LAUNCH OF THE RESISTANCE MONUMENT
RESISTANCE PARK, DURBAN : MAY 27, 2002
In 1946, here on the corner of Umbilo Road and Gale Street, South Africa’s history changed. A few brave men and women took their stand on a piece of land that had been set aside expressly for whites and, with their mere presence, quietly defied the Ghetto Act, the next stage in an unjust government’s plan to make non-white South Africans, as we were called, feel like strangers and foreigners in their own country of birth. Inspired by the teaching of the Mahatma Gandhi who insisted that Satyagraha, or truth force, would win out against oppression, Indian South Africans embraced passive resistance as a means to oppose a segregationist government. Here, on this corner, they forced a turning point in history, generating a power behind the spirit of defiance, which was to be the catalyst of a struggle that finally led to the political liberation of our country.
Today, I am honoured to stand on this plot as we unveil a monument to the 1946 Passive Resistance and the 1952 Defiance Campaign which followed in its wake with some of the participants in those struggles. I am honoured because I recognise the gravity and significance of what we are doing. The Resistance Monument is a reminder not only of those who took a stand in 1946 and in 1952, but is a tangible expression of the unbreakable spirit of a people. This monument speaks of our past and our future. It is an indicator that we have risen above old paradigms of thinking to embrace a new world of morality, dignity and hope. No words of appreciation would be sufficient to convey the good which has been achieved by the Resistance Park Memorial Committee in making this moment possible. Nevertheless, I sincerely thank Professor Fatima Meer and the Committee for its work.
Night after night, South Africans of every section of society turned up to take their stand with the Indians on this plot, and many were arrested for so following their conscience. One of those who was arrested and imprisoned twice was Dr Monty Naicker, Secretary to the Council which organised the Passive Resistance and then Secretary of the Natal Indian Congress. At that time, my late brother and friend, Mr Ismail Meer, was Secretary of the Transvaal Indian Congress. Many of our comrades sacrificed their own ambitions to take up the cause of passive resistance. They married their individual destines to the destiny of our country, securing for the future sons and daughters of this nation the inheritance of a liberated, morally upright and free South Africa. Ismail Meer was one of those who personally sacrificed for our struggle, as he gave up his studies for full-time work in the Passive Resistance Council.
I met Ismail Meer when I studied with his wife, Professor Fatima Meer, in the non-European section of the University of Natal, under Professor Kenneth Kirkwood. It was here also that I met Walter Sisulu, who this year celebrates his 90th birthday, our Honourable former President Nelson Mandela, who became a dear friend of the Meers, and Oliver Reginald Tambo, who himself was a leader in the Defiance Campaign of 1952. At that time I attended the Nichols Square meetings and the fire in my belly for liberation, ignited years before, was stoked. Today, I recall with a certain pride that my uncle, Prince Cisho ka Dinuzulu, who was a half-brother to my mother, Princess Magogo ka Dinuzulu, warned my mother that her son was involved with communists in Durban. My mother, who was a true daughter of her father, King Dinuzulu in her forcefulness of character, asked her brother, Prince Cisho: "Your Royal Highness, what sort of thing is a communist, what do you mean when you state that Mangosuthu is involved with communists, what is that?" Prince Cisho's reply was: "Mangosuthu is involved with the Yengwas", a reference to Masabalala Yengwa, who was one of the leaders of the ANC Youth League in Durban and who became Joint Secretary with Dr Naicker in the Council which organised the Defiance Campaign. So being a communist, according to the Prince was my "being involved with the Yengwas." Even my uncle, the Zulu Regent, HRH Prince Mshiyeni ka Dinuzulu, who was often visited by Chief Albert Lutuli, Dr JL Dube and Edgar Brookes, did not approve of my involvement with the ANC Youth League.
Nevertheless, I cut my political teeth and sharpened my political senses in the ANC Youth League, and from there I formed a close camaraderie with other leaders of our liberation movement. As leaders of the struggle, we remained in close contact and constantly conferred on how to take our efforts further and what role each of us would play. We never acted in isolation, knowing that the success of our struggle depended on unity of action, even when different values demanded diverse tactics and different roles had to be assumed. From the beginning, united action was understood as a prerequisite for our victory over oppression. In 1947, the so-called "doctor’s pact" was signed by then ANC President, Dr Alfred B. Xuma, Dr Marimuthu Naicker of the Natal Indian Congress and Dr Yusuf Dadoo of the Transvaal Indian Congress, committing their organisations to united action.
Clearly the Passive Resistance of 1946 had a strong influence on the way the ANC took forward its own role. In 1949, Robert Sobukwe and other members of the Youth League assisted in drafting the Programme of Action which was adopted as ANC policy, to oppose apartheid by peaceful means. The notion of passive resistance and maintaining the high moral ground remained for me the most valuable tools of our liberation movement. I grew up in a time when the world was changing. We were experiencing a massive shift in the collective consciousness towards a more morally aware humanity. All around me were individual men and women who were prepared to lay down their lives for a cause. Throughout the years of our struggle many actually lost their lives, but for many more the sacrifice was choosing a life wholly committed to a common mission, a united vision and a shared struggle.
Today, I stand on this ground being aware that I have always stood here since I first stepped on to it and I have never moved since. This is the ground which signifies the value of passive resistance and the notion that higher morality will finally triumph over violence and oppression inspired by greed and brutality. I embraced passive resistance and stood by it at great cost, even when other components of the liberation movement chose the self-defeating path of the armed struggle and pursued the impossible dream of a military victory over apartheid. I stood by the ground of passive resistance and promoted negotiations because I knew that in the end, only a negotiated solution could deliver a long-lasting peace. I took a stand when I was later invited by President de Klerk to negotiate a political dispensation for South Africa. I told him that for me and the IFP the release of President Mandela and other political prisoners was non-negotiable as a pre-requisite to any meaningful negotiations for a lasting political dispensation.
I knew that had I moved away from this ground and embraced the armed struggle, leading the Zulu nation into a bloody war, the whole of the country would have been reduced to ashes and today we would stand in a liberated but destroyed South Africa. Because of the ground on which we now stand, I found the strength to stand by what I knew to be right and promote passive resistance and negotiations even at the cost of becoming one of the targets against which the armed struggle was turned.
Standing on this ground, we have become aware that we did not live for ourselves, but to achieve a common victory for the benefit of all South Africans, even into the future. The future becomes clear after it has happened. But when it is a mere dream of things to come, it remains far and distant and does not often motivate daily sacrifices. In the past, things were very bad and we used to ask ourselves where we would go from there. We did not even know whether we would live long enough to see the product of our sacrifices. We sought something better, not something better for us. We knew that we were building for a future we would possibly never see. I pray that our grandchildren perhaps will live in the South Africa we sacrificed to achieve.
The Resistance Monument that is being unveiled today speaks of this sacrifice. For as long as it stands on this plot, on the corner of Umbilo Road and Gale Street, it will declare the possibility that individual men and women can rise up and take a stand against what is wrong in our society, and succeed. We can never again underestimate the power of our presence. The Passive Resistance of 1946 and the Defiance Campaign of 1952 were moments that prove forever that the spirit of a people can be bruised, afflicted and injured, and still it will rise. I salute every South African across the board who took their stand for freedom. May their courage ignite our own endurance to see final liberation achieved, as the South Africa we sought comes to life through our continued efforts. Today our struggle is waged on the battlefields of good governance, enhanced service delivery, moral regeneration and national goodwill. The times have changed, but the courage of our nation must stay the same. The fire in our bellies must still burn.
For new generations this monument must stand not only as a memory of the past, but as a reminder of supreme values which must shape the future. In the past, many people accepted the reality surrounding them as a fact of life which one could not change. Many did not even question it being wrong. It is a common element of human nature to accept the surrounding reality as being right. In past seasons, for millennia, people thought that slavery was a normal fact of life. Yet in spite of circumstances there are always true leaders who rise above the standard of morality which shapes the society in which they live and assert a higher standard which makes the present wrong in the name of a better future to come.
Throughout human history, what was right in the past became wrong as a higher standard of morality was asserted by people who felt that their present was just not good and moral enough. This monument should remind young people that they also must look at the reality they are living in to seek a higher standard of morality on which a better future can be built, and which may one day transform our current beliefs so that what is right today may be considered wrong once something better is achieved. The battle for freedom is never won and never completed. The battle against the oppression of man over man and for the eradication of brutality, is a legacy which each generation passes on to the next. The dream that one day all men and women may share a life of equal dignity, freedom, prosperity and security is the real legacy which this monument should pass on to future generations.
We have a long road yet to walk. I believe that as we continue this journey it is right and fitting that we mark our progress with milestones of our victory. The Resistance Monument is one of these; a milestone which shows the way forward from South Africa’s divided past, to South Africa’s united future.