Mayor of the Instika Yethu Local Municipality,
Representatives from Harmony Gold,
Invited Guest and all present here today.
Allow me to greet you on behalf of the ANC in the Eastern Cape on this important memorial lecture which is held as part of the 54th Commemoration of our struggle icon, Cde Vuyisile Mini. I also wish to congratulate the Intsika Yethu Local Municipality who in partnership with Harmony Gold today donated school uniform to 750 learners in 15 schools. This is best way we can honour the memory of Cde Vuyisile Mini and many other South Africans that paid the ultimate price in the fight for a free South Africa.
The challenges we face in South Africa require a decisive government working with a progressive private sector that is willing to respond to the call to form part of the reconstruction and development of the country. The Eastern Cape is one of the provinces that is confronted by structural problems such as uneven spatial development as a result of our colonial and apartheid past. The solution therefore cannot not only come from government, but as well from the private sector, NGO and other sections of society.
It is in this context that I am honoured to be invited to this memorial lecture and the handover ceremony to the 15 schools. Programme Director allow me therefore to reflect briefly on the life and times of one of the first ANC members to be executed by the apartheid government.
uTat’ uVuyisile Mini was born in 1920 and later grew in up in Port Elizabeth after his father moved to PE to be a dockworker. Inspired by the trade union activism of his father, Mini worked as a labourer and trade union organiser shortly after he completed school.
In 1951 he joined the ANC at a time where the association with the National Liberation Movement could lead to imprisonment, forced exile or death. As such, in 1952 he was jailed for three months for participating in the Defiance Campaign against unjust apartheid laws. This is an important lesson to learn about Mini and many others that joined and belonged to the ANC during the dark days of apartheid particularly in the context of many members within our ranks who today join the ANC because it is a governing organisation. Mini joined the ANC without expectation of material gain or self-enrichment, a principle we ought to embody as this current generation.
uTat’ uMini was one of the defendants in the Treason Trial of 1956 and was discharged in 1958. He was popularly known as the organiser of the unorganised workers and in 1960 became the South African Congress of Trade Unions secretary for the Eastern Cape. He was tasked by SACTU to organize the metal workers and subsequently became the Metal Workers’ Union Secretary.
He and Stephen Tobia founded the African Painting and Building Union and he was also a founder member of the Port Elizabeth Stevedoring and Dockworkers’ Union, which organised one of the longest protests for a wage increase, and fought against the use of convicts as cheap scab labour.
The campaign against scab labour, organised by SACTU and the ANC, was so intense that the International Transport Workers Federation threatened to call on workers throughout the world not to touch any South African goods. This led to the companies panicking and hastily withdrawing the convict labour from the harbour. But when the workers were awarded an increase of 15 pence a day, the Minister of Labour vetoed this and no increases were allowed.
uTat’ uMini was one of the first recruit of the People’s Army – uMkhonto Weziswe and became a member of the Eastern Cape High Command. In 1963 he was arrested together with Cde Wilson Khayinga and Zinakile Mkaba. They were charged with 17 counts of sabotage and other political crimes including complicity in the January 1963 death of an alleged police informer. uTat’ uMini and his two comrades were offered their lives in exchange for giving information about sabotage activity in their area.
Listen to what uTat’ uMini had to say in reflecting on the offer he was made in exchange of his freedom:
“I am presently awaiting execution at Pretoria Central Gaol having been sentenced to death at the beginning of the year. On October 2, 1964, Captain Geldenhuys and two other policemen came to see me. They asked me if I had been informed that my appeal had been dismissed. I told them I was not interested to know from them what my advocate said. They then said there was still a chance for me to be saved as they knew I was the big boss of the movement in the Eastern Cape. I must just tell them where the detonators and revolvers were, and they would help me. I refused. They then asked me about Wilton Mkwayi (subsequently sentenced to life imprisonment) and whether I was prepared to give evidence against Mkwayi, whom they had now arrested. I said no, I was not. When they asked would I make the Amandla Ngawethu salute when I walked the last few paces to the gallows, I said yes.”
Such was the character of uTat’ uMini, a loyal freedom fighter who was prepared to sacrifice for others, who knew that his freedom meant nothing so long as the majority was oppressed by the minority in their own land of birth. How many of us today can refuse this offer? Can we confidently say that we too would be like uTat’ uMini and sacrifice ourselves and our freedom for the freedom of others? These are questions we must ponder on especially in the context of the problems that we are confronted with today.
During this period of heightened activism, he had joined the Communist Party which was the first organisation to be banned under the suppression of communism act. He was arrested in the 1960 state of emergency, and on his release continued with the work of organising workers and the underground work of the ANC to take forward a decision to pursue the armed struggle.
In 1961 he arrived in Johannesburg to be briefed about the MK action that was to be launched on 16 December.
On this day 54 years ago our heroes, Vuyisile Mini, Wilson Khayingo and Zinakile Mkaba were hanged to death by the brutal apartheid system.
The three freedom fighters were arrested on 10 May 1963. In March 1964, they were sentenced to death. Mini, Khayingo and Mkaba were executed in the Pretoria Central Prison (now Kgosi Mampuru II Correctional Service). They were followed by Nolali Mpentse, Daniel Ndongeni and Samuel Jonas who were later sent to the gallows.
The reports of corruption, particularly in the public sector should pain us as we remember those who paid ultimate price for the freedom we enjoy today. We should be furious when we hear stories of individuals that loot state resources when we think of those that were hanged by the apartheid government for their refusal to give in to illegal minority rule.
We must end corruption and isolate all individuals that are guilty of the act irrespective of the position one holds in government or in the movement. The most befitting way to commemorate the life of uTat’ uMini is to end corporate capture of the state and ensure that those elected in positions of government represent and prioritise the interests of the people above business interests. We must renew our movement as a tool for transformation in the hands of the people. We must serve the People first and advance the struggle to overcome the legacies left by racial oppression, class supper-exploitation and patriarchal relations of power.
We are the Home of Legends, the Province that gave birth to struggle icons such as uTat’ uMini, uTat’ uMandela no Mam’ uSisulu whom we have declared 2018 as the year to celebrate their lives as they would have turned 100 if they were still alive. We must emulate the values and principles that these struggle icons displayed till they were no more.
Programme director, we must agree that we cannot continue to pride ourselves as the Home of Legends when the Eastern Cape is still the lowest in terms of the development indicators. We cannot call ourselves the Home of Legends when thousands of people that are born and bread in this province continue to out-migrate to other provinces in search of better opportunities. We need to change the profile of the Eastern Cape, iphondo lethu alishwatyulwelanga, it is our own subjective weaknesses that make us to be unable to radically transform the Eastern Cape.
At our recent investment conference, R290 Billion was announced as investments that have been attracted as part of government’s efforts to end the investment strike in South Arica. While we appreciate the investments from Mercedec Benz, Multi Choice, Aspen and Nestle, we must be worried at the fact that not even R20 Billion of the R290 billion will be coming to the Eastern Cape.
We need to create conditions that will attract investment in the province. We need to invest in infrastructure development so as attract businesses to invest in our Province. The state of our roads and inadequate infrastructure are indeed one of the reasons why we are unable to attract investment in the Eastern Cape. We need to promote a culture of public and private partnerships to resolve the challenges that we face as a province such as the partnership between Harmony Gold and Intsika Yethu Local Municipality.
Let us work together to do more and ensure that we all work towards a united, non-racial, non-sexist, democratic and prosperous South Africa. Let us honour the contribution of uTat’ uMini by recommitting ourselves to serve the people selflessly without expectation of material and personal gain.
Today we remember a giant, who was a singer and a composer of great pedigree, who took the struggle for liberation to the choirs that he used to sing in.
During the Defiance Campaign Comrade Mini also composed songs that greatly inspired other freedom volunteers during that period among them the song “Mayihambe le vangeli, Mayigqib’ilizwe lonke” (let this gospel spread and be known worldwide).
This mixture of music and struggle also symbolized the spirit of the times, the 1950’s are still known as the period of greatest musical compositions and creativity among the oppressed people of our country.
Comrades Mini, Mkaba and Khayingo went to the gallows singing freedom songs that Cde Mini had composed and greatly inspired other prisoners, displaying great courage and strength in the face of adversity.
We owe to them to dare not fail the people.
I am deeply honoured and privileged to have been invited to form part of this important memorial lecture and handover ceremony.
Thank you very much!