Source: The Presidency
Title: SA: Mbeki: Unveiling of the Memorial of the 1985 Duncan Village Massacre
Address of the President of South Africa, Thabo Mbeki, on the occasion of the unveiling of the Memorial of the 1985 Duncan Village Massacre: Buffalo City Municipality, Eastern Cape
28 March 2008.
Programme Director, Abraham Ntantiso, MEC for Recreation, Arts and Culture,
Premier Nosimo Balindlela,
Deputy Minister Ntombazana Botha,
Survivors of the Duncan Village Massacre, including Ms Thembisa Fifi,
Mayor of Buffalo City,
The people of Duncan Village and the Buffalo City Municipality,
Comrades and friends:
I thank you most sincerely for inviting me to the unveiling of the Duncan Village Massacre Memorial, an event that reminds all of us of the terrible history of apartheid from which our nation emerged only 14 years ago.
This occasion also serves to remind us that, as others have said - freedom was not free! It came at great cost in human lives and human suffering. We have gathered here today to say we have not forgotten those who sacrificed their lives so that we can live in our country as free men and women.
We have gathered here to pay tribute to the heroic men, women and youth of Duncan Village and East London who belong among the thousands of patriots who are our liberators.
In this regard, I would like to express the sincere appreciation of our Government and the nation for the initiative taken by the people of Duncan Village, the Buffalo City Municipality, the Eastern Cape Provincial Government and its Department of Sport, Recreation, Arts and Culture, for identifying the Duncan Village Massacre Memorial as one of the anchor projects in the province towards paying tribute to those who made sacrifices for the birth of a democratic, just and united South Africa.
You will pardon me today for borrowing the voices of some of those who suffered during that week here in Duncan Village in August 1985, when the apartheid oppressors committed the Duncan Village Massacre, in the aftermath of the funeral of the heroine, Victoria Mxenge.
I will repeat what they said because none of us should ever forget what they suffered, how they felt, and what they need from the democratic society they helped to create.
I do not know if Rogers Gqeme is with us today. But let me remind you of what he told the Truth and Reconciliation Committee (TRC) on 24 September, in 1996. He said:
"We were in the Roman Catholic Church where there was a meeting of the youth. These white people came in a Casper and parked outside and sent someone, a tall man who looked like a Coloured person, and was dressed like a Minister of religion. He asked, he said that we were asked to go out of this hall and to disperse by order.
"The house, the room was full and people were chanting freedom songs and some people did not hear what this man was saying. This white person insisted that we should go out of the hall and disperse and this took about 15 minutes and we went away as people who were standing outside, since the hall was packed and we were in fear that these whites were going to shoot us.
"We walked passed these whites. They followed us in their Casper, leaving the people behind in the hall, following the march. We proceeded and then these policemen started shooting at us, but some of us who were not aware until we got next to the cemetery and I could see people running away, people falling and then as I was going up I could see a certain white man in a Casper and he called me, but I ran away and he shot me in the arm.
"I ran away and he again shot me on the waist and I fell facing upwards and I asked him to pick me up. I struggled trying to stand, though I was aware that I had been shot. Then I could see that I was injured and my legs were feeling very weak.
"Then this white person came to me, handled me by the collar, pulled me towards the Casper and there were two of these Caspers parked there and he placed me just behind one of them. The police took me to hospital and they were assisted by some people to take me onto the police truck which drove to the hospital.
"When I got to hospital I was driven into the OPD in a stretcher and there was a white Doctor who looked at me and there was a big hole here on my hip and he asked these white men why they had injured me so severely. And these white persons laughed because they were young, very young.
"My employers discharged me as soon as I was released from hospital. I wish this Commission could organise that I get medical treatment. I also wish that this Commission could investigate about this person who shot me. I want to see this perpetrator face to face because I will never forgive him, I just don't have peace. I also wish that this Commission could be of assistance to me because I - my health is not good, I don't feel all right."
I also do not know if Nomonde Nozulu Mahlanza is with us today. But let me remind you of what she said on the same day that Robert Gqeme spoke to the TRC. She said:
"On the 14th of August I saw some white people coming into my house and they took my brother away and they put him on the Casper and they left with him that afternoon.
"Then I asked my children that we should pray when he did not come back. Early the following day a certain person came to tell us that my brother had come and my brother was taken to hospital and as the Doctor was examining my brother, my brother died. (He was 21 years old).
"I'm asking that the Commission should help me because I have three young children."
Once again, I do not know whether Mzwakhe Mvubu is with us today. For his part he said:
"Whilst I was at the bridge just nearby I saw some white policemen and soldiers coming from one direction. They were in Caspers. I then saw one of the people in front of me falling. I immediately ran away and I think that is when I was shot and I fell.
"I lost consciousness, when I regained consciousness, I was in hospital. I was there for two months. And I had to go for some therapy for my arm. The Doctor was a Doctor Appavo. When I was discharged, I went back to work, but I still felt pain on my head and I went to a Doctor for an examination and I told him that I had some pain on my head.
"And he asked whether I had ever been injured, and I explained, so he sent me for X-rays and he could determine that there were still some bullets on my head which are still embedded right now.
"My request to this Commission is that I cannot get employment full time, because they always see that I have got a problem with my health and now I see that I do not have a bright future. Therefore I request that this Commission should pay for my children's education."
At the end of the hearings that day, the Chairperson, Rev Finca, said:
"We want to send word to (those who killed and injured people in Duncan Village) that they should listen, that peace and reconciliation in this country is solely dependent on them by them taking everything seriously.
"They have injured and shattered people's lives whereby people have got to go on living with some bullets within their bodies and this is something very serious. And we therefore wish that the people who are responsible for all this should come forward on their own, so that this Commission should make them see the people they did all these things to. If they do not come forward, there is just no possibility of reconciliation."
I do not know if those who killed people in Duncan Village responded to the call made by Rev Finca to respect the TRC process and therefore come forward at least to express regret for what they had done. Perhaps they did not understand what Rev Finca meant when he said they too had to contribute to the goal of national reconciliation. Perhaps they thought this responsibility fell on other people and not themselves.
Whatever the case may be, the people of South Africa who are, together, the beneficiaries of the sacrifices made by the heroes and heroines of Duncan Village, other parts of the Eastern Cape, and other areas of our country, dare not forget those who laid down their lives here in Duncan Village 23 years ago.
As we meet here today we must therefore recall the names of the fallen heroes and heroines which have so far been put together. These are:
Reuben Tutani or Tumani
Norman de Klerk
Royal Nquwule or Nqinele
Joseph Manold or Menold
Nothozayo Suthu or Msuthu
Mpangeli Matshekele or Matshekete
With regard to the matter of ensuring that we have a complete record of those who perished, I was happy to learn that a Committee has been established to collect and collate all information related thereto, in order to produce an authentic record of the Duncan Village fatalities.
As we listened to the voices of Rogers Gqeme, Nomonde Mahlanza and Mzwakhe Mvubu, we heard the appeals they made to the TRC that free South Africa should come to their aid to help them deal with the problems they had had to confront as a result of the sacrifices they and their relatives made arising out of the Duncan Village Massacre.
I do hope that we responded to their appeals, as well as the appeals made by others in our country, who were faced with similar challenges.
However, it is clear that over the years, for a number of reasons, our system of government has not succeeded fully to meet the needs of victims of gross violations of human rights as defined for the purpose of the TRC process. It is necessary that all our spheres of government should attend to this important matter.
As everybody involved in this important Duncan Village Massacre project has resolved, we must indeed do everything possible to integrate such projects in our continuing effort to achieve the objective of a better life for all.
I am therefore pleased that this Memorial project is located in an area that has been identified as one of the critical areas that need strategic intervention to ensure socio-economic upliftment and infrastructure development, in line with government's national programme of fighting poverty and underdevelopment.
Much also still needs to be done to build monuments such as this Duncan Village Massacre memorial site as yet another important contribution to the process of reparations.
I am indeed very pleased to learn that critical to the entire planning of this project is the determination to locate this heritage site within the framework of the envisaged Eastern Cape Liberation Heritage Route that will link all relevant heritage sites, which will celebrate all those who played an important role in the birth of our democracy.
In this regard, I am happy to inform you that work to create our principal national monument, Freedom Park in Tshwane, is proceeding very well. Everything is being done to ensure that here we will have a monument that will be the pride of the nation, a place of pilgrimage worth visiting, a magnificent tribute to all our people and truly a place of reconciliation that reaffirms the vision of our unity despite our diversity.
Fully to realise its objectives, Freedom Park will also have to find a way of linking up with the Duncan Village Massacre Memorial Site, the Eastern Cape Liberation Heritage Route, the similar Heritage Route in KwaZulu-Natal, and other memorial sites throughout our country, so that even this site, located here in Duncan Village, becomes accessible to all the people of South Africa.
The memorial we unveil today is a fitting tribute to our heroes and heroines, and a testament to the triumph of justice over the abhorrent system of apartheid. It constitutes our solemn pledge that we will forever remain vigilant to defend the freedom we won at great cost in human lives, including those who fell here in Duncan Village.
The martyrs fell so that we could liberate ourselves from the apartheid crime against humanity, and so that we could use our liberty to build a new South Africa free of racism and sexism, free of violence of any kind, including criminal violence, free of ignorance and illiteracy, free of unemployment, poverty, hunger and underdevelopment.
In just over three weeks, we will celebrate our 14th Anniversary of liberation. These years have taught all of us the hard and important lesson that it will take us time to achieve these objectives, which must serve as the most important monument to salute and celebrate the martyrs who gave their lives to give us the gift of freedom, as did those who died here in Duncan Village.
These years have also taught us the lesson that to win the new struggle in which we have been engaged for the last 14 years, once more we need heroes and heroines of the calibre of those we salute here today - honest patriots who are ready selflessly to serve the people of South Africa, with no expectation of personal gain or fame, inspired only by the objective of the complete recovery of their human dignity by all South Africans, black and white.
Let all of us who are gathered at this Duncan Village Massacre Memorial Monument speak in one united voice and say - as our people did in the past, we will fashion ourselves into the new heroes and heroines required by the protracted struggle to achieve the total emancipation of the masses of our people through the realisation of the goal of a better life for all!
I am honoured to declare the Duncan Village Massacre Memorial Monument open.