Honouring the memory of a veteran of our struggle Doctor Mohammed Chota Motala

Prof Karodia founder CEO
Mama Rabia Motala and Motala family Ngomane family
Our stalwart Ahmed Kathrada Cde Mosie Moola, Jerry Coovadia Trueman Magubane
Ministers Pravin Gordhan. Mbulelo Magwanishe Yunus Carrim
Professors, academics and staff of MANCOSA
Ladies and gentlemen

Congratulations on your achievement of 20 years bring the light of education and spreading your footprint in South Africa and beyond our borders into our continent and beyond.

Our country’s successful struggle for freedom and democracy is one of the most dramatic stories of our time. The racial tyranny of apartheid ended with a negotiated transition to a non-racial democracy but not without a personal cost to thousands of men, women and youth who gave their lives for a democratic South Africa. One of those men was Chota Motala.

Thank you for inviting me to speak at the MANCOSA Graduate School of Business

I take this opportunity to congratulate MANCOSA in honouring the memory of a true hero of our struggle whose commitment towards the community was selfless and whose sacrifice crafted a path to a truly non -racial and democratic South Africa. I was moved when his wife Mama Rabia Motala unveiled a plaque and believe this to be a fitting tribute to the people’s doctor.

In remembering this unique man, who spent countless hours not only fighting for democracy, but who also spent countless hours attending to the medical needs of the poor and the needy. We will remember him not only for his compassion and humility but also as a man whose steely determination towards a democratic South Africa contributed to our democracy today.

Dr Motala was born in Dundee in KwaZulu-Natal, trained as medical doctor in Bombay in India, from 1939 to 1947. His political views and dedication to the struggle was not only shaped by racial discrimination in South Africa.
Comrade Chota lived at the time when people of India were deeply engaged in the struggle for decolonization against Britain under the influence of the Great Mahatma Gandhi and Jawarlal Nehru. He lived through this lifetime bond that developed between the people of India and people of South Africa.

He understood in a unique way, the real meaning and depth of what we call ” congress traditions” in the context of both India and South Africa.

Because of the confidence Chota Motala had in his community and his people, he knew for certain that change was unavoidable, the victory would surely come and that freedom could never be postponed forever.

Comrade Chota returned to South Africa and was one of first two Black doctors in Pietermaritzburg. When I returned from exile in 1991, during the peak of apartheid violence, he was amongst the leaders who guided the programs to save many activists who faced attacks even inside the hospitals and had to work with health workers to save them, moving them between different institutions.

Working together with other veterans and activists such as Comrade Harry Gwala, A S Chetty and others in violence torn Natal Midlands, they helped to mould younger leaders during a difficult time. Chota was a diplomat par excellence, with deep love for politics and engaged us in deep analyses of our complex political transition and balancing the radical approach of Comrade Harry Gwala, who was himself a brilliant politician, an orator and a teacher.

I remember several occasions during his last days; Comrade Chota would sit up on his bed and engage in heavy political discussions with visiting comrades, offering his views and guidance despite the fact that he was confined to bed by ill health. This often surprised his dear wife who knew how much suffering he was going through. We must pay tribute as well to Mama Motala for her unwavering support and for opening her house to all activists during those difficult days of our struggle. Of course many of us had incentive to visit her house–breyani! We thank you Mama.

Today, our people have put us in positions of power and now, more than ever, we need to emulate the examples of this true patriot and stalwart of our movement. We should respect his teaching that we should dedicate ourselves to the task of faithfully serving our people, and to always remain loyal to the teachings of Ubuntu or nation building.

Those of us who are fortunate to have seen the birth of the new and democratic South Africa, enjoying the freedom to which Chota dedicated his life, should continue to uphold the humane values that defined his life and leadership, knowing that we are living out ideals that will never perish because of their moral force.
Epitomising the inclusive nature of our beliefs Chota respected all people and was prepared to work with all communities so that all our people could have an equal place in society. In paying tribute to him, Goolam Vahed wrote,

“Motala was tireless in his service to the community; he never gave up on his medical practice. Younger political activists Yusuf Bhamjee and Yunus Carrim, who are now both national parliamentarians, recall his treating scores of victims of political violence. They say that, during the Seven Day War of 1990, it is estimated that he and his partners treated over 2 000 victims of violence.

This is the epitome of the spirit of Ubuntu. Stalwarts like Chota Motala who saw diversity as strength and who made great contributions in enriching lives of others.

Chota, besides being an activist of note, has made his own unique contribution to the development of our society. We need to move together as one people united in our belief that we can strengthen our democracy in a post apartheid South Africa.

The road we must take must be one of social inclusion, nation building, one of love and selflessness.

The question we must now ask ourselves is, “Do we have the capacity and the determination to build on the legacy of out struggle stalwarts to accelerate service delivery and development and in the process bring about a shared prosperity to South Africa. Are we able, by virtue of our actions and commitment to work selflessly and tireless towards building a moral and prosperous nation?

All of us here today have the obligation of honouring Chota’s memory by living our lives in a way that is true to his legacy. We must emulate on his selfless attitude and his compassion for the people around him. We should always be mindful of these virtues when we make decision in our day-to-day lives.

The struggle for democracy was not in vain. The images of thousands and thousands of South Africans of all colours waiting in long lines to cast their first vote is an image we will remember for decades to come. It is the miracle transition that we all so wanted and fought for. It was an unforgettable occasion for all South Africans – the realization of hope sand dreams that we held dear for so long. We moved peacefully from a time of turmoil, death, torture and pessism to one of reconciliation and peace.

But behind this beautiful picture of dreams realized, we also faced the reality of the plight of millions of poor people. Many had no jobs, housing, nutrition and health care. Many had no access to clean water and electricity. Amongst those poverty-stricken communities, were children without classrooms and nutrition. Also among them were women whose rights were being infringed upon and who were victims of exploitation and oppression. There were those with disabilities and there victims of crime and violence.

Today, as I address you on the occasion of remembering a true African and giant of the struggle, I am heedful of the words of Nelson Mandela who said

“I have walked that long road to freedom. I have tried not to falter. I have made missteps along the way. But I have discovered the secret that after climbing a great hill, one finds that there are many more hills to climb.”

This is where we are right now. Our struggle for democracy is not complete. We need you, the people of South Africa to work with us in realizing our full potential.

Challenges persist despite the twenty years of democracy. Poverty, unemployment and inequality have emerged as the real enemies of our people. We need to unite and work together in support of government, in partnership with business, labour and civil society to survive the economic storms our country face. However, in the midst of the gloom and pessimism that abounds, we must never lose sight of our strength as a people and our achievements as a country.

Last week World Bank economist Catriona Purfield told reporters in Pretoria stated that in South Africa, large reductions have been made in poverty and inequality – in fact they are the largest reductions due to fiscal policies in our sample of 12 countries.

This was in comparison with 11 middle-income sample countries were Armenia, Bolivia, Brazil, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Ethiopia, Guatemala, Indonesia, Mexico, Peru and Uruguay.

The World Bank report was supportive of SA’s tax system was slightly progressive, in that the rich paid a higher share than the poor in income tax and value-added tax.

Further the report indicates that social spending, such as child support and disability grants, old age pensions and free basic services lifted the lowest income from a “tiny” R200 a year, to R2, 800 in 2010-11. Thus the poverty rate after receiving those falls to 39% (from 46.2%), –a reduction of 3.6-million people have been lifted above the poverty.

ANC government policy also lowered the Gini co-efficient on income, which measures inequality.

It is of concern to us all that the forecast for real gross domestic product (GDP) growth was revised downward to 1.4% for 2014, and 2.5% for 2015, from 2.7% and 3.4% in the previous update.

This downward revision and the downgrading mod SA by Rating agents is a reflection of the additional challenges that SA and the world are going through.

It is gratifying to receive a positive report about our country in the midst of media reports that concentrate on negative reports that tends to create a perception that nothing has been achieved. We should be the first ones to admit that there are is still a lot that needs to be done.

We need to encourage media, business, to support efforts of government to positively market our country, be positive about our country and continent. We do not have another.

After 20 years of democracy and a successful elections we now need to be more confident in pursuing economic transformation that will end poverty, inequality, create more jobs and bring a better life to he majority of South Africans.

The country has to face the disparity of income between the highest paid and lower level workers. It is fair to call on the corporate world to understand that it is such disparity that creates a sense of grievance and injustice -though it is accepted as the highlight of free market system. The ANC has supported the idea of investigating the minimum wage.

We need more support to be given to small business development. We support a call for the creation of a bank that focuses on servicing small business and emerging black entrepreneurs. In fact more banks are needed as opposed to the big 5 We need to focus on different models of doing business that will empower smaller business and cooperatives instead of enriching the few. Thus the multimillion contracts that government has issued need to be based on an empowerment model that maximizes on localization, import substitution and creation of a myriad of local entrepreneurs. Economic transformation is the only way to preserve the legacy of those leaders who fought for a better South Africa.

Education and skills development has been a focus and has assisted many young SA citizens in this democratic dispensation. That is why huge resources have been invested in tertiary education raising the number of students from disadvantaged communities in tertiary institutions from 150000 in 1994 to over 750000 currently.

Future of SA and the continent of Africa are education and skills

Knowledge acquisition, knowledge production, Intellectual development, promotion of academic training and research is only way to take SA to the future.

The amount of knowledge to be processed and be turned into solutions mean that we need better quality education, access to ICT for all our children.

MANCOSA focus on entrepreneurship is a very important contribution in building our economy and our country. This will build the culture of entrepreneurship destroyed by extrication of trade in African communities. Entrepreneurs will find solutions to deal with unemployment.

We need balanced leadership like comrade Chota who embody the deep values of Ubuntu humility dedication to service to our people.

Leaders who believe in freedom, democracy, non-racialism justice, peace human rights, protection of human dignity. We need leaders who will play a leading role in combating crime and corruption, knowing that not to do so is perpetuating injustice.

South Africa needs leaders who value service more than they value self-interest. These are leaders whose joy is derived from alleviating the burden of poverty and suffering. Our country need to invest in leaders who understand that to build a winning nation, we need competitiveness based on efficiency, professionalism, competence as the basis for any public or private responsibility in office.

South Africa and ANC in particular has to invest heavily in the creation of competent and focused leaders who must take SA and the African continent into the future.

We need leaders who stay in touch with needs of ordinary people and ensure that there is no widening distance between the growing elite and the masses of our people. Such leaders will generate hope and optimism amongst our youth and instill confidence in their capacity to change their lives and their future despite the frustrations and desperation that current challenges create amongst young people. Youth need to be empowered and guided to explore innovative ways of improving their lives and build a better country using realistic solutions, otherwise they get misled to embrace destructive actions that may take us all back.

We need to stamp out leaders who see public positions as an avenue to satisfy personal greed, whose sole interest in power is personal enrichment with stance regard to the plight of those in whose name the power is being exercised.
This applies to leadership in general be it elected political, civil service, private sector or civil society.

We need leaders whose appointment must inspire the youth and make them aspire to achieve greater heights of human development.

Leaders who dedicate their intellectual professional skills and the exemplary life to inspire our youth to believe in the ideals that drove Dr Motala to see a bright future of freedom and democracy while languishing in the deep darkness apartheid oppression.

These are the leaders who we need to drive the National Development Plan to change South Africa in the next few decades and make all South Africans enjoy a better life than was ever possible in the past.

We need leaders whose conduct will be a living tribute of leaders who led us to where we are. These are the leaders who will lead as we climb the many more hills that Madiba spoke of.

Our history has proven that the vision for a better future has always been stronger than the contemporary challenges, however immense they may seem. Whenever we looked back and reflected at the enormous challenges we have had to confront in our tortuous journey, we have been surprised how much we have achieved as a country.

Let us unite to build a better South Africa together.

>> Zweli Mkhize is the Treasurer-General of the African National Congress
This lecture was delivered at the MANCOSA Graduate School of Business on the 7th November 2014

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