SGB Chairperson and Members
Parents and Learners
Members of the Media
Ladies and Gentlemen
Programme Director, it is my singular honour and privilege to say a few words on this very important Ministerial Imbizo. This Ministerial Imbizo coincides with the 20th anniversary of the signing into law of the Constitution, the supreme law of the land. Former President Nelson Mandela signed the final draft into law in December 1996 and it came into force in February 1997. The Constitution laid the foundation for a democratic and open society in which government is based on the will of the people.
Similarly, Programme Director, we hold this Ministerial Imbizo ensure that there is direct engagement between the Government and communities and stakeholders. In the process, it gives us as elected public representatives an opportunity to account on the work we do in line with the dictates of our Constitution. We intend to strengthen partnership engagements with stakeholders geared towards positive educational outcomes.
The overall mantra of this Ministerial Imbizo is: discussion, dialogue, joint problem-solving and above all feedback. We want to have first-hand experience of the impact our policies have on the people we serve. Our people cannot be active participants in the Government programmes unless they get an opportunity to have the Government policy and programmes clearly outlined and explained.
Programme Director, at the heart of it all: we want our people to be part and parcel of the Government programmes. The governed must be seen and heard. For us as Government, public participation in governance is the linchpin that defines our democracy. The Freedom Charter which turned 62 this week rightly says: “The People Shall Govern.”
It is historically fitting that this event is being held amidst the nationwide commemoration of one of the poignant moment in our political calendar, the 41st June 16 Soweto Youth Uprising. We pay tribute to the gallant fighters of the June 16 Soweto Youth Uprising who laid down their lives in a quest for freedom. We do indeed owe to them and their families a debt of gratitude for all their sacrifices.
Equally significant, is that 2017 has been declared as Year of Oliver Reginald Tambo affectionately known as OR. OR Tambo was arguably the greatest liberation fighter of the 20th century alongside Isithwalandwe/Seaparankoe the late Nelson Mandela. Apart from his political activism, OR was a scholar and vociferous reader. He was as we know a Mathematician, Teacher and a Lawyer.
OR was a leader of the ANC for nearly three decades. He was the glue that held the movement together during the toughest period of our Struggle against the Pretoria regime. The great conqueror and an educationist the late OR was born on 27 October 1817, in the village called Bizana, Eastern Cape. His educational career and political life commenced in the year 1940, while he was a student at Fort Hare University. After being dismissed from the University for Political Activism, he assumed a teaching career as a Science and Mathematics teacher. Besides being a Mathematician and teacher, the late OR Tambo was also a lawyer, a musician and a devout Christian. He passed away on the 24th April 1993. During his funeral, the late President Nelson Mandela said:
"Tambo lived because his very being embodied love, hope, an aspiration and a vision. While the ANC lives, Oliver Tambo cannot die!"
Addressing the OR Tambo Lecture (October 19, 2012), former President Thabo Mbeki summed up the main characteristics of OR. He said:
“…Oliver Tambo was an outstanding revolutionary democrat, a principal theoretician of the perspective of the national democratic revolution to which the ANC is committed, and consequently a central architect of the popular forces which would have an obligation to lead the offensive to achieve this National Democratic Revolution”.
In his own words on 27th January 1987 during his address at George University in Washington OR said:
"We seek to create a non-racial, non-sexist, united and democratic society. We have a vision of South Africa in which black and white shall live and work together as equals in conditions of peace and prosperity. Using the power you derive from the discovery of the truth about racism in South Africa, you will help us to remake our part of the world into a corner of the globe on which all -- of which all of humanity can be proud.”
As a result of the selfless dedication and sacrifice of OR and countless other anti-apartheid icons, today South Africa is a democracy. In just over two decades, we have built solid constitutional institutions, thus consolidating our democracy whose foundation is the doctrine of separation of powers and supremacy of the Constitution.
Programme Director, since today we are at the Steve Bikoville Secondary School, it is therefore opportune that I say a few words about this son of the soil and least celebrated hero of our anti-apartheid Struggle, namely Stephen (Steve) Bantu Biko whose name the school bear.
In his own words, Biko described apartheid thus:
“Apartheid – both petty and grand – is obviously evil. Nothing can justify the arrogant assumption that a clique of foreigners has the right to decide on the lives of a majority.”
The year 2017 marks the 40th anniversary of the death of Biko at the hands of the apartheid regime. He was killed on the 12th September 1977 at a tender age of 30 years old. Biko’s death caught the attention of the international community, which increased the pressure on the South African government to abolish its detention policies and called for an international probe on the causes of Biko's death. Even close allies of South Africa, Britain and the United States of America, expressed deep concern over Biko’s death.
Yet at home, the Minister of Justice, Mr. James Kruger said of his death: “I am not glad and I am not sorry about Mr. Biko. It leaves me cold (Dit laat my koud). I can say nothing to you. Any person who dies ... I shall also be sorry if I die.”
Steve Bantu Biko was at the forefront of a grassroots anti-apartheid campaign known as the Black Consciousness Movement during the late 1960s and 1970s. Raised in a poor Xhosa family, Biko grew up in Ginsberg, Eastern Cape. In 1966, he began studying medicine at the then University of Natal (University of KwaZulu-Natal). Here he was increasingly politicised and rose to a senior position in the National Union of South African Students (NUSAS). He was strongly opposed to the apartheid system of racial segregation and white-minority rule in South Africa. At the same time he was also frustrated that the anti-apartheid movement, including NUSAS, was dominated by white liberals rather than by the blacks who were most disadvantaged by the apartheid system. He developed the view that to avoid white domination, black people had to organise independently and focus on ridding themselves of any sense of racial inferiority. To this end he was a leading figure in the creation of the South African Students' Organisation (SASO) in 1968. Membership was only open to "blacks"—a term that Biko used in reference not just to Africans but also Coloureds and Indians—although he retained friendships with several white liberals, and opposed anti-white racism.
Through SASO, Biko developed his Black Consciousness (BC) ideas, which were heavily influenced by those of the preeminent African philosopher Frantz Fanon. The movement campaigned for an end to apartheid and the transition of South Africa toward universal suffrage and a socialist economy. In 1972, Biko was involved in founding the Black People's Convention (BPC) to promote BC ideas among the wider population. The government was concerned by his activities, and in 1973 they placed him under a banning order, severely restricting his activities. He remained politically active and helped to organise BC programs in the Ginsberg area, including the establishment of a healthcare centre. He received anonymous threats and was detained by state security services on four occasions.
Following his arrest in August 1977, Biko was severely beaten by state security officers. He sustained fatal head injuries, and died shortly thereafter. In response to international pressure, the South African government ordered an inquest to investigate the cause of Biko's death; the presiding magistrate concluded that Biko had died of brain damage caused by head injury; however, no one was held responsible for, or prosecuted for, Biko's death.
Over 20,000 people attended his funeral. Many of his writings were posthumously published for a wider audience including the immortalised book titled: “I write what I like”. His life was the subject of a book by his friend Donald Woods, which later became the basis for the 1987 film Cry Freedom.
Biko is regarded as the father of Black Consciousness and a martyr of the anti-apartheid movement.
To Biko and other stalwarts who paid an ultimate price, we say your sacrifices were not in vain. We shall continue your legacies and, consolidate South Africa’s democracy and advance the ideals of our Constitution. Our country will never be a skunk of the world ever again. Our Constitution which celebrates its 20th anniversary this year is already an envy of the world.
I thank you.