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ANC: Motlanthe: Speech by the Deputy President of the African National Congress, at the End Conscription Campaign’s 25th Anniversary Thanksgiving Service, Stellenbosch (01/11/2009)

1st November 2009

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Date: 01/11/2009
Source: African National Congress
Title: ANC: Motlanthe: Speech by the Deputy President of the African National Congress, at the End Conscription Campaign's 25th Anniversary Thanksgiving Service, Stellenbosch

 

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Programme Director;

Members of the ECC 25 Organizing
Committee;

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Comrades and Friends;

Ladies and Gentlemen:

I am honoured to
be part of this memorable event, the Thanksgiving Service as part of the End
Conscription Campaign's 25th Anniversary Celebration.

No doubt this
joyous celebration also enables us to look back on our collective
anti-apartheid history with the object of learning the necessary lessons
that may still be appropriate for our current challenges.

It is indeed
fitting that you have chosen to focus today on how all of us can take the
values of the ECC into the future. These values which inspired you and
eventually thousands of white South Africans to support the campaign to end
conscription into the Apartheid army are values which our society needs to
continually embrace and affirm.

If we are able to embrace and recommit to
these values we will ensure that we remain engaged in the ongoing effort to
make our country, our continent and our world, a better place to live in.

They are values which are now enshrined in the constitution of our country
and draw on the proud traditions of our struggle to liberate our country
from oppression and bring about a united, non-racial, non-sexist, democratic
and prosperous South Africa.

They are values drawn from a tradition of
international solidarity with all those whose human rights and basic
freedoms have been trampled upon.

They are values informed by our diverse
religious and cultural traditions and our desire as human beings to live in
peace and harmony.

Before reflecting on how we can take these values into
the future it is important that we as a nation pay tribute today to all of
you and also thank you.

Every objector, every war resister, every ECC
member and supporter were true heroes and heroines of our struggle. Not only
did you stand up and risk physical, social and emotional isolation from the
majority of white South Africans who were not prepared to oppose injustice,
but through your actions, you inspired hope amongst the black majority.

The
campaign which many of you gathered here today led and supported ensured
that non-racialism was not just a vision that we aspired to but informed the
very character of our struggle.

As we all know, the apartheid government
sought to impose racial segregation under white domination on the people of
South Africa.

In response the progressive forces organised the Congress of
the People which adopted the Freedom Charter as an alternative vision for
the governance of South Africa.

The reaction of the regime was to put 156
leaders of the Congress Alliance on trial for high treason. Yet these
leaders were men and women, white and black people from all walks of life in
South Africa and by putting them on trial the regime presented a vision of
an alternative non racial non sexist leadership for South Africa and all the
world to see.

The regime failed in the Treason Trial and so they banned
the African National Congress and other organisations. They brutally
suppressed the aspirations of the people of South Africa for equality and
democracy

It was the then President of the African National Congress
Chief Albert Luthuli, who leading from the front declared: "We need courage
that rises with danger".

The freedom loving people of South Africa
responded to this call by continuing to oppose the apartheid regime in all
its manifestations and building new organisations when the old ones were
banned.

It is in this context that the End Conscription

Campaign was
formed as the regime sought to tighten its grip on the country by enlarging
its army and forcing all white male youth to become part of it.

They
sought to persuade white South Africans that the borders of our country
needed to be defended against outside invaders. But the conscripted white
youth soon found that the borders they were "defending" were in the
townships of South Africa

Who can forget the memorable ECC slogan at the
time which asked these conscripts - "Waar is die Grens Nou?" - Where is the
border now?.

Like the involvement of whites in the Defiance Cap of 1952
and the Treason Trial which started in 1956 the ECC and conscientious
objectors had an inspiring impact across the South African population in
giving life to the vision of a non racial society and eloquently rebutted
the argument of racially exclusivity.

The realization that initially few
but ever greater numbers of young white men were prepared to defy the
Apartheid army, helped to embed in the consciousness of the majority of
South Africans that our struggle was not simply about black versus white.

The role which the ECC played from 1984 until 1990 combined with the brave
actions of the first war resisters and conscientious objectors in the 1970s,
helped to entrench the value of non-racialism in the very fabric of our
society.

The campaign was also an important part of the broader
democratic struggle. Conscription of white males was essential to bolster
the SADF's role in maintaining minority rule. 70 % of soldiers in
Apartheid's army were drawn from conscripts. The ECC worked tirelessly
organizing opposition to military conscription and in so doing targeted the
Apartheid government's Achilles heel. It is thus not surprising, although
not widely acknowledged, that when the state of emergency was declared in
1986, 77 ECC activists were detained and 25 served with restriction orders.

Then Defence Minister Magnus Malan gave the most eloquent recognition of
the role the ECC played when he described itas "just as much an enemy of the
Defence Force as the African National Congress." Many amongst the oppressed
people congratulated the ECC for this and today I reinterate this
complement. Congratulations!

But I also want to salute you for the manner
in which you built this movement and campaign. The tactics and strategies
employed were creative and helped intensify the struggle efforts amongst the
white community.

You were able to build a broad front from a diverse
range of people by keeping the focus on the campaign objectives - ending
conscription.

The campaign communicated its message in creative ways and
managed to establish support amongst white youth by embracing alternative
youth culture.

In this regard it is important that we pay tribute to the
late James Phillips and John Rabie, popularly known as Bernoldus Niemand and
Johannes Kerkorrel respectively, for music and lyrics which inspired a
generation of young people to question the legitimacy of Apartheid.

The
call in the Freedom Charter that South Africa belongs to all who live in it,
black and white, was given practical expression by the campaigns, projects
and cultural activities of the ECC.

Please accept the sincere
appreciation and gratitude of the South African government for the role
which each one of you played in this great campaign which contributed to the
liberation of our country.


But how then do we take these values of
non-racialism, non -sexism, commitment, passion, discipline, compassion,
diversity and sacrifice - the values of the ECC - into the future.

All of
us know that it will still take immense courage and commitment from all of
us to ensure that non-racialism is practiced in our daily lives and in our
relationships with our fellow South Africans. We should never take the
strides we have made towards national unity and reconciliation for granted.

That is why we need an active, engaged and critical citizenry, across all
communities, white and black.

This will result in more accountable and
responsive leadership at all levels of government, civil society, business
and in our communities.

This requires confronting openly those issues
which cause disengagement and disaffection from the social and political
discourse of today.

We must always remind ourselves that the past we
inherit but the future we create.

Let us not be bystanders in the country
of our birth.

Let us acknowledge the impact which our combined and united
energy and creativity can have on the South Africa that is emerging.

Let
us all contribute to the building of a discourse of tolerance, respect, and
deepening of democratic ethos.

I do not want this discussion to end here
today. I would thus like to invite you to engage with us as to how this
constituency which you mobilized then and have brought together 25 years
later, can assist in building a new politics of engagement, co-operation and
creativity.

I am hopeful that given the quality of leadership assembled
here and the formal and informal discussions you have had over this weekend,
that something positive will emerge from such engagement.

Perhaps this
could lead to a broader discussion next year when we come together again and
explore the content and form such an initiative could take.

There is a
collective experience, energy and passion assembled here that our country
needs. I know that many of you are actively involved in making contributions
to the transformation of our society. There is more that all of us can do
which will transfer the skills we have and inspire others.

I encourage
you to become mentors to young people at the workplace. Adopt young
researchers and impart the skills of critical analysis. Support young
entrepreneurs and show them the ropes.

Become involved in the School
Governing Bodies where your children go to school and build partnerships
with historically disadvantaged school communities. Mentor learners from
disadvantaged schools or students from such schools who have managed to get
into university.

Provide leadership in your local community police fora
and neighbourhood watches.

Think about how we can strengthen national
initiatives around quality education and health for all our people. Let us
engage in the critical discussions about how our country and the world can
ensure the sustainable provision of energy, water and food for present and
future generations.

We want to hear these voices - critical and
supportive.

It is this diversity and respect for different views that we
must fight for. It is all about seeking sustainable solutions to the
challenges we face.

Chairperson, we are today confronted with the
question: what should we do to honour the memory of all these great
compatriots, whose spirit was aptly captured by Philip Wilkinson's memorable
words that:

"I have in my heart an absolute conviction that what I am
doing is right. I will not sacrifice my life or lend my body to the defence
of Apartheid. As I stand before you, I stand for peace and justice"

Indeed, those of us enjoying the fruits of a non-racial and democratic
South Africa should live out this spirit in our deeds daily.

We should not
countenance poverty, inequality, under-development; and we should strive to
keep the ideals of justice and democracy alive.

In conclusion I want to
acknowledge those who helped build the ECC into the proud movement that it
was who are no longer with us. Let us remember the elders who guided the ECC
- Reverends Beyers Naude (Order of Meritorious Service (Gold), 1997) and Rob
Robertson, Archbishops Dennis Hurley and Bill Burnett, Peter Kerchoff, Nan
Cross and Noel Robb. Let us remember Conscientious Objectors Ivan Toms
(Who received the Order of the Baobab in Bronze) and Billy Paddock And
finally let us remember the ECC activists who are no longer with us - Ronald
Louw, Shaun Griggs, Andy Orpen, Paul Dobson, Jo-Jo Schapiro and Edrick
Gorfinkel.

The lesson that these sons and daughters of our motherland have
taught us is that Life is but given to those who continue to win it back
through struggle. We must continue to build the South Africa that Phillip
Wilkinson commanded us to create.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Please enjoy the
rest of your weekend and thank you for honouring the legacy of ECC by being
here.

Viva the spirit and values of the ECC! Aluta Continua!

Thank
You

 

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