in our fight against corruption, not only because it is illegal and topical, but because like apartheid, it stunts development of our country and its people.
As we drive the important agenda of anti-corruption and renewal, we must equally desist from engaging in behaviour that is manifestly calculated to out-tackle perceived political competition. We must avoid falling into a trap of being disproportionately consumed by internal squabbles.
Throughout the years, the ANC has presented itself first as a parliament of the African people, then later as the genuine representative of all South Africans.
As the liberation movement with the most impact, the broadest presence, and the most effective leadership capacity, it came to be recognised by many of our people as the principal agent of transformation.
Therefore, our immediate priority as the ANC, wherever we have presence, must be to serve our people, to be a true revolutionary vanguard and to be a leader of society at all levels.
We have to appreciate that people are not interested in our intra ANC squabbles and are in fact repulsed by those who seek leadership positions for self-promotion and using the ANC for selfish ends.
We must remind ourselves of the pledge we made when we voluntarily joined the organisation, that we do so without motives of material advantage or personal gain, but to make the ANC an even more effective instrument in the hands of the people. This duty includes doing everything to defend the unity and integrity of the organisation and its principles.
We must be careful not to delink the process of renewal from the commitment to serve the people with the highest level of commitment and integrity. The oath reminds us that you cannot separate these tasks because they are directly interlinked.
The oath we take, has no room for arrogance and the strategy and tactics warn us against crass materialism. If we want the voters to vote for the ANC, we must do things differently.
In building the ANC as a credible leader of society, Cde. Peter Mokaba would have advocated for organisational unity and cohesion as key pillars to advance the goals of the National Democratic Revolution. If we are to succeed in tackling challenges facing our organisation today, we must eliminate internal fractures and build a united, broad-based, inclusive, and progressive political movement that is preoccupied with socio-economic transformation and effective leadership of society.
As you will remember, our movement, the ANC, has declared 2022 “The Year of Unity and Renewal to Defend and Advance South Africa’s Democratic Gains”, effectively placing all structures of the movement at the forefront of actively participating in the resolution of community challenges.
Even in a year that our movement will hold its elective conference, we call on our members and leaders to maintain revolutionary discipline and avoid the divisive temptation of squandering the opportunity afforded by such platforms to advance the Letsema campaign in furtherance of self-serving agendas.
Transforming the economy to drive social transformation
Comrades and Compatriots
Despite our differences, since 1994, the ANC continues to enjoy the confidence and support of the majority of the population, as proven by recurrent electoral victories at national and provincial levels as well as municipalities, of course with varying degrees. Over the past 28 years, the progress of our government’s policy implementation has manifested itself primarily through the 1994 Reconstruction and Development Programme, which had ideological underpinnings of the Freedom Charter.
The ANC government is pursuing a broad range and mix of interventions in order to realise shared ownership of the resources of the country; hence, our emphasis on wealth redistribution for the benefit of all.
Peter played his part in ensuring that the ANC-led government positioned its priorities and programmes to respond directly to the socio-economic development needs of the people. Over the years, government priorities have centred on the economy as a vehicle for job creation, education, housing, health, rural development, safety and security, and the delivery of basic services to formerly neglected and underdeveloped parts of our country.
These interventions were, in a sense, vehicles for managing socio-economic contradictions resulting from our nation’s political economy. We continue to be a developmental state, which necessitates an interventionist role to guide economic transformation and policy orientation.
Comrades and Compatriots
The ANC is a well-known agent of quantitative and qualitative transformation in South Africa.
The transformation we want and for which we advocate, requires the elimination of all known traces of the old system in line with the National Democratic Revolution as an attempt to alter society from white minority dominance to one that is democratic, inclusive, and egalitarian.
For us to accomplish this, there must be at least fundamental changes on the economic and social levels. At the economic level, this requires change to the structure of the economy; economic opportunities and their distribution; empowerment of the majority; access to land ownership; as well as the ownership of the means of production.
As far as social transformation is concerned, it entails improving the social conditions of our people as mandated by law. This includes, increased living standards by reducing poverty and inequality; access to basic and advanced healthcare; improvement of chronic disease management; access to water and sanitation; access to housing, education, and safety; and access to electricity.
Although much has been done to build momentum on these efforts, much remains to be done, particularly to ensuring that the “national question” about equitable land ownership is resolved once and for all.
In 2017, at our last national conference, we resolved to address the land question. This was crucial for us to achieve radical economic and social transformation, which necessitates that we change whatever system and programme that promotes inequality, unemployment, and poverty.
We desire an economy that benefits all of its people regardless of class, race, gender, or location. For this to be realised, it demands of us to be deliberate in our actions in effecting fundamental change of our economy’s productive structures.
This entails placing the creation of jobs at the centre and forefront of our policies and programmes. The journey towards full attainment of this ideal may be long and tiring to some of us. However, we must remain inspired by the original intent of the formation of the ANC 110 years ago.
Re-igniting youth development and empowerment
Comrades and Compatriots
As we reflect on the life and times of Peter Mokaba, we must equally reflect and respond to emergent challenges facing our country especially social ills that engulf young people, like HIV, substance abuse, teenage pregnancy and hopelessness.
Children and adolescents make up 70% of South Africa’s population, while those aged 14 to 35 account for 41.2%. 76% of the population in the Southern Africa Development Community region is under the age of 35. Significant challenges confront this segment of our society.
We must all seize the opportunity to invest in the next generation if we are to realise the full benefits of development and ensure the longevity of the ANC and its reform agenda.
In contrast, a lack of investment will place us in a position where development gains are reversed. Appropriate planning and investment in young people will enable them in making decisions that are beneficial for themselves, their communities, and the entire world.
In many ways, Cde. Peter Mokaba’s legacy represents our collective militancy, tenacity, and unshakable resolve to confront the daily difficulties of today’s youth.
While his generation faced ever-present threats of imprisonment, torture, and death, he devoted his life to empowering the youth to become agents of their own emancipation, so that they could shape the future of the nation they desired.
His contribution and bravery will be immortalised in political struggle diaries, liberation heritage, and democracy so that future generations can study them.
Cde. Peter Mokaba felt that the transformation and growth of society as a whole would be impossible and insufficient without the participation and agency of the youth. No nation can expedite its development, innovation, or future advancement if the majority of its youth remain inactive.
His legacy teaches young people that they must speak up and fight for opportunities to advance themselves and those around them. Youth must seize possibilities to improve society and create a better life for themselves and future generations in all sectors of society.
Cde. Peter Mokaba believed in the power of education as a weapon to promote youth development and socioeconomic fights for the impoverished and marginalised segments of our society.
Despite the fact that our democratic state has enacted laws and programmes to better the lives of young people, a substantial amount of effort remains to accelerate youth development. Increasing youth access to quality education and training, innovation, youth entrepreneurship, and economic engagement will ensure that our nation is placed on a sustainable path of growth and development amidst our current difficulties.
To combat rising young unemployment and poverty, we must immediately address youth who are not in education, training, or employment. Our streets are filled with young people who are not economically active due to a lack of skills required by the economy.
What is required are skills development and training programmes designed specifically for this subset of our youngsters. We must promote learnerships and collaborate with the commercial sector to generate placement opportunities for kids in all of our economy’s critical areas.
Alongside these measures, our kids must be active and integral in constructing cohesive and stable communities that are free of crime, substance abuse, and gender-based violence. Youth mobilisation and activity can greatly contribute to addressing the social ills that continue to destroy our communities on a daily basis.
In the youth structures of the ANC and progressive social formations, young people can foster unity and cohesion and cultivate future leaders who are committed to the values of social development.
In remembrance of Cde. Peter Mokaba, we must reignite youth action and social solidarity in order to address the issues now plaguing young people. In doing so, we will create the groundwork for a successful, inclusive, and unified nation of which future generations will be proud.
Cde. Peter Mokaba would not have allowed this. Instead, he would have criss-crossed the country to mobilise all us to be united and to focus on the task at hand. The spiraling youth unemployment is a national disaster that must be stopped and defeated.
No self-respecting nation would allow its youth to live a life of hopelessness and lack of purpose.
That is why we should draw inspiration and courage from Cde. Peter Mokaba’s spirit of selflessness and sacrifice that brought us this democracy and political freedom 28 years ago.
In this 20th anniversary of his passing, let his spirit of love for our people, the militancy of his politics and actions, as well as his unflinching commitment to complete eradication of the system that breeds and deepen inequality, must guide us and keep us united as an organisation and a people.
It must rejuvenate us to remain true to the course of struggle to better peoples’ lives.
Cde. Peter Mokaba was not about self-enrichment and promotion of politics of patronage and factional interests that relegates peoples’ aspiration to the margins. Till his departure, he lived true to the values of the organisation as shaped by his many years of activism and leadership in youth structures.
Let us dare not forget, that ever since its inception, the Youth League of the ANC represented by different generations of its leaders, has always played a critical role in propelling the ANC onto a higher trajectory of struggle.
In this, Cde. Peter Mokaba, engraved his name among the icons of our struggle that went through the Youth League. In this, his name ranks high up there with Anton Lembede, Nelson Mandela, Walter Sisulu, Oliver Tambo, Mxolisi Majombozi, Robert Resha and Chris Hani, just to mention a few.
We call on the youth to emulate the foresight of this young Lion of the North, who along with Comrade Rapu Molekane, foresaw the importance of the role that Traditional Leaders played in mobilising people, and took it upon themselves to mobilise and persuade the first group of traditional leaders to visit the ANC headquarters in Lusaka, and hold discussions that ultimately led to the formation of CONTRALESA and harmonised the programme of CONTRALSA with mass democratic movement.
Consequently, we must pause and think, what can the youth of today do to bring various community organisations and the ANC closer together in order to consolidate efforts to eradicate inequality, poverty, and unemployment?
What can the youth do to ensure that the ANC stays a true servant of the people who continuously listens to peoples issues and is able to properly address those concerns?
History is replete with examples of heroic and patriotic actions by our forebears. When it became clear that apartheid could not be defeated through peaceful protests and petitions, it is young people of the ANC who conceptualised and participated in the formation of uMkhonto weSizwe.
It is the young lions of Oliver Tambo who swiftly responded to the call to make South Africa ungovernable and apartheid unworkable.
We are confident that if Cde. Peter Mokaba were alive now, he would continue to mobilise and encourage the youth and society, as he did in the 1970s and 1980s, to not become complacent or despondent.
The freedom fighter within him would rally the youth to fight for a front-row seat in all civil forums.
The passionate debater in him would encourage the youth to become involved in and knowledgeable about modern sociopolitical issues in all platforms. He would encourage our young people to begin advocating for the ANC in all sectors of our communities to protect the organisation’s reputation from those who intend to destroy it.
If Cde. Peter Mokaba were still alive, he would be in the forefront of ensuring that our movement is unified and capable of inspiring confidence in our people.
In memory of Cde. Peter Mokaba, as leaders, let us reject tendencies of elevating our interests and comfort above those of the people. We must refuse spending our time and efforts on narrow selfish interests, rather than the fulfilment of the dreams and aspirations of the people.
We therefore encourage all members of the Youth League to work hard for the unity and cohesion of the organisation. The Youth League must rise above the challenges it is currently confronted with and emerge out of them more united, stronger, radical and militant. This must be done within the overall organisational discipline of the ANC.
Comrades and Compatriots
On this day, we invoke the spirit of Cde. Peter Mokaba to lead us in the fight against tribalism, ethnicity, racism, corruption and all forms of discrimination in our society!
It is therefore our moral responsibility to guarantee that the ANC, which Cde. Peter Mokaba and the generation before him so courageously preserved, is jealously guarded and passed on to the next generation in good condition.
If Cde. Peter Mokaba were still alive, he would be quick to remind us of the fact that the ANC does not belong to a few of us who happen to be card-carrying members of the ANC, but to the people of South Africa and the Continent.
As such, he would have commanded us to humble ourselves before the people, accept that there are areas in which we must improve the delivery of services to the best of our abilities.
The ANC is theirs. The government they elect is theirs. Ours is to selflessly serve them with humility each and every day. Let us ensure that in the future, we never ever leave the people behind.
Long live the Spirit of Peter Mokaba!