Remarks by Hon MB Skosana MP
on the Occasion of the Inauguration of
the Memorial Museum at the Gallows in Pretoria


Pretoria: Thursday, 15 December 2011 

 

Respected Leaders of the various faith communities
Honourable Executive Mayor of Tshwane, Mr Sputla Ramakgopa
His Excellency, the President of the Republic of South Africa, Mr Jacob Zuma
Honourable Adv George Bizos
Honourable Minister for Correctional Services, Ms Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula, MP
Honourable Deputy Minister for Correctional Services, Adv Ngoako Ramathlodi, MP
Honourable Commissioner for Correctional Services, Mr Tom Moyane
Secretary-General of the ANC, Mr Gwede Mantashe
Leader of the PAC, Mr Letlapa Mphahlele, MP
Distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen

It is with great humility that I stand here this morning to make these brief remarks on behalf of the Multi-party Chief Whips Forum in the National Assembly of Parliament, on this historic occasion of the inauguration of the first phase of the restored Gallows Memorial.

In its 1989 report “When the State Kills …..The Death Penalty v Human Rights”, Amnesty International pre-empted “In the same era that humanity reaches into space, countless people are being shot, gassed and hanged by their own governments. Judicial killing lingers on as a state sanctioned practice, violating the most fundamental human rights”.

When the death penalty was constitutionally outlawed and abolished in South Africa in June 1995, it brought emotional relief to the relatives and friends of those prisoners who were on death row waiting to hang. Obviously, it must have brought also feelings of dismay and disappointment to those proponents of capital punishment, who believed that the death penalty could sooth desires for revenge and at the same be a deterrent against serious crimes, and a sense of victory for the human rights campaigners the world over. Because both common law crime prisoners and political prisoners were hanged in this place, this restoration therefore needs to be influenced and the momentum sustained largely by historical, political, moral and ethical considerations put together.  Hence it becomes prudent for us, like those of the early Church who faced persecution for their religious belief and discipleship, who believed that the blood of the martyrs was the root of the Church, to continue to uphold the universal truth that the blood, sweat and tears of the freedom fighters have firmly anchored the centre upon which the great edifice of freedom, justice, liberty and human rights has been built. We must therefore find it a service full of honour to the people of South Africa for the President of the Republic of South Africa, Jacob Zuma and the Minister of Correctional Services, Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula to revive not only structurally but also in the mind of all the citizenry, the horrific memories of this place, so that from this moment on they are restored with renewed spirit of patriotism in the soul of the nation. This occasion must engrave the spirit of forgiveness and hope also in hearts of all the surviving family members whose loved ones had their precious lives ended tragically at the end of the rope, woven by a system so brutal.

In the book of photography titled “Without Sanctuary”, Congressman John Lewis, on seeing the horrifying photographs of wanton brutal hangings and burning of the African Americans during the height of Civil Rights Movement, asked this question “what is in the human psyche that would have a person to commit such acts of violence?”

However, in the face of an avalanche of most serious crimes of murder and rape, compounded by the growing moral and political decadence, the debate around whether capital punishment should be reinstated has surfaced very strongly in recent times. Others hope that the answer rests with the law enforcement agencies of the state assisted by every citizen to make South Africa a secure and safe place for all to live in.

Thank You.