03/10/2021 | Press release | Distributed by Public on 03/10/2021 13:56
DATE: 10 MARCH 2021 VENUE: VIRTUAL TIME: 18H00
Programme Director, Ms Nandi Mayathula-Khoza
Chairperson of the Board of the Castro and Nandi Mayatula Foundation, Mr Douglas Ramaphosa
Members of the (Foundation's) Board
Neighbours and Friends
Ladies and gentlemen
The challenges that face South Africa today are well documented. These range from an Economy that has not been growing, unemployment, inequality, poverty, corruption and crime as well as the devastating impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on lives and livelihoods.
This is a critical question to pose given the fact that in the current period one has seen the establishment of a few foundations meant to do good and advance positive values. Amongst these are the following:
Bheki Mlangeni Foundation, Khabisi Mosunkutu Foundation, Nelson Mandela Foundation, Ahmed Kathrada Foundation, Thabo Mbeki Foundation and Kgalema Motlanthe Foundation, amongst others. These are interventions meant to add momentum to the ongoing efforts to improve the quality of life of people. Organisations are meant to act as instruments to effect change and ensure development.
Organisations are also meant to provide credible leadership that is committed to fighting corruption. To build on our sense of what is right and wrong. To understand that following the fight against colonial and imperialist oppression and repression in the past, which were relatively easier than the post-independence struggles, that a persistent struggle should now be waged against the internal enemy of looters within and outside of the ranks of the liberation movement.
Brief History and Human Rights
The late Reverend Mayatula was born in 1921 and was the only child of the late Mr Joel and Mrs MaMiya Mayatula. He was born and bred in Ramra, a small rural village of Willowvale in the Eastern Cape (formerly known as Transkei).
Rev Mayatula earned the name 'Castro' as a result of his fearlessness, eloquence and military spirit of Fidel Castro, the former and late Leader of Cuba.
He always emphasised that he used the concept 'the church's role in the liberation struggle'. It was this blend of missionary zeal and total commitment to the liberation of Black people (including so called Coloureds and Indians), that gained him respect. He was first detained in 1974 during the 'Viva Frelimo' Rally, meant to celebrate the independence of Mozambique. He was also subsequently detained after the banning of Black Organisations in 1977 and spent over a year in Modder-B Prison.
He was one of the Founders and Interim President of the Black People's Convention (BPC), a Founder Member of both the South African Student Organisation (SASO), and the Soweto Committee of Ten which was chaired by the late Dr Nthato Motlana. Rev Mayatula was also the President of the African Independent Churches Association (AICA) which promoted Black theology and preached the Christian Doctrine as envisaged by the independent churches. He refused to adhere to any dogma.
Most of his close associates remember him as the man who had a vision of a 'Black Messiah'. He also served as a board member of the now defunct newspaper, the Voice.
Education and political activism
Rev Mayatula received his primary and secondary education in his rural village of Ramra and town Willowvale respectively. At a very young age, Rev Mayatula became aware of the injustices perpetrated by the apartheid regime, including his experiences especially in undeveloped rural areas where there were, amongst others, no decent jobs.
Whilst at college he was elected Chairperson of a SASO Branch at the Maphumulo Theological Seminary. Amongst others, he interacted with the Chairperson of the SASO Branch at Turfloop, Cde Aubrey Mokoena and others who were later to become prominent personalities.
Rev Mayatula played a major role in mobilising student solidarity from various university campuses to support and mentor student activists and young leaders from various universities where SASO had a footprint. After a graduation ceremony at Turfloop university in 1972, which Rev Mayatula also visited, many young black student leaders and activists were suspended or expelled (rusticated) from the university, following the historic speech delivered by Onkgopotse Abram Tiro. When representing the student graduates, at this graduation ceremony, Cde Tiro had attacked the inferior and oppressive system of Bantu Education. Tiros' speech also led to the closing of Turfloop University and this was one of the first of its kind in the history of African / 'bush' Universities.
At another event, over the weekend of the 20th to the 21st of January 1971, as SASO students and leaders including Rev Mayatula, attended a consultative meeting at the DOCC hall in Orlando East. This meeting was organised by ASECA and some Black Leaders to form a cultural organisation.
At this meeting, the SASO leadership argued and convinced the various delegations that there was a political vacuum created by the banning of the African National Congress and the Pan Africanist Congress on 30 April 1960.
SASO Leadership argued that there was no need to form some amorphous apologetic cultural organisations. They maintained that the People's Liberation Movement was in existence in exile and this had to be respected. Many of these students felt there was a need to establish a Black Political Organisation inside the country. As a result, the Black People's Convention (BPC) was formally constituted.
Rev Mayatula was then elected as the Interim and Founding President of the BPC with Mthuli Ka-Shezi as his Deputy President. Rev Mayatula was succeeded by Mrs Kgware, the wife to Professor Kgware of Turfloop. Mrs Kgware was in turn succeeded by Dr Tshenuwani Farisani, former Speaker of the Limpopo Provincial Legislature and thereafter by Kenneth Rachidi who was the last President of the BPC when it was banned together with 19 other organisations, including the Christian Institute, which was led by the late Dr Beyers Naude, in October 1977.
Rev Mayatula worked very close with Freedom Fighters such as the late Steve Biko, Professor Barney Pityana, Tom Manthata, Bishop Malusi Mpumlwana, Dr Mampele Ramphele, the late Dr Beyers Naude, the late Mapetla Mohapi, Peter Jones, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, the now late Drake Koka, the late Dr Aubrey Mokoape, Aubrey and Mally Mokoena, Professor Saths Cooper, the current President Cyril Ramaphosa, the late Dr Strini Moodley, Sadique Variava, the late Stanley Ntwasa, Justice Moloto, Judge Pius Langa, the late Winkie Direko.
After detention, Rev Mayatula joined the African National Congress (ANC) and got involved in underground activities. Rev Mayatula and some of the above mentioned former detainees were the founder members of the Soweto Committee of ten, led by the now late Dr Nthato Motlana.
Rev Mayatula also influenced and worked very closely with many younger political activists of the time and freedom fighters: such as Billy Masetla, Popo Molefe, Jabu Ngwenya, Baby Tyawa, Archie Whitehead, Super Moloi, Douglas Ramaphosa, Dr. Thabo Mokgoba, the late Zweli Sizane, Murphy Morobe, and many others.
As we all know, Rev Mayatula passed on, in 1980. A very young Priest then and Rev Frank Chikane presided over the funeral service at Regina Mundi in Soweto. The family was very grateful when they received amongst many messages of condolences, a special telegram/letter from the then President of the African National Congress at the time, Oliver Reginald Tambo.
Work and the Church
Rev Mayatula's family home in Senaoane, Soweto, became a church site and when the church grew, the congregation moved to a school, this being a general experience to worship.
The Nationalist Party then was not keen to provide church sites for Indigenous African Independent churches, including 'Zion' and Apostolic churches. Most of these still worship in schools, homes and community halls even today. In the main, those that managed to acquire church sites were the mainstream that are of European, American or similar origions.
Like many South Africans, Rev Mayatula was to experience oppression and discrimination by the apartheid system inside and outside the church. This propelled him more to fight for justice, equality, freedom and democracy. Named a fiery priest, Rev Mayatula prayed very hard for the end of the apartheid system. Most importantly, he fought for the wellbeing of the underprivileged (people), Black people in general and Africans in particular.
How former freedom fighters remember Rev 'Castro' Mayatula
Rev Mayatula passed away on the 17th of September in 1980. At a recent occasion in 2019, marking the 16th June Uprisings, the former teacher and freedom fighter, Fanyana Mazibuko, said that during his stay at Modder-B prison, Rev 'Castro' Mayatula would pray very loud to the delight of other political prisoners and say 'Thixo ka (God of) Hintsa, Thixo ka Moshoeshoe, Thixo ka Shaka, hayi owamabhunu (not of the boere)'. Fanyana Mazibuko said that Castro conscientised even common law prisoners politically, at Modder-B prison - he left no stone unturned.
At another event in 2013, to remember Rev Mayatula's role in the fight for justice, freedom, equality and democracy and his role in Liberation Theology, former SASO leader, Professor Saths Cooper said 'Mayatula's first love after his wife was a Black Jesus Christ'. In fact, at his home in Senaoane, there was a photo of a Black Jesus on the wall. He said that Mayatula earned the name 'Castro', because for him, Christ was a Revolutionary and his mentor was Fidel Castro; Cuba's former President.
He continued to say 'Rev Castro Mayatula, saw no difference in the ultimate teachings of Fidel Castro and that of Jesus'.
Rev Frank Chikane described Mayatula as a fearless activist who regarded Jesus Christ in liberation theology terms. Rev Chikane also referred to Rev Mayatula as a trailblazer because he was a member of the liberation movement and leader of the church, a person of Faith.
Bishop Mpumlwana said 'Mayatula's spirituality was such that he was affectionately called the 'Black Messiah'. Pandelani Nefolovhodwe, former President of SASO, said he met 'Castro' when they were both arrested in Durban in 1974, at the Viva Frelimo Rally, to celebrate the Frelimo's victory in Mozambique. Aubrey Mokoena said that 'Castro' produced academics, politicians and doctors and that a Foundation must be established in his name.
Speaker after speaker at this event, that is former freedom fighters, for lack of a better expression, called for the creation of a foundation as part of remembering and honouring not only Rev Mashwabada Victor 'Castro' Mayatula and all unsung heroes and hero-ins of the liberation struggle. They suggested that amongst other objectives, the foundation must promote principles that Rev Mayatula and other freedom fighters believed in: These should include Justice, Equality, Freedom, Human Rights, and ethical values of Ubuntu, Unity, Morality, Faith/Spirituality as well as affirming and recognising people who made a meaningful contribution and played a crucial role in our society.
I am happy that the 'Castro' and Monica Mayatula Foundation was established and registered in November 2019, and was launched on the 28th of November 2020. The Foundation has a vision of 'a nation with people who are empowered, self-reliant, selfless, skilled, freed from corrupt practices and with high ethical and moral values'.
It plans to achieve this vision by contributing to some of the sustainable development goals such as quality education, elimination of poverty as well as to fight for gender equality and support community driven development initiatives in historically disadvantaged areas such as Soweto. Further, it intends later on to move to Willowvale in the Eastern Cape Province and Rustenburg in North West.
Programme Director, the story of the struggle for human rights and non-racialism is a long and tortuous one. It involved many activists from the different corners of our country, the continent and the globe. Reverend Mashwabada 'Castro' Mayatula was one of them. He fearlessly and inspirationally played his role, occupying the front lines.
Programme Director, on the other hand, it is a matter of great significance that we celebrate the centenary of one of our pioneers for human rights, Reverend 'Castro' Mayatula, during the Human Rights Month. This is a fitting tribute. His own struggle embodied the liberation of the mind of the oppressed people. It was a cause he would not let up on until his death.
This year's Human Rights month is held under the theme, 'The Year of Charlotte Maxeke: Promoting Human Rights in the Age of COVID-19'. It pays tribute to the 150th anniversary of the liberation struggle heroin and human rights campaigner, Charlotte Maxeke. Her legacy as a leader in the service of humanity, is a traverse of community development, politics, women empowerment, education and many other areas of leadership and endeavours.
Her self-sacrifice should therefore inspire us to confront our current challenges, chief among them being poverty, joblessness and inequality. Unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic which has gripped the country for twelve months now, has exacerbated the impact of these challenges. It has revealed the pre-existing and deep fault lines caused by decades of depravation for the majority of the people alongside decades of extreme wealth and privilege for a minority.
Programme Director, on the other hand, twenty-five years since the adoption of the Constitution, it is very sad to witness the growing scourge of Gender-Based Violence. This is in sharp contrast to the principles that Rev Mayatula and other freedom fighters believed in and fought for, which include Justice, Equality, Freedom, Human Rights, and ethical values of Ubuntu, Unity, Morality and Faith or Spirituality.
At the centre of Gender-Based Violence are the unequal power relationships, ostensibly perpetuated by backward practices whereby women are viewed as inferior to men. It is thus incumbent upon all of us to do all we can to destroy and eliminate Gender-Based Violence and to save our boys and girls from this sadistic behaviour.
In the same breath, we must welcome the progress in the reduction of the backlog of gender-based violence cases announced by the President of the Republic during the State of the Nation Address this year. It offers a glimmer of hope, but we must mercilessly attack the behaviour itself.
As you would know, the Constitution establishes the South African Human Rights Commission, which is one of the state institutions supporting democracy. The aim is:
It is thus important that we make use of this and other institutions that are created to support and strengthen our democracy, especially through the promotion and protection of human rights.
Programme Director, South Africa would have progressed as a country beyond our imagination were it not for the debilitating effect of centuries of colonialism and racial policies. As a result, non-racialism has been at the centre of the struggle against colonialism and apartheid. The governing party, the African National Congress, has a historical obligation to defeat racism in all its forms, and to uphold non-racialism and non-sexism within its ranks and broader society.
The ushering of democracy in 1994 saw the adoption of measures to promote non-racialism. The Constitution put an end to unfair discrimination by direct or indirect means against anyone, on one or more grounds, including race. Also, no person may discriminate directly or indirectly against anyone. on one or more grounds, that include race.
The book Fischer's Choice: A Life of Bram Fischer, written by Martin Meredith, chronicles the life of Abram 'Bram' Louis Fischer who was born into a prominent Afrikaans family. He studied law in South Africa and as a Rhodes scholar at Oxford. He defended the accused at the prolonged Treason Trial of the 1950's and led the defence team at the 1964 Rivonia Trial.
Given his background - his father was the Judge President of the then Orange Free State - and many would agree that Bram Fischer could have easily risen to the highest level of leadership in government. However, he chose the dangerous path of fighting racism. He was regarded as a traitor by his fellow Afrikaners. After his death, his ashes were seized and the apartheid government to date has failed to hand these to his family or disclose their location.
His life story was a direct response in support of the aspiration of the Freedom Charter, that: 'The rights of the people shall be the same, regardless of race, colour or sex'.
Our Constitution provides that legislative and other measures designed to protect or advance persons, or categories of persons, disadvantaged by unfair discrimination may be taken in order to promote the achievement of equality. The Promotion of Equality and Prevention of Unfair Discrimination Act 4 of 2000, as amended, gives effect to the Constitution so as:
This was done in view of the fact that the consolidation of democracy in our country requires the eradication of social and economic inequalities, especially those that are systemic in nature, which were generated in our history by colonialism, apartheid and patriarchy, and which brought pain and suffering to the great majority of our people.
There is a growing debate about the practical application of the concept of non-racialism. It is premised largely on the view that while it is easy to define non-racialism as a concept, it remains elusive in practice.
Our approach to defeating racism must start with an understanding of what it entails. Racism has been described as prejudice, discrimination, or antagonism directed against people of a different colour based on the belief that one's own race is superior. It is the belief that all members of each race possess characteristics, abilities or qualities specific to that race.
As President Mandela once said, these are prejudices that are taught by society. He said: 'No one is born hating another person because of the colour of his skin, or his background, or his religion'.
Unfortunately, we carry these prejudices with us. We allow them to influence our conduct in the different settings and workplaces in which we operate. We often use them to reinforce power relations, paying less attention to their devastating nature as witnessed through the history of our own struggle.
Laws on their own will not engender nor sustain non-racialism. It is our individual and collective actions that will help exterminate ingrained impulses that are born out of racial and other forms of prejudice. While we perhaps may have fewer racists, it is true that given our past, their power to stir hatred and rage is immeasurable. The nation's response to acts of racism demonstrate the unfinished business of healing.
Role of the National Council of Provinces
Programme Director, our public representatives and public institutions are there to continue the work started by the likes of Rev Mayatula. The National Council of Provinces is one such institution, which was established to ensure the link with communities.
Twenty-five years ago, on the occasion of the adoption of the Constitution of the Republic of South Africaour global icon President Nelson Rholihlahla Mandela had this to say to the Constitutional Assembly about its establishment:
'We were therefore able, in the national interest, to locate governing powers at the level where they appropriately belong and to ensure the national Parliament is not an exclusive preserve of an imaginary national politician, but the workplace in which representatives from all levels can pursue their mandate.
Through the Council of Provinces, the improvement of the status of local government, and the style of governance based on transparency, participation and consultation, we shall ensure that democracy indeed constitutes government by the people, for the people'.
The Constitution stipulates that the NCOP is there to represent the provinces to ensure that provincial interests are taken into account in the national sphere of government. It does this mainly by participating in the national legislative process and by providing a national forum for public consideration of issues affecting the provinces.
Furthermore, the Constitution enjoins the NCOP to provide for the participation of part-time representatives, not more than ten in number, designated by organised local government to represent the different categories of municipalities.
The NCOP is thus a meeting point for the representatives of the three spheres of government. This places it at a vantage point when overseeing the observance and adherence to the constitutional principles of co-operative government and intergovernmental relations by all the spheres.
Chapter 3 of the Constitution states that all the spheres of government and all organs of state within each sphere must, amongst other things, co-operate with one another and to co-ordinate their actions. This is fundamental in achieving the lofty ideals of our Constitution.
As we celebrate the year of Charlotte Maxeke, we must recall our fallen struggle leaders, among them Rev Mayatula, who occupied the front lines in the fight for the restoration of the dignity of the oppressed people in our land. Our Constitution and the institutions it establishes, give us the opportunity to continue their fight.
I would like to thank you heartily for the opportunity to speak at this evening's webinar on the centenary of my mentor, Reverend Mashwabada Victor 'Castro' Mayatula.
I thank you