Ginwala Reflects on SA Society Today During Lecture at UKZN
‘I am ashamed of the poverty around us, the growing difference between rich and poor and the despair that leads people to tear down and burn what little they have,’ ANC stalwart and former Speaker in the National Assembly, Dr Frene Ginwala, said in a Lecture on UKZN’s Westville campus.
Ginwala was delivering the 7th Chief Albert Luthuli Memorial Lecture in which she captivated the gathering with an emotional and thought-provoking reflection on the liberation struggle. The theme of the presentation was: “For Tomorrow Belongs to Those who Prepare for it Today”.
She asked: ‘What has happened to the values which the ANC always stood for and which Chief Luthuli exemplified? We need to do more than pay lip service to them. All leaders at every level and ANC members need to promote and live by them.’
Giving hope after the serious views raised, Ginwala spoke of the recently established “Integrity Committee” – ‘together with this Corruption Watch body, every citizen can start mending the fractures in our society. In a sustainable democracy the responsibility of all citizens goes beyond casting a ballot ... it requires action to promote the improvements we want for ourselves, for our people and for our country.’
The Lecture, held in partnership with the Department of Arts and Culture (DAC) and the Luthuli Foundation, forms part of the National Legacy Project.
In her address Ginwala took the audience on a journey that touched on her personal experience as a member of the ANC and of the “long and difficult road” that led to the birth of a democracy.
She spared no attention to detail and depth in her story, conveying a strong message of reflection on the legacy of Chief Luthuli and the preservation of the values he envisioned for a free, non-racial and democratic South Africa. She spoke of what was lost, what was achieved and of its significance to the present day.
‘For over 150 years, issues linked to the franchise such as who should be allowed to vote and who should be excluded, what the qualification for the franchise should be; and which electorate system should be used, have all been part of the contested terrain that bedeviled our country. We have only to consider the lead up this year to the 2014 elections, these past months, to realise that variations of old debates, are now being revived,’ said Ginwala.
She told of the history of South Africa’s struggle with White domination; the hegemony that was once established over African people by Dutch and British colonisers, the abolition of slavery, the bloody conflicts that followed between the Dutch and Africans, and the introduction of indentured Indian labour, calling it “a case of one step forward and two steps backward”.
She explained how doors slowly began to open for “Non-whites”; the formation of political organisations, such as Imbumbe Yama Afrika, and the South African Native Congress, the start of newspapers and of African political journalism. She told of how Martin Luthuli, uncle of Albert Luthuli, advocated for racial equality, quoting him directly: ‘I think myself that it is time we had a voice in parliament’, and on his view about how members should be elected, ‘by white people and by natives’.
‘Martin Luthuli never went to Parliament. It took a further 90 years before any African, man or woman, was elected to the South African Parliament - I think the loss was that of the whole country.’
Ginwala described the avarice of British imperialism that came into play with the discovery of precious minerals and how this further entrenched racism. She outlined the era of apartheid - the restrictions, violence and repression it introduced and how that repression served to unite Black people.
She also took the audience through the formation of the ANC and the series of events that followed which served to establish her role in the struggle for liberation. She fought back tears as she reflected on her involvement in the ANC’s external mission that led to her exile from South Africa for 31 years.
On the Umkhonto we Sizwe combatants, Ginwala remarked about how a mission group was once given the name the “Luthuli detachment” by Oliver Tambo. ‘And so were born the soldiers of Luthuli’.
Ginwala shared with the audience her first encounter with Chief Luthuli in 1960, a significant meeting which helped advocate for the international condemnation of apartheid.
In her role as a journalist, Ginwala interviewed the then banned and restricted, Luthuli, about events of the time. The recording she taped was then broadcast in Trafalgar Square in London and elsewhere, calling for the boycott of South African products and was part of what sparked the ‘world’s largest solidarity movement’.
She commented on the ‘serious problems in our country. We have not yet been able to bring about improvements to the extent and as quickly as we had promised. We still live in segregated areas, divided not by laws but by wealth.’
She spoke emotionally of her concerns regarding issues of poverty, education, health and housing, and lashed out at the growing rate of violence against women and of violent crime.
Deputy Minister of Arts and Culture, Dr Joe Phaahla welcomed the audience and spoke of the initiatives taken by the DAC to preserve the legacy of Chief Luthuli. The old house where Luthuli lived in Groutville, Stanger, had been restored and was now a national museum, a sculpture of Luthuli stood in the Kwadukuza municipality grounds and Luthuli’s grave was to be unveiled as a National Heritage Site.
He reflected on preceding Luthuli Lectures; three of which were held at UKZN and some delivered by highly-esteemed statesmen - Thabo Mbeki, Kenneth Kaunda, Joaquim Chissano and Jacob Zuma.
Dr Albertina Luthuli, daughter of Chief Luthuli, thanked Ginwala for her words, she said, ‘These lectures are meant to connect all of us, the veterans of the struggle and the born-frees.’
Luthuli encouraged the audience to follow in the footsteps of her father, ‘As long as you can define and respect certain values, values that my father and the other leaders envisioned, we will be a great nation.’
The event ended with an unveiling of a painted portrait of Chief Luthuli, presented as a gift to Ginwala.
- Sejal Desai