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Keynote Address by the Minister of Basic Education, Mrs Angie Motshekga, MP, at the Book Launch "In Pursuit of Dignity" held at the DBE Conference Centre Pretoria, 24 April 2019

Programme Director, Pat Khunou

Deputy Minister, Enver Surty

Deputy Minister Oosthuizen

Director-General: Presidency, Dr Cassius Lubisi

Adv. Willie Hofmeyr

Adv. Mpshe

CEO Awqaf SA, Zeinoul Cajee

DBE Senior managers and Staff

Distinguished Guests

Ladies and Gentlemen

It gives me a great pleasure to address this auspicious occasion, namely the second launch of this remarkable book aptly titled, ‘In Pursuit of Dignity’.

Yesterday afternoon, we were in Rustenburg for the inaugural launch of the same book, and we painted the town red or was it black, green and gold?  

My comrade Enver has been at pains to explain that this book isn’t his long awaited autobiography. I can certainly confirm that, but add a caveat, that is in fact a historical memoir.

In any event, an autobiography is only to be trusted when it reveals something disgraceful. A man who gives a good account of himself is probably lying, since any life when viewed from the inside is simply a series of defeats so said George Orwell.

Literature experts warn that we shouldn’t confuse memoirs with autobiographies. Strictly speaking, memoirs are autobiographies of a special kind.

While autobiographies usually relate the author's career from birth to maturity or old age, stressing exploits and achievements, memoirs tend to focus on specific occasions or themes.

Both are reflections of a struggling self, but in this more limited sense, memoirs suggest a closer kinship with the reflective first-person novel, the only perceptible difference being the criterion of truth.

And, so in this book, Comrade Enver was there in person. As they say, ‘I was there and I killed an elephant.’ He is not reporting from the frontlines, but writing himself into history, of which he was a part.

And, this is what we get, In the Pursuit of Dignity. Comrade Enver gives us a bold, honest and riveting piece of art that weaves together the personal and political in a sustained intensity. 

At times, disturbing, comforting, and sometimes hilarious. That’s a marker of good art. They say good art should comfort the disturbed and disturb the comfortable.

The book not only places the events of the past under the microscope but humanises and pays homage to the heroes of the anti-apartheid Struggle.

The book is a testament to our assertion that our revolution was an ensemble of a multitude of diverse peoples joined together to liberate our country from the yoke of apartheid and colonialism of the special type.

Thus, the book lays the life of Comrade Enver against the history of a nation. Like all historical memoirs, this book is written not only to tell the story of Comrade Enver but also to document the story of his time.

As it is often said that we are a product of our times. This cannot be truer as we see today.

In Pursuit of Dignity, it’s a classical story of Jim Comes to Joburg' kind of tale.

From the dusty streets of Rustenburg and pit latrine toilets to the soulless courtrooms of the erstwhile Bophuthatswana homeland, then to the hollowed chambers of parliament.

This book is a master-class in historical memoir writing. 

Comrade Enver’s life has been a life solely dedicated to humanity, to dignity, respect for a common man/woman, and promoting of common brotherhood.

From his writing, his humility shines through in every page. More importantly, his academic prowess including a Master’s Degree in Constitutional Law is understated.

We are not overwhelmed by the heroics of one man against a system. He fully understand the interconnectedness nature of life, of struggle and meaning of triumph of a collective against the self.

By tracing the path of his life, the book sheds new light into the making both of the man and the new South Africa founded in 1994.

Of which he played a major role although he was star-struck by the giants of our struggle such as Oom Gov.  You’re indeed a product of the best of the African National Congress.

We thank Comrade Katy for lending us her only husband. We also thank her for her continued activism and leadership in society. May this whole family be blessed!

In Pursuit of Dignity, seeks to and succeeds in bringing forth the drama of the incongruous apartheid regime, the momentous occasion of constitutional making, and early successes of transition to the new South Africa.

It is done so expertly without underestimating the teething problems of our rebirth as a nation.

Using fragments from his own childhood, Comrade Enver examines the life of black people under apartheid and how skin colour not merit defined one’s success in life.

As a country, we must not tire in creating a society where success is measured only through effort not one’s skin colour.

Yet, throughout his life, Comrade Enver has pivoted around ensuring that there was dignity for all.

Comrade Enver writes beautifully on how he beat a town clerk in his own game who wanted to parcel out their land to Afrikaners here in Rustenburg. He organised a sham public caution and won an early form of land restitution for the people.

During his time as a lawyer, he harped on the importance of dignity and human rights as he won a case of a chap who was alleged to have been found in possession of an undesirable magazine, well, the magazine had some nude pictures of women in it.  

In all this, not that he was aware, but he was already championing the people’s right to dignity and social justice, which of course today is the cornerstone of our Constitution.

In his vignettes, Comrade Enver argues that social cohesion is actually a moral virtue that is ingrained in us at birth.

One may say the ability to understand the other outside of your family and to appreciate their humanity irrespective of their light/dark skin and/or different religion, and bracketing out artificial differences is actually at the heart of a quest for dignity and justice.

Comrade Enver played soccer with African children, and his parents allowed him to immerse himself in a sport he loved. Perhaps, the Bafana Bafana coach should be talking to you Comrade. Not once, did Comrade Enver’s parents say, hhayibo, your friends aren’t like us.

Through his writing and memories of his childhood, Comrade Enver demonstrates beyond any doubt that religion, class, race, gender and ethnic discrimination is antithetical to human nature.

He calls upon all of us to be moral agents of dignity, and social justice.

In Pursuit of Dignity, gives us an important fragment of the making of the new Constitution, thus the new South Africa. It is an important historical recollection that will be more valuable today and for generations to come.

I have no doubt that when posterity does a paternity or maternity test on the South African Constitution, they will find that Comrade Enver’s DNA is all over the document alongside that of giants such Comrade OR Tambo amongst others.

We can’t overemphasise the value of this historical memoir. This is so because history is not important for its own sake. Instead, it’s a continuous process of interaction between the historian and his/her facts.

It is an unending dialogue between the present and the past in-order for us to determine a better future without repeating the mistakes of our forebears.

It is historically fitting that this event is being held amidst the silly season and a few days before we officially mark 25 years of democracy, peace and liberty.

Thus today’s event offers us and our children the opportunity to remember and celebrate the lives and times of the midwives of our democratic enterprise, of which Comrade Enver is part.

We remember with glee the heroes and heroines of the most protracted liberation Struggle in the 20th century.

We need to record and place permanently in the history archives the role and place of yesteryear heroes and heroines especially those referred to as non-whites.

Our recording of the past is not an irrational attachment to our forebears but an act of restoration of the nation’s humanity.

We must place before the youth of today accurate records of the most revered generation of our time so that the historical facts enlightens the present generation and propel them to be positive role models.

It is only through preserving our heritage that the present generation may benefit from the wisdom of their yesteryear heroes and heroine.

Our country today is an oasis of freedom, democracy and peace.

We have over a century risked life and limb to create a non-racial, non-sexist, democratic and prosperous nation.

Lest we forget, the new South Africa was built on the ashes of an abyss of slavery, colonialism, and apartheid. 

Programme Director: historians contend that our experience of the present - largely depends upon our knowledge of the past, and that, “participants in any social order must presuppose a shared memory.”

Therefore, the greatest struggle facing humanity today is, “…the struggle of memory against forgetting," so said Czech-born writer Milan Kundera.

Programme Director, we believe that through this book, we are launching today, we would be in a position develop a shared memory of our past.

This kind of knowledge will enable the 21st century generation to enrich the nascent narrative of the post-apartheid South Africa that is at peace with itself and no longer the skunk of the international community.

In conclusion, I end this address with the inspirational words from the late King of Botswana Kgosi Seretse Khama. He said: 

“It should now be our intention to try to retrieve what we can of our past. We should write our own History books to prove that we did have a past, and that it was a past that was just as worth writing and learning about as any other.

We must do this for the simple reason that a nation without a past is a lost nation, and a people without a past are a people without a soul."

I thank you.

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Written By: Fisher Julie
Date Posted: 4/29/2019
Number of Views: 796

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