Honourable MEC Fezeka Nkomonye,
Fellow MECs,
Members of the Provincial Legislature,
Executive Mayor of the Joe Gqabi District,
Mayor of Elundini Local Municipality,
Traditional Leaders,
Bahlali base Joe Gqabi ngokubanzi,
Ladies and Gentlemen:

Namhlanje sidibene apha sizokubhiyozela iminyaka engamashumi amabini anesibhozo(28 years) sakhululeka kwingcinizelo yabamhlophe kweli lizwe. Kwanamhlanje njalo sikhumbula nemisebenzi emihle yongasekhoyo Reverend Knox John Bokwe omnye wenkcuba buchopho zamandulo. Oogxa bakhe babembiza uMdengentonga uMfundisi uBokwe. Yilonto ke silapha namhlanje sinalomincili.

Lo Masipala we Sithili iJoe Gqabi ithiywe emva kompondo zihlanjiwe wegorha lomzabalazo uQabane u Joe Nzingo Gqabi oyinzalelwane yalapha eAliwal North. Imbali yakhe ke uQabane uJoe Gqabi inde kakhulu kwaye andinakuyitsala kude nam ngoba lingatshona ilanga. Ndingathi nje siyaliqalekisa elo langa lo mhla we 31 ku July 1981, langa elo wadutyulwa ngentlaninge yee mbumbulu xa wayephuma emzini wakhe eHarare kweliya lase Zimbabwe.

Sisenesingqala ke singabantu beliPhondo ngokumka kuka Qabane uJoe Gqabi ngalo ndlela ihambisa umzimba. Kubalulekile ke ngoko ukuba simkhumbule uQabane uJoe Gqabi kuba walwela inkululeko esiyibhiyozelayo namhlanje. Sinoxanduva lokuqinisekisa ukuba siphucula ubomi babantu balapha eJoe Gqabi. Iyakwenzeka ke loo-nto xa iinkokheli ezinyuliweyo ngabantu zizimisele ekusebenzeni ngokuzimisela mihla yonke. Ubomi balapha kwesi sithili busenzima kakhulu.

The economic profile of the Joe Gqabi District is in a very bad shape. The unemployment rate is estimated at 31.4% and the contribution of the District to the Provincial GDP 3.2%. This is understandable because the Provincial economy is also constrained by the high unemployment rate which according to the latest Labour Survey Q4, 2021 released by StatsSA is at 47.1%. It means that we must rapidly drive job creation programmes using the District Development Model (DDM) as a vehicle.

In 2021, the Provincial Government rolled out a rapid infrastructure programme (Operation Khawuleza) that benefitted economically depressed rural towns in the province. Here at the Joe Gqabi District, we opened a Youth Rehabilitation Centre named after Lulama Futshane and the state-of-the-art Office Park in Aliwal North named after Themba Kojana.

The Office Parks are part of our government’s integrated approach to service delivery premised on bringing government services closer to the people. The Office Parks are housing key provincial departments that are at the coalface of service delivery: Social Development, Public Works and Education and other departments will be accommodated soon. The Themba Kojana Office Park has accommodated the Office of the Premier- the OTP wants to be where the people are so that we can have a first-hand knowledge about their challenges.

In naming these offices after the names of our fallen heroes and heroines we seek to achieve two things. Firstly, to engrave in our people’s minds, the names of their struggle heroes and heroines who emerged from their communities and dedicated their lives in pursuance of the objectives of our national liberation struggle. These leaders paid the highest premiums, and some died in the trenches and at the hands of the notorious trigger-happy apartheid police and military forces.

Programme Director, we decided to come to Ugie, this small rural town to celebrate and showcase the wonderful work that Reverend John Knox Bokwe did in this town. Reverend John Knox Bokwe was a multitalented individual- at an early and tender age of 11 years he wanted to be a clergyman having been influenced by Presbyterianism- a religious doctrine that originated in Scotland. Like any other African child his intellectual and professional dream took a detour when he met the newly arrived Missionary Dr James Steward. Reverend Bokwe worked as Dr Steward’s stable assistant and was also running errands for him and his wife.

Later, Dr Steward employed his service as his clerical assistant when he established the Kaffarian Newspaper which was commonly known as Isigidima sa Maxhosa at the time. It was during this period that his skills were honed as a journalist and writer. Dr Steward used him as a translator of Xhosa opinion pieces that were submitted by isiXhosa speaking writers. It was also during this time that Reverend Bokwe was exposed to the socio-economic issues that confronted the masses of the people in and around Alice and Eastern Cape.

It is within this context that he ended up joining Reverend John Tengo Jabuva in establishing Izimvo Zabantsundu in King William’s Town- a local newspaper that shaped and influenced the public discourse in the Eastern Cape until the late 80s. Izimvo Zabantu produced journalists like Comrade Charles Nqakula among others. It is a well-known fact that Reverend Bokwe did not stay that long at the newspaper because of the tribal tensions that he could not stomach.

He later pursued his religious dream and was ordained as a Presbyterian Minister at the age of 51. His intellectual prowess and zest became evident when he delivered sermons in the United Kingdom at the invitation of his friend in1809. Immediately after he was ordained, he moved to Ugie in 1906. Upon his arrival he realized that here in Ugie there were no schools for either Blacks or Whites.

He opened a school without government grants and built the first European school here at Ugie. Unfortunately, after hard work of many years Reverend Bokwe’s schools and churches were obliged to close under the provisions of the Native Private Location Act- an Act which outlawed African squatters- on White farms.

Programme Director, today we want to tell the whole world that we are very proud of the role that Reverend Bokwe played as an Early African Intellectual. His generation of Early African Intellectuals defied the odds.

They consistently disturbed the logic of colonialism and chose to be on the side of the oppressed African masses. They were the torch bearers and refused to be assimilated by the Western culture-they studied in the United Kingdom and across Europe for the liberation of their people.

The Early African intellectuals lived up to what Edward Said expects from an intellectual. In his book entitled: “Representation of the Intellectual: The 1993 Reith Lecture.”, Said argues that “the intellectual’s role is to represent a message or view not only to, but for the public and to do so as an outsider-someone who is not co-opted by a government or corporation.”

Bantu balapha eUgie vuyani nigcobe ngokuba kaloku nina nalayita isibane senkcubeko kwantlandlolo. As we celebrate 28 years of democracy, we commit to bring more development in this District as part of our concerted efforts to create employment and a better quality of life to our people.

We are on a mission to create new centres of economic activity in the Districts that were neglected by the apartheid regime such as the Joe Gqabi District. This sixth administration of the ANC led government is determined to improve the economic fortunes of our rural districts and we will not fail.

I Thank you.

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