The Spear of the Nation
Address by President Jacob Zuma at the Umkhonto Wesizwe Day celebrations

Address by President Jacob Zuma at the Umkhonto Wesizwe Day celebrations

15 December 2009, Ingwavuma, KwaZulu-Natal

Programme Director;
Provincial ANC Chairperson and Premier of Kwa Zulu-Natal Province
Cde Zweli Mkhize;
Far North Regional Chairperson Cde Jeff Vilane
MKMVA Secretary General Cde Cabby Maphatsoe
Our Special Guest, Former Vice-President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, HE Mr Atiku Abubakar and his delegation;
Esteemed veterans of the MK;
Ladies and gentlemen:

I am honoured to address this occasion of the national celebrations of Mkhonto Wesizwe at emaChobeni, at iNgwavuma.

It is indeed a special privilege for me to once more salute the heroes and heroines of our struggle, whose selfless sacrifice brought us the freedom we are enjoying today.

Tomorrow the country will celebrate the National Day of Reconciliation. This is also the day on which the people?s liberation army, uMkhonto weSizwe was founded. The day has always meant various things to various groupings in our country.

For members and supporters of the ANC, the day is spent remembering our gallant men and women who sacrificed their lives to make this democracy, freedom and equality, a reality in our lifetime. Some of them lost their lives in the most brutal of the designs of the apartheid regime.

On this year in which we marked the 30th anniversary of the execution of Solomon Mahlangu, we are called upon to ensure that while working for national reconciliation and to entrench forgiveness, we must however not forget the supreme sacrifice made by our cadres so that this country could be free.

This province shed a lot of blood of revolutionaries and illustrious MK fighters, who chose to die rather than live on their knees. We salute all of them on this day.

Esteemed guests;

This year, we deliberately decided to bring the MK anniversary celebrations to rural South Africa. Our rural villages played a pivotal role in our struggle and have not been acknowledged enough.

Our struggle was not fought in urban areas only. Our struggle was also won through ordinary men and women in the deep rural areas of our country, from Ingwavuma to Sekhukhuneland.

Patriotic villagers provided the MK with all kind of support, which included shelter, food and reconnaissance information.

We salute the residents of rural areas who braved potential harassment and even death to support our cadres and guerrillas.

Indeed this liberation was won by unsung heroes and heroines who were inspired by the heroic battles of Isandlwana and the Bambatha rebellion, the Wankie and Sipolilo campaigns and other daring campaigns designed to bring forth the dawn of freedom, under difficult conditions.

In this regard, I wish to pay special tribute to the people in this area of Ingwavuma, for playing such an important role in enabling the MK to have a base and also recruit in this area.

We have come all the way to extend our gratitude to you. This area is strategically located given the proximity to the Mozambican and Swaziland borders which made it easier for our guerrillas to pass through.

The community here provided enormous support, at great personal risk and cost.

Today is also a special occasion as we are honouring the heroism of mama Nokuhamba Nyawo from this area, who was recruited into the MK at the mature age of 63, many years ago!

Indeed despite all odds, security, health and otherwise, she immersed herself in the support for the MK, not leaving her family behind.

She managed to recruit for the MK in those hazardous times. She gathered intelligence information for the guerillas and facilitated logistical supplies.

Such was the nature of the cadre bred by the MK in the course of the struggle for liberation; men and women who could assume many faces and roles all the time.

Like many people, Mama Nyawo?s family was eventually not spared the full might and brutality of the apartheid forces. But unlike many, she did not crack in the face of such vicious harassment and torture.

Through her efforts and those of many people from Ingwavuma, the MK secured a very strategic base and point of entry in the country, easily accessible from both Mozambique and Swaziland.

It was from Swaziland where the MK was able to secure the transit of significant consignment of weapons into KwaZulu and Natal in the 1980s, and it is certainly these places which dealt major blows to the apartheid system.

It is for this reason that we will always celebrate the lives of veterans like Umama Nyawo, who made this country what it is today.

It was an important day indeed on the 11th of December when mama Nyawo received the Order of Luthuli from the President of Republic, for her contribution to the struggle for freedom.

Her contribution also allows us the rare honour to recognize the contribution of rural women to the struggle for liberation.

They defied stereotypes that give an impression that women in rural areas sit at home, tend the fields and look after children without active involvement in the political or public life of the country.

We congratulate mama Nyawo for opening this window of opportunity for the recognition and encouragement of women in rural areas. We salute you mama.

Esteemed guests;

Comrades and MKMVA members;

As government we recognize the important role that MK veterans played in the struggle for the liberation, and in consolidating this hard-won democracy.

This is why government decided to expand the mandate of the Defence Department to include Military Veterans.

The creation of the new department has opened up space for more meaningful and continuous interaction with structures such as the MKMVA, so that they can have a strong input in the direction that the country is taking with regards to mainstreaming veterans into government programmes.

The Department has also been given the responsibility of working out the benefits that would befit our military veterans who have contributed immensely to our struggle for freedom.

Many find themselves destitute with no work, no medical assistance and no housing or education and training. A Ministerial Task Team we established is looking into this matter and will report to Cabinet soon.

We cannot let our military veterans to suffer endlessly when we can find ways of making interventions.

Tomorrow as we mark the national day of reconciliation, to which we remain fully committed, we will pay tribute to our veterans.

We have gone through a painful past as a people but we decided to put it all behind us and work for a non-racial, non-sexist and united South Africa.

Let us practice this reconciliation and forgiveness, and work together for a better life for all, informed by the vision of the Freedom Charter.

Comrades let me reiterate our gratitude to our people residing in rural areas for their sterling contribution to the struggle for freedom, through assisting our military wing MK during the liberation struggle, and various other means.

I thank you!