Wednesday, February 27, 2013
"The greed that characterised apartheid, lives comfortably with us."
"Our politics, our struggle has never been about personal wealth. We did not join the struggle to fill up our back pockets nor did Mini refuse the one chance to life so that you could have a bank balance in Switzerland. "
By Subry Govender
A few years after the establishment of our new non-racial and democratic South Africa came into being in 1994, struggle stalwart, Phyllis Naidoo, who died recently on February 13 at the age of 85, was bestowed with an honorary doctorate of law by the then University of Durban-Westville. The award was granted to her at the insistence of the Rector at that time, Professor Ramashala.
Phyllis (I used to call her Akaa (elder sister) insisted that she would not accept the award for herself but for all those comrades who had sacrificed their lives and those who had contributed enormously and selflessly to the liberation struggles.
As a mark of respect and gratitude to my Akaa, I reproduce here her inspiring speech that drew frequent loud applauses.
It is an address that some of the present crop of political leaders should read and re-read for their re-commitment in overcoming the current state of acute unemployment, inequality and poverty.
Did you know that when Dr Ramashala conferred the law doctorate she referred to Phyllis by her full name of: Vasantha Phyllis Ruth Naidoo.
This is my Akaa's awe-inspiring address:
"Why am I here. What did I do to deserve this honour. Did I produce a mind blowing dissertation on Mathsin Goki, Ngiyaki Kilde, Can Themba, and our own Mandla Langa.
"I did not, so why?
"Actually this is a masquerade. When Professor Ramashala offered me this degree for my contribution to whatever, I responded by telling her that I had acted as a member of various organisations and that I would accept the award on behalf of those who struggled for democracy and especially those who paid the ultimate price.
"She was delighted to do business with me, hence my presence here.
"Briefly the poverty of my family in which I was nurtured taught me valuable lessons of caring and giving.
"My thatha (grand-father) a market gardener after his period of indenture taught me an enduring love of the soil. My dad (Simon David) on a teacher's salary of four Pounds a month took care of ten children, a Catholic wife, grand-parents, and an aunt with five children.
"Clearly miracles do not live in the Bible alone.
"Fortunately I was also a student at Woodlands High in Pietermaritzburg during the war years when we queued for bread and milk on the black market to have Mr Stead our English master (I notice he's not here), Herbie Govinden was a student with me and he would agree that Mr Stead broadened our horizon.
"My voluntary work at FOSA soon after school taught starkly that the solutions to poverty were not to be found in charity, but in politics.
"I stand here for the Unity Movement of the early 1950s who I D Thabatha, Goolam Gool, A K Essack opened my mind to the force of apartheid. As a teacher, politics was a no go area and our weekly meetings stimulated our discussions.
"I stand here as a member of the Natal Indian Congress for Dr Randeree, M D Naidoo, Paul David, George Sewpersadh, Dr Monty Naicker, and Mrs Nagamah Naidoo - a cook at Kapitan's Cafe who told me her experience as a passive resister in 1946.
"The protests against the Ghetto Act sent thousands to prison to show their abhorrence of this Act. The Indian Government took up the issue at the UN thus internationalising the struggle.
"The Passive Resistance of 1946 and the Defiance Campaign of 1952 were ommitted.
"A letter from Dr Randeree, now resident in Canada, reminded me of an NIC meeting held at my flat in the 1950s, we decided to boycott the tribal bush college at Salisbury Island. Consequently a meeting was arranged at the Tamil Vedic Hall in Carlisle Street (Durban) where after several fighting speeches we sang loudly "Lead Kindly Light" with M B Naidoo and many others. So you see what irony this award is.
"We have gone full circle and it has come home to roost.
"I stand here on behalf of the Human Rights Commitee formed to take care of the banished people in Natal. This is material for much-needed dissertation and I hope this institution does something about that.
"Theo and Mario Kloppenberg, Dr Goonam, Elanor Kassrils were some of the people who worked in this committee. We reached Chief William Sekekunee a month too late. He had died from starvation in this very province and you thought you need it all from the TRC.
"I stand here on behalf of late Ernest Gallo, Kalise Sello (he's not late), and others of a non-racial group at Natal University in 1957 who approached the ANC to allow us to operate an ANC branch at the University of Natal. The ANC constitution frowned on us and Joe Mathews and Baba Luthuli told us to go and start another human rights committee.
"I stand before you as a proud member of the South African Community Party where the idea of a non-racial South Africa was firmly planted. Here I met commitment and integrity that beg description - Moses Kotane, J B Marx, Ray and Jack Simons, George and Vera Ponnen, Govan Mbeki, Dr Dadoo, Marius Schoon, Bram Fischer, Ester Basle sitting here in front, Ruth Slovo, Joe Slovo and Gerald Freser-Moleketi and many others, you know them all, luminaries in our struggle.
"I stand here on behalf of MK (Umkhonto we Sizwe) whose oath I never took although I worked in the undergound from 1963 to 1977. Incidentally after taking Moses Mabhida out of hiding to Newcastle on the way out of the country I was ordered to find high blood pressure tablets (I think the doctors have a name for this) for Govan Mbeki. Doctors and friends complained that these tablets were very expensive but we pilfered from hospital surgeries, etc, and we had a good number of tablets. These were sent through the late George Naicker to Govan. Back came a reply for more tablets saying a number of his colleagues at Rivonia of course had found great relief. Little wonder they did not kill themselves.
"Then on the 11th of July 1963 those of you who know anything will know that's a very precious date when I received a note from Govan saying "the mole is tired of the hole". The arrests in Rivonia took place.
"Eh Ronnie what a break. The racist Government had to find the tablets from now on.
"I stand here on behalf M K veteran, Joseph Nduli. Joseph was one of the 80 MK soldiers of the Luthuli detachment which crossed into Rhodesia in August 1967. Walking through the forests he and Biyela strayed away from the others. They hid in tall grass surrounded by Rhodesian forces. Biyela impatient, hungry, thirsty, lifted his head to check the enemy position. A shot robbed him of his head and Joseph was covered in his blood. Joseph came back to South Africa assisted by ZAPU comrades and got to Johannesburg with a passport and then fled to Swaziland. He operated from there until South African agents kidnapped him in 1976.
"When the death of Joseph Mdluli (now notice that the one was Joseph Nduli and this is Joseph Mdluli) in detention destroyed the underground routes out of South Africa. Joe and I had to establish new ones.
"Shadrack Maphumulo who served a 10-year sentence on Robben Island and was killed in Swaziland in the presence of his children and I charted the road which took Mac Maharaj, Steven Dlamini, Sunny Singh there and so many others via Swaziland.
"Working with comrades returning from Robben Island was the most rewarding experience. Their commitment to the struggle was no sacrifice. It was their life. Some had done 10 years and more on Robben Island and were taking work that without a doubt would send them back as indeed it did. Harry Gwala, Mathews Mayiya, Zakele Mdlalose, Anton Xaba, Ebrahim Ismail Ebrahim, and some others.
"To work with MK stalwarts like late Justin Khuzwayo, Jacob Zuma, Nduduzi Guma, Poomoney Moodley, Sunny Singh and others was a humbling experience. Joseph Mdluli whom they murdered was a gentle person who attended to comrades who were banished, house-arrested and unemployed. We packed his boot with food and clothes whenever he went around. Two weeks before he was killed he called to find out if I had anything to send with him. At the time we had over 75 persons in detention. Jeff Hadebe, who is now a Minister, will tell you that he was my articled clerk then, said he learnt no law in my office. He only packed food for detainees.
"But Mdluli counselled patients saying the struggle is long, next time he comes I will have something for him. He never returned. He was killed on the 19th of March 1976.
"I stand before you on behalf of those killed in Maputo on the 30th of January 1981, especially my son, Nduguma, and 11 others. On the 9th of December 30 of my comrades and and 12 Basotho were massacred, among them Gazee, Zola and Ginee, then 12 were killed in Gaberone on the 14th of June 1985 and there was Thami Maniyela and my precious son, Mike Kamblan.
"I stand here angering for those in the ANC and PAC who were executed. I want to tell you about Vuyisile Mini, who was Woken Kayinja, and Zenatela Mahlaba who were executed on the 6th of November 1964.
Mini wore four hats. He was a trade unionist, SADTU, MK, ANC and SACP. The four treatment. Mini refused to give evidence in Wilton Mkwayi's trial and lost the one and only chance to life. How many Minis' crossed your path? Any?
"His rare integrity is our proud possession. Hamble Gahle Mini.
"A word here about the party that wraps its posters around our lamp posts screaming, 'we will bring back the death penalty'.
"Their predecessors in 1990 called a moratorium because the death penalty did not solve their problems.
"The state cannot tell you that 'thou shall not kill and then process to kill you'. Don't forget also that it is the blacks in the main both here and the USA to have their necks broken.
"Is this the sum total of the proud recipients of today's award? No!
"The UNHCR and the Human Rights Commission both report that South Africans are zenophobic to a disgusting extent. Notice the term 'disgusting', it's not mine, it's theirs. That is an extreme irrational fear of anything or anyone different or foreign. The ghastly killings of three Mozambicans a few months made pariahs of all of us. I think you know the name 'Quere Quere' it should also belong to the never again stable.
"Our ghastly treatment of aliens makes a mockery of our call for increased tourism. I want to put this as a proposition to you. We have a ministry for both. It would appear that we despise the poor because the aliens are poor and we suck up to the rich. But think about that.
"South Africans need to remember that Samora Machel, erstwhile president of Mozambique, supported not only our struggle but of Zimbabwe as well, incurring the wrath of both Rhodesia and the racists here. Destabilisation was a war in which two million Mozambicans lost their lives and limbs, their economy destroyed and their president and others murdered. They paid heavily so that we might be free.
"What Angola did for our liberation begs description. Augustino Neto, President of the newly-independent Angola, said in his inauguration speech:
'We shall never be free until South Africa is free'.
"Remember that when you find Angolans (watch my false teeth here) trading anger you, our landmines continue to live in Angola and continue to render children lifeless and limbless. Our President was in Russia to thank the then USSR for its mind-boggling solidarity with our struggle. Comrade Vladimia Shupin has written a book which I recommend for your reading. The Organisation for African Unity(OAU), on its shoe string budget, supported us. We had assistance from Libya, Algeria, Egypt, Sudan, Ethiopia, Zambia, and so many others. The whole of this poor continent came to our help, to our assistance and gave it with no strings attached. It was the kind of solidarity that begs description.
"India rendered immeasurable assistance to the ANC, poor Caribbean islands helped us, Cuba gave her sons and daughters to our struggle, over two thousand Cubans died in Africa so that we might be free. The victory of the Angolan and Cuban forces ensured Namibia's independence and freedom. It was impossible after that to deny ours. Except for Sweden, most Western governments did not support our struggle. They supported the racists with constructive engagment.
"It was during this period that the SADF made most of its forays into Angola, destroying its people and landmining most of the country.
"Be that as it may in the UN, USA, UK, Austria - all these places anti-apartheid committees, church, legal, sports and other organisations took our call for boycotts and sanctions. They took care of our detained, their families, they found the money for our trials. They campaigned against the execution of our comrades. Their solidarity was immeasurable. All of them, Toogutsie a Zimbabwean, sang gustily 'Free Nelson Mandela'.
"We have our President, Walter Sisulu, Govan Mbeki and the others as a result of the role the International Anti-Apartheid Movement played during the Rivonia Trial when we expected the death penalty.So you see our zenophobia cannot be maintained. It is not only misplaced, it is criminal.
"Malusi, the president of the ANC Youth League, complains that South Africans do not feel equally rsponsible for the Reconstruction and Development of our country but are at the forefront of demanding their rights. He speaks of a lack of social responsibility. I wish to add to that phenomenon of entitlement and corruption that has reached alarming proportions.
"The greed that characterised apartheid lives comfortably with us.
"Albie Sachs in his "Soft Vengeance of a Freedom Fighter" says: 'What has given honour and diginity to our lives was precisely the fact that we chose to combat injustice without thought or even hope of receiving personal benefit.
"I know it's difficult when Anglo American announced a profit of 3,7-billion, billion my friends, you will find that in the Mercury of the 26th of March and NEO tries to follow suit a month later. It is shocking to see so many of our trade union leaders now aspiring for personal wealth.
"Distinguished guests we tried against the worst possible conditions to establish a democracy, to establish and retain our humanity. We crossed barriers set up by the racists. You saw Oliver Tambo return home after three strokes and his body disabled from hard work. He worked ceaselessly so that you might be free. Those on hunger strikes put their lives on line for what we have today.
"Pixie Benjamin hurt her body and died after a hunger strike. Mini refused to dignify the request of the racists and went singing to his death.
"Promise that you will never let the 6th of November pass you without remembering Mini.
"Wits has honoured David Webster. I want to ask you to claim Mini for UDW. Some trade unions have not forgotten him. So work with them, use some of the SRC funds you spend and give for the occasion. He gave you his life. I promise you, your sense of social responsibility will improve.
Phyllis with two her sons, Sadhan and Sha, and daughter, Sukhthie, when she was still a young mother and activist
"Lastly I stand here on behalf of my amazing sons, Sadhan who was assassinated in Lusaka. All he wanted to do was to feed the people of South Africa. Sha, my second son, lost his life through a medical accident... his short life was spent in the struggle. I want to thank my family whose support throughout this period was extremely generous. I want you to know that as a family hurt by the Group Areas Act they refused to claim against the new democracy. I am very proud of them. Thank you. ........ when Gandhi was incarcerated in the Old Fort he found that African prisoners were denied salt in their food. Gandhi refused to eat his salted food.
"We should say with equal empathy that the disgrace of the squatter camps around here has no place in our society that we will not rest until the Jondolos are replaced with proper homes. Do I have a yes on that one.............. .
"A better life for all is our slogan, not a better life for any ethnic minority, not a better life for you or certainly not for me but for all South Africans.
"Thank you for bestowing this honour on all those who sacrificed their lives for our liberation........ . "
Ladies and gentlemen................ Dr Vasantha Phyllis Ruth Naidoo.
Monday, February 18, 2013
"South Africa will forever be indebted to Phyllis and her family for her bravery, courage, leadership and sacrifice in the liberation and transformation of South Africa."
Comrade Phylls NaidooBy Subry Govender
Ms Ela Gandhi, Deputy Minister Ebrahaim Ebrahim, Saras Chetty and friend
Paul David, John David, a family friend and Benjam David
Phyllis died three days earlier on the morning of February 13 at the local Albert Luthuli Hospital at the age of 85.
Some of the activists who turned up for the service included Mr Swaminathan Gounden, who is 86-year-old; Mr Kay Moonsamy, who is also in his 80s; Ms Ela Gandhi; Mr Sunny Singh; Dr Dilly Naidoo and his wife; Mr Tito Mboweni, former Reserve Bank Governor; Dr Jerry Coovadia and his wife, Zubie; Mr Coastal Govender; Paddy Kearney; Mrs Maggie Govender and Dr Farouk Meer.
Former struggle photographer, Omar Badsha, came down from Cape Town for the service and author and writer, Dr Deena Padaychee, was also in attendance.
Mac Maharaj greeting a friend and Paul David
Paddy Kearney participating in the service
Described as a "sound, cohesive force", a number of speakers spoke about Comrade Phyllis's family background; her disciplinarian headmaster father, Mr Simon David and mother, Violet; her early first marriage; her struggles to complete her university degree while working as a nurse; her commitment to the struggle and joining the SACP, ANC, Natal Indian Congress while still a student, her meeting and marriage to M D Naidoo, who was jailed on Robben Island for his SACP work; her struggles to work as lawyer; the opening of her own law practice; the assistance she had given to former Robben Island prisoners, including current President Jacob Zuma; her flight into exile to Lesotho where she was seriously injured after she unknowingly opened a letter bomb; her move to Zimbabwe; the assassination of her son Sadhan by apartheid security agents at an ANC farm in Zambia; the return to South Africa in the early 1990s, the divorce from M D Naidoo; the death of her third son, Sha; the work for the release of death row prisoners; the writing of her books to remember those who played crucial roles in the struggles, ..... the list goes on.
It was also revealed at the service that Phyllis was robbed of her first son, Nersen, who was taken away by her first husband to the United States. She never saw this son again and later learned that after the ANC turned down his request to join MK, the young man joined the forces of Charles Taylor in Liberia where he was killed.
But despite all the personal tragedies, she was never dispirited and continued to promote the struggles in the new, non-racial and democratic South Africa.
The tributes were paid by her family members - only surviving child and daughter, Sukhthi; grand-children Buck and Louis Whaley; and brothers John and Paul David.
Mac Maharaj greeting Swaminathan Gounden
Paul, who chose not to concentrate on the political side of Phyllis's life in his tribute, observed that Comrade Phyllis was very concerned about the socio-economic transformation of the previously-disadvantaged after the advent of the new South Africa in 1994. She was concerned about, among other things, the wide gap between the haves and have nots, the lack of services, the schooling facilities, proper roads and sporting facilities.
At times, he said, she would say: "Maybe we should make a comeback."
Her youngest sibling, Benjamin David, a former Verulam High School sportsman and top class cricketer, also paid tribute to his sister by quoting verses from the Bible.
Father Michael Lapsley, who lost both his hands in a parcel bomb sent by the apartheid security police to Lesotho, and the Anglican Bishop of KZN and former black consciousness activist Reuben Phillip, also paid special tributes to Comrade Phyllis.
Author Dr Betty Govinden penned a special religious tribute to Comrade Phyllis titled "We give thanks for Phyllis's life".
Max Sisulu, Speaker of National Assembly
The speaker of the National Assembly, Max Sisulu, was among a number of people who had worked with Comrade Phyllis, had their messages published in a special memorial booklet.
Max Sisulu summed up the sentiments of most people when, among other things, he wrote:
"In Phyllis, we have lost a courageous freedom fighter, human rights lawyer, teacher, activist and protector of the vulnerable. As a result of her dedication to the struggle for our people's freedom, and as a disciplined member of the Communist Party and the African National Congress, Phyllis bore the brunt of police harrassment, house arrests, banning and the painful loss of her two sons.
"South Africa will forever be indebted to Phyllis and her family for her bravery, courage, leadership and sacrifice in the liberation and transformation of South Africa."
Sunday, February 17, 2013
By Subry Govender
Mrs Oumah Lautan(Ottawa), Mrs Coopamah Muthumanikam(Phoenix), Mrs Zainab Suleiman (Phoenix), Mrs Sushila Velen (Phoenix) and two other teachers.
This despite the fact that a new policy document, Curriculum and Assessment Policy Statement (CAPS), has been introduced to allow for the teaching and learning of Tamil, Hindi, Telugu, Urdu, and Arabic in schools as additional languages and allowed school time to be extended by one-and-half-hours.
A group of teachers held a meeting at the Phoenix Teachers' Centre on Friday and also held a meeting with members of the Tamil Action Group(TAG) at the Mariammen Temple in Mount Edgecombe on Sunday.
They claim that in many instances school authorities are using the new CAPS policy to abolish the teaching of Eastern languages during normal school hours.
"Instead of including the teaching of Eastern languages during normal school hours, most schools want the languages to be taught after hours," said Mrs Coopamah Muthumanikam, a Tamil teacher in Phoenix.
Mrs Muthumanikam said the new "after hours" policy was not acceptable to parents and teachers because pupils had to participate in sports and other extra activities.
"There's also concern about safety and security for our children," she said.
Two other teachers, Mrs Ouma Lautan of Ottawa, and Mrs Zainab Suleiman of Phoenix, said it was unacceptable that they should once again struggle to get Eastern languages taught in their schools.
"During the days of apartheid we had to fight to get Eastern languages taught in our schools and now it seems we have to fight again," said Mrs Suleiman.
"There were more than 75 000 learners studying Tamil, Hindi, Telugu, Urdu and Arabic in our schools last year and there were more more than 400 teachers involved," said Mrs Suleiman.
"But the introduction of the new policy has led to the disruption of the teaching of these languages in our schools and vernacular teachers have been thrown into a state of uncertainity.
"We don't know why this is being done to us. We are South Africans as well and the teaching of our mother tongue languages must be a right. We should not go cap in hand and beg."
Another teacher, Mrs Sushila Velen, said their plight was due to the fact that school authorities were not strong enough to commit themselves to the teaching of the vernacular languages.
"We are really being messed around," she said.
Mr Vishu Naidoo, the principal of the Buffelsdale Secondary School and convenor of the Southern African Eastern Languages Association, said as a result of representations to the National Education Department they had been successful in getting Eastern languages included in the curriculum from Grades 4 to 12 as Second Additional Languages.
He said the inclusion of Eastern languages, except Sanskrit, would be found in the National Education Department's website.
"You will see the 2nd Additional Language being signed as policy by the Minister of Education. You will notice all the Eastern languages except Sanskrit.
"This is the first time in the history of the country that Eastern languages are in the curriculum," he said.
"We have received a letter from the Director General of National Basic Education allowing all governing bodies to extend the school day and offer the Eastern language at Home Language, First Additional or Second Additional.
"In my school for instance Eastern languages are taught without any problems and the teachers are part of the staff.
"I think the problem in other schools is that principals and teachers are not strong enough to stand up for their rights."
Mr Naidoo said it seemed some of the problems being experienced was the direct result of the additional hours being "deliberately left out by some one in the department" from the document in the Education Department's website.
"We were in contact with the Minister's Personal Assistant and this was pointed out to the Minister. She chose to ask a Mr Kriel to address this issue. This person had no clue about the documents I mentioned. I find it unacceptable that the Minister chooses a 'white' person to pronounce on Eastern languages.
"I even wrote to the President’s office but have received no response. But we have support from the Premier of KZN for the Eastern languages."
Mr Naidoo added that "to add insult to injury Mr Enver Surty, the Deputy Minister of Education, who has no clue about the documents on the department's website, refers to Indians as immigrants".
"I am surprised that the people of Indian origin are accepting this lying down. It is time for the Indian-origin Community to take action against an insensitive Department of Education. We should start rolling mass action against the department.
"The Minister, Angie Motshekga, told me that we can do want we want. It is obvious that she is treating the Indian-origin Community with disrespect. When you disrespect our language then you disrespect our culture and our religion."
He added: "We are making a special appeal to every religious and cultural organisation in every area to influence the governing bodies and parents to introduce the languages in the Foundation Phase and to continue with the languages in the Intermediate Phase. This is the turning point for the introduction of Eastern languages. The apartheid government denied us our fundamental right to promote our languages.
"Our languages give expression to our cultures. For us this is a human rights issue."
Mr Dees Pillay, a senior official of the Tamil Action Group, said they had been told that vernacular language teachers were experiencing problems in Phoenix, Chatsworth, Pietermaritzburg, Port Shepstone, Umzinto, and other areas.
He said it seemed that organisations representing the various Indian-origin communities were not taking up the cultural problems of the communities they were supposed to represent.
"We don't have a single leader of the calibre of Dr Monty Naicker, Dr Yusuf Dadoo, Dr Kesaval Goonam, Mrs Fatima Meer or Ismail Meer to represent us any more".
"What a tragedy that in our new non-racial democracy we have to fight to get Tamil, Hindi, Urdu, Telugu and Arabic included in our school syllabus during normal school times.
"If we had leaders of the stature of the Naickers, Dadoos and Goonam, I don't think we would experience these problems. They would have made strong representations to the Government about our cultural needs. Dr Naicker infact was very committed to the promotion of our culturess, languages and traditions," said Mr Pillay. ends