The Mayor of UMgungundlovu;
The Mayor of the City of Umsunduzi;
Members of the Motala Family
Officials of Government and Parliamentarians Present;
Ladies and Gentlemen
Let me to take this opportunity to thank the leadership and management of the Management College of Southern Africa (MANCOSA), in partnership with the Motala family, in organising such an auspicious occasion to honour the memory of the late Dr Mahomed Moosa Motala.
Programme Director, Comrades and fellow Compatriots, I am deeply humbled by this honour. And, I wish again to heartily thank the organisers and all of you for being present today.
We have gathered here today as part of the celebration of the historic Memorial Lecture of the Struggle stalwart, Comrade Chota Motala. The Memorial Lecture of Comrade Chota Motala gives us the opportunity as a nation to reflect on the contributions, to the national cause, made by this true son of the soil: a patriot who served the people of Pietermaritzburg in particular and rest of South with distinction. It is an opportunity to pay tribute to, and sustain the memory of the finest and greatest son of Africa.
Fittingly, tonight’s Memorial Lecture of Comrade Chota Motala takes place as we celebrate the centenary of another Struggle stalwart Comrade Oliver Reginald Tambo. Comrade Tambo is regarded as one of the greatest liberators of the 20th century alongside ANC stalwarts such as Nelson Mandela, Charlotte Maxeke, Walter Sisulu, Govan Mbeki, Chief Albert Luthuli and many others. In this illustrious list of freedom fighters, tonight we proudly add the name of Comrade Chota Motala.
Programme Director; I am overwhelmed by the honour extended to me to deliver the 4th Annual Dr Chota Motala Memorial Lecture today. Despite the temptation, I don’t intend to present to you the truncated biography of Dr Chota Motala that you already know.
Programme Director; with these few words I already feel a sense of inadequacy that contemporary history has bestowed upon me the task of speaking about one of our own - the most gifted and committed son of the soil: a unifier, and a revolutionary par excellence.
With your permission Programme Director, given the prevailing sense of impending doom in our nation, the teachings and exemplary leadership qualities of Comrade Chota Motala are solely missed.
Programme Director, there is corrosive sense of disunity within the ranks of the African National Congress (ANC) and broadly among the Mass Democratic Movement. It is with sadness that we learnt recently that Comrade Makhosi Khoza has quit the movement. She said that the ANC has become, “corrupt and alien to her over the years.”
Apart from disunity amongst our ranks, there is a growing social distance between the rulers and ruled. Violent protest activity remains a concern for many South African communities given its adverse impact on schooling, work opportunities and community safety. It is of further concern that policing of protests appears to add another layer of violence further destabilising the already vulnerable relationship between communities and authority figures. Karen Heese, Economist at Municipal IQ argues that: “A record peak [in service delivery protests] in the second quarter of 2017 may mean that 2017 will eclipse other years’ records for service delivery protests. As of the end of September, 2017 accounts for 11% of service delivery protests recorded since 2004”.
There is a growing chasm between black and white as evidenced by events of #BlackMonday and the Middelburg coffin assault case.
There is an unsustainable high level of inequality between the rich and poor. According to Oxfam, in SA the richest 1% of the population has 42% of the total wealth. Put differently, the total net wealth of just three billionaires in SA is equivalent to that of the bottom 50% of country’s population, according to Oxfam’s inequality report. Accordingly the Oxfam’s executive director Sipho Mthathi concludes that: "Such inequality is a sign of a broken economy, from global to local, and lack of will from government to change the status quo.”
Not to mention the bugbear: state capture and rampant corruption in both the private and public sector. Our country loses an estimated R30 billion per year to corrupt activities. South Africa has moved from 67th to 61st place on Transparency International’s (TI) Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) 2015. According to Corruption Watch's executive director David Lewis said: "The bad news is that we are still ranked amongst those countries perceived to have a serious corruption problem, with our ranking perilously close to those countries suffering from endemic corruption."
Programme Director; if we are serious about fighting the scourge of corruption, we must without delay set up an independent judicial commission of inquiry into State capture with both investigative capabilities and powers of subpoena. Our people expect no less. Time for dilly-dallying is over.
Programme Director, it is therefore no exaggeration to claim that as we speak today, we seem to have reached a cul-de-sac in terms of quality of leadership that the movement as a leader of society can deliver and mould into a colossal as was Comrade Chota Motala. It is that kind of leadership that can confront, head-on, the social malaise facing both the country and our movement, the ANC.
South Africa in 2017 is a country where, through act or omission, our beloved Republic faces a fiscal cliff. According to the latest Medium-Term Budget Policy Speech, gross national debt is projected to reach over 60% of GDP by 2022, with debt service costs reaching 15% of main budget revenue by 2020/21. Debt service costs (R163.3bn this year, rising to R223.4bn by 2020/21) are the biggest single item on the budget, and at 11% per year the fastest rising category. The gross debt-to-GDP outlook has worsened from February's projected 51.9% of GDP by 2022 to the current revised figure of 60.8%.
Government guarantees for SOEs have jumped to an unacceptable high of R445bn. In this year alone we face with the projected revenue shortfall of R50.8bn (for the 2017/18 budget), resulting in an increasing budget deficit and a substantial debt risk hike.
According to new data released by Stats SA, poverty is on the rise in South Africa. The latest “Poverty Trends in South Africa” report shows that, despite the general decline in poverty between 2006 and 2011, poverty levels in South Africa rose in 2015. More than half of South Africans were poor in 2015, with the poverty headcount increasing to 55, 5% from a series low of 53, 2% in 2011. The figures are calculated using the upper-bound poverty line (UBPL) of R992 per person per month in 2015 prices. This translates into over 30, 4 million South Africans living in poverty in 2015.
If you add unemployment figures into the mix - you have a perfect storm - South Africa's unemployment in the first quarter of 2017 increased by 1.2 of a percentage point to 27.7% - the highest figure since September 2003.
Nonetheless, we cannot allow our movement and by extension our Republic to reach a precipice. We must refuse to through away the baby with bath water. I believe that even in this eleventh hour: our movement which Comrade Chota Motala dedicated his life to can still extract itself from the current morass. I am convinced that there is a silent majority of good men and women in our movement who would help the movement to hasten its self-correction and thus enter a new dawn of renewal.
We must boldly say on the eve of the 2017 December Elective Conference that we are on the verge of beginning an irreversible renewal of the ANC. It is through the collective wisdom of the ANC members that we can begin this arduous process of renewal. As long as Comrade Motala’s legacy lives we cannot allow the ANC to die.
Programme Director, while the fate of the democratic project is largely in the hands of a handful of ANC members, we must not forget that millions more outside the ANC do wish that this great movement of Comrade Oliver Tambo and Comrade Motala succeeds. That’s the reason that we have over successive elections been given an overwhelming majority to lead the Republic of South Africa.
Therefore, while we are busy navel-gazing as members of the ANC, we must be open to be persuaded by a variety of civil society groupings, the ANC Veterans, NGOs, prominent South Africans found in academia, churches, business and our international friends and critics. We arrogated ourselves the tag of leader of society; it is high time that we behave as such.
Programme Director, for the sake of posterity let me rehash a short biography of Comrade Motala.
Dr Motala was born in Dundee on 14 June 1921. In 1938 he matriculated at Sastri College where he was involved in student politics. He studied for medical degree in India from 1939 and after qualifying as a medical doctor in 1947 and doing his internship, he returned to South Africa to set up a medical practice in Pietermaritzburg. We are told he was the second black doctor to open his practice in the area which was situated in Retief Street.
Dr Motala was affectionately known as Chota amongst his family, friends, comrades and patients because he was the people’s person. I learned that the name ‘Chota’ means ‘small’ in Urdu, as in younger brother or uncle. This shows how close he was to the people that surrounded him.
Today we remember him as a true hero of our people because he left an indelible mark in serving the down trodden and fighting in the struggle for a truly non-racial, non-sexist and democratic South Africa. He left us with a remarkable legacy, that of being committed, caring and selfless towards one’s community. We learn that Dr Motala offered his medical services freely to most patients who came from the surrounding townships and assisted scores of victims of political violence; especially those who were injured during the Seven Day War of 1990. He was always concerned about the appalling conditions in which his patients lived; and that galvanized and sustained his political activity.
These rare qualities and values of his were surely put to the test when he got arrested for treason on 5 December 1956; after his house was raided by 10 security policemen. He was later transferred to Johannesburg with Archie Gumede and Albert Luthuli to stand trial. At the Johannesburg Fort Prison, he was imprisoned with other (155) treason trialists such as the late Nelson Mandela, Walter Sisulu, Oliver Tambo, and ZK Matthews; who surely contributed immensely in his political life.
Ladies and gentlemen, let us remember the virtues of compassion and selflessness of these comrades and stalwarts, when living our daily lives. For example, we learn that after his charges were dropped in 1959, Dr Motala returned to his practice and continued to care for patients in the surrounding Coloured, Indian and African townships.
During the preparations for the Congress of the People, Dr Motala opened his house to be used regularly for meetings by the leadership of the African National Congress. Such an act of Ubuntu surely brought comrades together beyond racial lines as they embraced a vision of a nation that is democratic, united, non-racial, non-sexist, equal and prosperous. During the farewell function of the Durban delegates to the Congress of the People in Kliptown, Dr Motala spoke on behalf of Chief Albert Luthuli.
Furthermore, through the life of Dr Motala we learn that education is key in one’s life and that the road to success is not paved with gold. At the age of 18 he stowed away in a ship to go to India to fulfil his ambition of studying towards a medical degree. With such a good example of resilience displayed by Dr Motala, we therefore owe it to ourselves and our forbearers to ensure that the youth of South Africa have access to education. Educating the youth is critical for the country’s investment and economic development. But also as a way of passing down knowledge, values and culture to subsequent generation; hence Comrade O.R. said:
“The children of any nation are its future. A country, a movement, a person that does not value its youth and children does not deserve its future”
In conclusion, let me quote the words of Mr. Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela, our beloved world-renowned statesman and leader who once said: “It is through education that the daughter of a peasant can become a doctor, that the son of a mineworker can become the head of a mine, that a child of a farmworker can become the president of a country.” These words ladies and gentlemen, and the legacy of Dr Motala and those of the other struggle stalwarts; should encourage us all who are still working in the education sector to ensure that we use education as a great engine to develop the lives of our people.
I thank you!