16 December 2008, Mangaung, Bloemfontein
National leadership of the ANC and the Alliance,
ANC Provincial Chairperson, Comrade Ace Magashule and the provincial leadership,
Leadership of uMkhonto we Sizwe Military Veterans Association, (MKMVA),
Former Commanders and Commissars of MK,
Former combatants of the people`s army, Umkhonto we Sizwe, Lerumo la Sechaba;
Comrades and friends,
Fellow South Africans,
We bring revolutionary greetings to you all in the birthplace of the one and only congress of the people, uKhongolose Wabantu, the African National Congress.
December 16, 1961 marked a historic turning point in the history of our struggle for freedom. This was after many decades of non-violent struggle, when our people led by their congress the ANC embarked on revolutionary armed resistance, through the establishment of the people`s army uMkhonto Wesizwe. This meant that the struggle was taken to a higher level.
The 47th MK anniversary is therefore very special as we today pay a much-deserved tribute to the Luthuli Detachment. We also celebrate the life of an outstanding cadre, gallant fighter and fine soldier, Comrade Chris Tembisile Hani who was a member of the Luthuli Detachment.
Our people loved Comrade Chris. He epitomised their dreams. He represented a South Africa they wanted to see - one that was free, non-racial, democratic and just. Our icon, President Nelson Mandela described the assassination of Comrade Chris as an unforgivable crime on 10 April 1993.
He described the assassination as not just a crime against a dearly beloved son of our soil, but a crime against all the people of our country. Comrade Chris fought for peace and reconciliation.
In his address to a rally just four days before his death, he had this to say: "I do not accept people calling for war because I feel we have achieved something in this country where those who oppressed us in the past are actually talking to us and showing readiness to negotiate for democratic elections. I am saying to these comrades here that everyone should be a combatant, a fighter for peace".
The ANC has always stood for peace and reconciliation. It only embarked on the armed struggle when all avenues were closed for a possible peaceful solution.
The MK Manifesto, released on 16 December 1961 states this very clearly: "The time comes in the life of any nation when there remains only two choices - submit or fight. That time has now come in South Africa.
"We shall not submit and we have no choice but to hit back by all means within our power in defence of our people, our future and our freedom``.
MK was one of four interrelated pillars of our struggle. These were the building of the underground network, mass action internally, the expansion of MK inside South Africa, and international mobilisation to isolate the apartheid regime.
The formation of MK occurred on fertile ground given the political activity of the 50s, the Defiance Campaign, the Congress of the People and launch of the Freedom Charter and many other milestones in our history.
The enemy responded viciously, through the Sharpeville massacre of March 1960, the bannings of organisations and the arrest of our leaders, including the MK`s first commander, Comrade Nelson Mandela and later other members of the High Command.
The Luthuli Detachment that we are honouring today, participated in one of the most daring MK campaigns. In 1967, ANC and Zimbabwean ZAPU fighters crossed the Zambezi into the then Rhodesia to open a way home for MK. The MK-ZAPU force fought fearlessly and fiercely against the combined South African and Ian Smith forces.
We pay homage to all our heroes who fell on Zimbabwean soil. They refused to retreat, and fought the enemy to the last bullet, demonstrating the high degree of heroism, dedication and commitment of MK soldiers.
South African children, black and white, need to know about these heroes who sacrificed everything so that the people of South Africa could live in freedom, unity, harmony and dignity in a non-racial democracy.
We also pay tribute to members of the Luthuli detachment who lie buried in several countries in the continent.
We will always cherish the comradeship and friendship of our fraternal allies in the continent, who stood with us during those trying times.
It is for this reason that we have, in line with Polokwane resolutions, met with our allies the MPLA in Angola, CCM in Tanzania, FRELIMO in Mozambique, SWAPO in Namibia and others.
We want to ensure that the relationship forged in the trenches yields results for all our peoples in peacetime. We will undertake a similar visit to Zimbabe once the political stalemate in Zimbabwe is resolved.
We cannot forget Algeria and Ethiopia amongst countries that were always there for us in the continent during hard times.
We have always been internationalist in our outlook, and have always benefited from solidarity beyond our borders. That is why the ANC was outraged by the attack on people from other African countries in June this year.
Members of the Luthuli Detachment have related stories of how Zimbabweans provided them with food and water in the bush, risking their lives, for our struggle.
The same happened in other countries. We should in time tell detailed stories about how our brothers and sisters in the continent sacrificed their lives for our freedom.
We can talk about the Maseru massacre, Matola raid, bombings in Botswana, Zimbabwe, Swaziland, Angola and Zambia among others. They suffered for our freedom. They did not call us names.
Therefore, xenophobia or any other form of prejudice against people from other countries has no place in the ANC and in our country. Former MK comrades must take the lead in informing our people about the support and protection we received from our brothers and sisters in the African continent.
We applaud the sterling work of South African doctors, nurses and other health professionals who are working day and night to attend to Zimbabweans affected by Cholera in hospitals in Limpopo, near our border with Zimbabwe.
We are continuing to put pressure on our Zanu-PF comrades and the MDC formations to agree on a unity government without further delay. We are concerned that they are taking longer to finalise the agreement while the humanitarian situation is deteriorating. We have a responsibility to push them all in the right direction, and will continue to do so.
Comrades, on this occasion, we also dip our revolutionary banners in deferment to the undying spirit of Comrades who were the first MK combatants to be hanged by the Pretoria regime, comrades Vuyisile Mini, Wilton Khayingo, Cde Bhongco, Zinakile Mkhaba and others. We also recall those from other generations who went to the gallows proclaiming Victory or Death!
We pay tribute to all our combatants who took part in various operations. In 1991 we took a difficult decision to suspend the armed struggle. This was in recognition of the fact that we were moving towards lasting peace and stability.
We consciously and correctly adopted the path of unity and reconciliation in 1994. We continue to work towards that goal of national unity and perfect harmony.
In that vein, as we mark MK day, we also recognise the pain of families whose loved ones died as MK engaged the Apartheid State in various parts of the country.
As South Africans we all went through enormous suffering. Without forgetting the past, we must move into the future together as one nation, united in our diversity and ready to continue building our country, facing all challenges together.
Comrades, the ANC is a learning organisation. We have learnt from the mistakes of the past 15 years, especially the manner in which we may have, to some degree, neglected the people`s movement in our focus on governance.
>From 1994, we had to focus primarily on transforming the State and the country, and to deliver on the basic needs of our people. We have to a large extent done well. Thousands of people have water, electricity, roads, public health care, access to education, houses and other basic services.
However, we may not have balanced our governance and party work well. In this context, all who led the ANC in the past 15 years should take collective responsibility for any possible weaknesses, as well take credit for the successes.
The various problems that developed could have been averted and some of our key structures and sectors would not have been neglected as they have been.
Our veterans, for example, need particular attention. On several occasions, MK members have staged sit-ins at ANC Headquarters or provincial offices in order to bring their grievances to the attention of the leadership.
Many former combatants have been integrated into government structures. However, there is a significant number who are struggling to make ends meet. Their welfare and proper social and economic integration was raised sharply at the ANC National Policy Conference. We hereby direct all our national and provincial structures to accelerate the implementation of Polokwane conference resolutions relating to uMkhonto Wesizwe Military Veterans Association, (MKMVA).
The 52nd national conference mandated our structures led by the NEC to address all the issues raised by former combatants including welfare and reintegration of MK military veterans into civilian life.
Structures should also ensure that MKMVA participates in all programmes and structures of the ANC. Comrades, MK was established to defend our people and hasten the path to freedom. Now, 47 years later, we call on our former combatants to defend the ANC from attempts to sow disunity and confusion in its ranks.
We must defend our hard-won democracy and our country`s Constitution. We must defend our democratic institutions and ensure that they are never ever used to fight factional political battles. We must defend the peace, harmony and stability that was achieved in 1994. We must ensure that all our people, be they Basotho or Afrikaans, amaZulu or AmaXhosa, English or Jewish, enjoy the fruits of liberation that was won in 1994.
We must defend our heritage and the legacy of our heroes, Nelson Mandela, Oliver Tambo, Govan Mbeki, Ahmed Kathrada, Walter Sisulu, Florence Mophosho and many others. As part of this organisational work we must as former MK combatants be at the heart of the establishment of street and village committees and re-establishment of ANC volunteer corps. We will be launching our Manifesto in East London on January 10, and also celebrate the 97th anniversary of the congress of the people, Ukhongolose Wabantu, the ANC.
We will continue spreading a message of hope for a better life. Only the ANC can deliver true unity and prosperity in this country. We said so about liberation and freedom when a few doubted. Comrades, it is our honour and great privilege, to posthumously bestow on Comrade Chris Hani, the Isithwalandwe/Seaparankoe Award, the highest honour that the ANC can confer on an individual.
This valiant fighter deserves this honour. We are all witnesses to his heroism, selflessness and dedication to this nation and to the congress of the people, uKhongolose waBantu, the African National Congress.
Comrade Chris was an embodiment of the Alliance, having belonged to the ANC, SACP and also MK simultaneously. He rose through the ranks of all structures, and was never parachuted into leadership positions. He moved through the ranks of the ANC until he was elected to the NEC. He grew in the SACP until he was elected General Secretary. In MK he started out as an ordinary combatant until he became a National Commissar.
He was also experienced in combat, having participated in the Wankie Campaign in Zimbabwe. It is not just by chance that Cde Chris has been singled out for this Award. May the name of Chris Hani inspire our youth to follow in his footsteps, and dedicate their lives to the service of humanity and to the success of our beautiful country.
Comrades, it is within the ANC where our cadres and volunteers will rise and fall in defence of our people, our country, our democracy and our country`s Constitution.