Address by Jacob Zuma at the YCL rally in commemoration of the Soweto uprisings 30th Anniversary

Category: Speeches

17 June 2006, Khayelitsha Stadium, Cape Town

ANC Provincial Secretary, Mcebisi Skwatsha, and the Provincial Leadership of the ANC,
YCL Secretary General, Buti Manamela,
National Chairperson of YCL, David Masondo, and the Leadership of the Young Communist League,
Provincial Secretary of the SACP, Khaya Magaxa, and the entire Leaders of the Tripartite Alliance here present,
Members of the Young Communist League and members of the ANC Youth League, Friends and comrades,

Comrades, this year is a year of many landmarks!! Comrades as we meet today to celebrate one of the historic days of our struggle we should bear in mind that we are faced with serious challenges as a progressive and revolutionary force in our country. Challenges that demand our political clarity and unwavering commitment to the cause of our people in general and the poorest of the poor in particular. As we celebrate the heroes and heroines who made the supreme sacrifices on June 16, 1976 we must bear in mind that we carry a heavy responsibility of ensuring that what they sacrificed for is achieved.

We should also remind ourselves that as we celebrate the 30th Anniversary of the Oswego Uprisings we are also commemorating the 100 years since the great Bhambatha war took place in 1906, where our people in the last armed resistance in our country took up arms in opposition to the introduction of poll tax under the leadership of Inks Bhambatha ka Mancinza Zuni.

This year also marks the 60th Anniversary of that heroic mine workers strike where over 100 000 miners downed their tools in their fight against exploitation and in demand for better wages. Their struggles were to inspire successive generations of workers to fight for better wages and mobilise them to the struggle against the apartheid system itself. Great was their strength and courageous were their actions!
I said this is the year of landmarks!! In the same breath this year we also celebrate the 50th Anniversary of that historic and heroic march of women to the Union Buildings on August 9, 1956; where over 50 000 women of our country marched against the hated system of pass laws. We salute them for their bravery and courage! We are gathered here today to celebrate the 30th Anniversary of the Soweto Uprisings, when the students and the youth of our country turned the tide of history and the course of our revolution forever.

What began as a peaceful protest against the imposition of Afrikaans as a medium of instruction in their schools became a national protest campaign against the system of poor and oppressive education and a challenge to the apartheid ideology itself.

Today, we remember those young boys and girls who challenged the might of apartheid and faced police bullets and batons with their bare hands and triumphed against them.

Their sacrifices will forever be remembered by all peace and freedom loving people of our country. We remember the countless and selfless sacrifices that they made so that today we are enjoying the fruits of freedom they laid their lives down for.

We remember and salute the thousands of that youth generation which participated on the historic events which led to that day.

The most important thing that the Soweto Uprisings of June 16 1976 taught us was the importance of struggle, the importance of waging a concerted struggle against an enemy that thought was superior. Today this means that, while we may have challenges, we know that because we triumphed on June 16, 1976, we will also triumph against whatever challenges that exist.

The sacrifices that the young people of Soweto and many other townships made, as the uprising spread throughout the country, ensured that confidence was built amongst the people and the inevitability of freedom became evident.

What those young people of our country did when they challenged the might of the apartheid army and it was found to be wanting was that no matter how powerful the enemy is, if your cause is just and theirs is unjust victory is certain.

Therefore, when we celebrate June 16 1976 we also remember the contributions of all generations of our youth, in the struggle for liberation, as the youth of our country has always been in the forefront of the struggle. South Africa has been fortunate to have had during each historical epoch, outstanding and revolutionary youth in its history.

From the 1944 youth generation which formed the ANC Youth League, of
Nelson Mandela, Muziwakhe Lembede, Oliver Tambo, Walter Sisulu, Lionel Majombozi and others, up until the first recruits of uMkhonto we Sizwe combatants who participated in the Wankie-Sipolilo Campaign as part of the Luthuli Detachment which was the first MK unit to come into direct armed combat with the apartheid forces, the youth were central in the struggle for national liberation.

This baton was taken over by the 1976, Soweto youth generation which produced martyrs and struggle icons like Solomon Mahlangu, Barney Molokoane and countless others, who took the struggle to unparalleled levels by swelling the ranks of MK. This is the detachment that Oliver Tambo called the June 16 Detachment, this thread was not broken as the “young lions” of the 1980’s took struggle even further by responding to the calls made by our movement to “make the country ungovernable and make apartheid unworkable”. The militancy of the youth was once more cemented and evident through their brave and heroic actions.

The youth of our country were yet to strike another fatal blow in the face of apartheid when they played a central role in the 1994 first democratic elections of South Africa, when they voted the ANC into power with an overwhelming majority. Since then the youth of our country has been integrally involved in the reconstruction and development of their country from the ashes and legacy of apartheid.

In all of these brave deeds of the youth of our country they were ably guided by the ANC as their national liberation movement, in alliance with the South African Communist Party. The importance of unity within this revolutionary alliance had been carefully built and cemented along many years of struggle. The ANC and the SACP survived numerous attempts from successive apartheid regimes to sow seeds of disunity among them. Speaking of this alliance and its role the then ANC President Oliver Tambo on the occasion of the 60th Anniversary of the SACP said:
“The relationship between the ANC and the SACP is not an accident of history, nor is it a natural and inevitable development. For, as we can see, similar relationships have not emerged in other parts of Africa. To be true to history, we must concede that there have been difficulties as well as triumphs along our path, as, traversing many decades; our two organisations have converged towards a shared strategy of struggle. Ours is not merely a paper alliance, created at conference tables and formalised through the signing of documents and representing only an agreement of leaders. Our alliance is a living organism that has grown out of struggle. We have built it out of our separate and common experiences.”
The words of Oliver Tambo uttered in 1981 are still relevant to all of us today when some people doubt the relevance and the need of this strategic alliance, they reverberate and find a common understanding amongst us about the importance of the ANC-SACP-COSATU Alliance.

Oliver Tambo further stated that: “Today the ANC and the SACP have common objectives in the eradication of the oppressive and exploitative system that prevails in the country. We share a strategic perspective of the task that lies ahead. Our organizations have been able to agree on fundamental strategies and tactical positions, whilst retaining our separate identities. For, though we are united in struggle. we are not the same. Our history has shown that we are a powerful force because our organizations are mutually reinforcing.”
I believe that even today what Oliver Tambo said is still relevant, in that while we have achieved the liberation of all South African people, we still face the common challenges as members of the alliance in relation to the eradication of poverty and the creation of a better life for all our people. That struggle still needs our common approach as to how we can achieve our objectives.

This is particularly so when we have to address the challenges that face the youth of our country. While the major task that faced the youth of the 1976 generation was the attainment of freedom, the challenges that face the youth today are diverse and many, they relate more to ensuring that the youth enjoy the benefits of freedom. They relate to ensuring that the youth get access to economic opportunities that are provided by the new political dispensation.

The role of the Young Communist League and the ANC Youth League and indeed the entire progressive youth movement in our country is to ensure that they work together in dealing with these issues. You have to cooperate in ensuring that ordinary youth are mobilised around these common challenges. The reason that the ANC managed to achieve all the victories that it did is because it could rely on the strong support of its alliance partners.

Health Lifestyle Comrades, the struggle against HIV and AIDS continues in our country. Our country has one of the most comprehensive programes of HIV and AIDS prevention, treatment, support and research. I have campaigned and advocated for prevention, care treatment and support for those infected and affected by HIV for many years, and will continue to do so, especially having learnt from my own recent error in this regard. I reiterate the message I had given to the youth of our country over the years. I urge you to heed the prevention messages, and protect yourselves from the disease, and fighting the stigma attached to it. Given to the youth over the years. I urge you to heed the prevention, and protect yourselves from the disease, while also supporting those living with the disease, and fighting the stigma attached to it.

Let us heed the ABC prevention message. And I would like to add to these 3 letters, T for testing so that we can know our status. The disease can be defeated if we take the prevention messages to heart. I urge you to lead this struggle. As young soldiers, you cannot afford to fall in this battle. You are our hope and future.

It would also be important to look at means and strategies of maximising your efforts in ensuring that you deal with the issues of skills development for all young people, because it is only through that way that we will be in a position to reduce the levels of unemployment and poverty that seriously affect the youth, who are mostly unemployed and possess no skills.

My message to you today is that, the challenges that you face today as young people are not insurmountable, history has proven that there have been even greater challenges that were faced by the youth before you. You can tackle these challenges and overcome them if you are united and you have unity of purpose and action and have a common approach to them.

In dealing with the challenges that face you remember the inspiring words that Moses Kotane said in 1968 in a statement to the youth of South Africa. This great revolutionary who was affectionately known as Malume Kotane was an outstanding leader of the South African Communist Party. He was the General Secretary of the SACP for 39 years. One of the longest serving General Secretary of the Party who saw the party through different phases of our struggle and led it with distinction. He was a real African organic intellectual that towered above many in the political landscape of this country. One of the most highly respected revolutionaries within the ranks of the broader liberation movement and also respected by communists at the international arena.

He was also one of the prominent National Leaders of the African National Congress and its long standing National Executive Committee Member and one of the ANC’s long serving Treasurer General during the most difficult period of our movement.

He was one of our amazing leaders who successfully managed to combine theory and practice in the true sense of the word. He made an outstanding contribution during the critical debate about the nature of the trade union movement needed for the special South African conditions. A debate that gave birth to our current revolutionary trade union federation starting from the establishment of SACTU.

He also made a telling contribution with regard to how the South African communists’ party had to adapt to new conditions of operating underground. This great leader had this to say to our youth, “At this hour of destiny your country and your people need you. The future of South Africa is yours and it will be what you make of it’. On the other hand, a people, a country, a Movement that does not value its youth does not deserve its future.”
Such inspiring words should remind you that you have huge responsibilities in your shoulders and you should make every effort to ensure that you lead the youth correctly with dedication and courage as the youth generation of 1976 did.

When we honour and salute the greatest sacrifices that the Soweto youth generation made for the liberation of our country I am sure that you will agree with me that the greatest honour and respect you can show to that youth generation which we are celebrating 30 years this year would be to ensure that you re-double your efforts in addressing the challenges that face the youth of our country today.

Comrades, given the fact that today, on this important day in our calendar I am talking to the young communists, I would like to raise one key challenge that face all of us today particularly the progressive and revolutionary forces. This challenge relates to the poor state of political debate in our country. It is my view that the forces on the left in this country have not succeeded to give leadership on a variety of political issues.

We seem to have abandoned the political discourse to some forces that are not helping the country to move in the right direction. We seem to have allowed the political discourse to be influenced by certain agendas rather than honest political debate. We seem to be rather timid and shy to boldly engage and defend the correct position. For an example, we do not write much on the feature columns of the print media to express our correct ideas. We appear less on the TV screens whilst political analysts and opinion makers of different political persuasions dominate these screens and the electronic media.

This situation in my view leads to a false impression being created and inaccurate political and economic analysis being made without them being challenged. Whilst this is happening the left forces are not responding appropriately and are not pro-active. If allowed to continue the situation could lead to all sorts of political self-promoting elements to take us back a slippery and re-actionary situation with no clarity as to which direction our country is taking. In other words comrades I am saying there is a lack of serious ideological debate in the country. This opens up a vacuum which ends up being filled by political gossips and agendas.

Comrades, I am raising these issues in this manner because I am talking to communists who over many decades have helped to bring clarity on all political issues of the day. You cannot surrender the political and ideological arena to forces who carry the agendas we do not know.

For an example, when the alliance is attacked by these forces you do not seem to be able to respond effectively to clarify the situation. When our policies are criticised by people who do not put alternative policies better than ours we do not respond to them effectively.

Is our lack of response as a result of the lack of clarity on our side with regard to the issues that are often discussed in the public political discourse? Or is it because we are now too shy to state our own case, or is it because we have been absorbed into the mainstream thinking of the forces that do not have the interests of the poor majority at heart that we have always stood for?
Comrades, is the discourse within the progressive and revolutionary forces taking place in an appropriate manner? Is the debate among ourselves helping to clarify the issues so that we are able to engage the greater public without fear of contradictions?
Comrades, these are questions and challenges that I would like to leave with you as young communists so that you can engage with them. We need to answer them honestly and correctly so that we can without any fear or doubt as the broad progressive movement provide the leadership that is expected of us. If we fail to do this, history might judge us harshly.

Comrades, we must remember that it us who led the broad struggle to liberate our country, to bring about freedom and democracy. It is now us again who have the responsibility of leading the forces to defend our freedom and democracy acting in unity in every respect. In this respect and in honour of our fallen heroes and heroines who fell on June 16, 1976 and others in the course of the struggle, the young communists are expected to be in the forefront! You must never lower your guards, be vigilant at all material times.

Comrades, I am confident that you can meet these challenges and you will triumph in the struggle to build a South Africa that truly belongs to all.

Amandla!! Awethu!!
Viva The Young Communist League Viva!! Viva The ANC Youth League Viva!!
Thank you.