Today we celebrate Reconciliation Day and the history behind the holiday.
The Day of Reconciliation, also previously called the Day of the Vow, the Day of the Covenant, or Dingane’s Day, is a public holiday observed in South Africa on December 16.
Initially, this holiday commemorated the victory of the Voortrekkers over the Zulus at the Battle of Blood River in 1838 . Prior to the battle, the Voortrekkers had taken a vow that, if they succeeded in defeating the Zulus, they would build a church and observe the day as a religious holiday. This observance was recognised as Dingane’s Day, which was named after the Zulu King, King Dingane and was later established as a public holiday in 1910.
In 1952 the National Party passed the Public Holidays Act, which changed Dingane’s Day to the Day of the Covenant and officially declared the day a religious holiday. In 1980 the holiday was changed to the Day of the Vow. This public holiday prohibited activities such as sports events and theatre performances from performing on this religious day.
This public holiday became increasingly significant in 1961, when the African National Congress’ (ANC) military wing, Umkhonto we Sizwe (“Spear of the Nation”) was formed.
After the first democratic elected government was established in South Africa in 1994, the holiday was officially renamed the Day of Reconciliation. This public holiday gained more attention when the Truth and Reconciliation Commission that examined apartheid human rights abuses, started their investigation in a ceremony on 16 December 1995.
The 16 December is celebrated as a public holiday so that South Africans can foster a sense of national unity and racial harmony.
Today marks 145 years since Dr Abdullah Abdurahman was born.
To honour this doctor, President of the African People’s Organization, Life-long member of the Cape Town City Council and the Cape Provincial Council, we would like to share the symbolism of each of the objects displayed on his #LongMarchToFreedom bronze figure.
The Cross Pin on the Jacket Lapel refers to the Order for Meritorious Service where he was awarded posthumously by the President for his work “against racial oppression”.
The Tie Clip in the form of a key with three loops represents a South African Police Handcuff Key to symbolise his oppression. The key is further depicted in the #LongMarchToFreedom bronze sculpture of his daughter, Cissie Gool.
The various Coins as substitutes for buttons is symbolic of his capitalist occupations, especially in contrast with Cissie Gool’s socialist inclined ideology. The only button not substituted has the serpent and sword insignia which alludes to his medical qualification.
The 5 Pens and Pencils in his pocket reflects the 5 learning institutions and schools he established for Coloured persons.
The Miniature Toy Lion in the time piece pocket refers to a toy used to entertain children as a paediatrician and general practitioner.
On Friday 10 December 1948 The United Nations adopted and proclaimed the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The day was from then recognized and celebrated as International Human Rights Day.
When the General Assembly adopted the Declaration, with 48 states in favor and eight abstentions, it was proclaimed as a “common standard of achievement for all peoples and all nations”, towards which individuals and societies should “strive by progressive measures, national and international, to secure their universal and effective recognition and observance.” Countries across the world celebrate this day every year.
It is in line with this that our heroes at the Long March to Freedom strove to see to it that all South Africans enjoy their rights in a free nation.
Today we remember those who received the Nobel Peace Prize Award during the struggle.
On 10 December 1961, president of the then banned African National Congress (ANC), Albert Luthuli was awarded the 1960 Nobel Peace Prize for his role as the leader of ten million Africans in the non-violent struggle against apartheid. Due to the apartheid government restricting his movements, Luthuli was only granted special permission in 1961 to attend the award ceremony in Oslo, Norway.
He was the first African and individual outside of Europe and the Americas to been awarded this prestigious accolade in Oslo, Norway. His famous statement “the road to freedom is via the cross” clearly depicts his dedication to freedom and his aversion to violence.
The 10 December became quite a remarkable date for South Africa, as Nelson Mandela and Frederik Willem de Klerk were jointly awarded the Nobel Peace Prize exactly two years after Luthuli received his. Mandela and de Klerk were honoured with the prize due to “their work for the peaceful termination of the apartheid regime, and for laying the foundations for a new democratic South Africa.”
On 7 December 1988 Nelson Mandela was transferred to Victor Verster Prison in Paarl. He was there for 14 months in a cottage until he was released from prison on 11 February 1990.
Struggle icon and former president of South Africa, Nelson Mandela, was quietly transported from a clinic outside Cape Town to a house on a prison farm in Paarl. He was placed at the prison because it was close to doctors and hospitals as it was during this time that he was recovering from Tuberculosis. The house where Mandela stayed was previously used for house officers but was refurbished once the struggle icon moved in.
Mandela’s transfer was the first step in what appears to be a Government strategy to move him to less austere accommodations rather than free him outright. The government, who charged Mandela with a life sentence on charges of conspiracy to overthrow the government and sabotage, vetoed suggestions to free him completely. They believed that by freeing him that it would result in a wave of demonstrations on his behalf and would inevitably lead to possible violence.
Reports by the authorities on Mandela’s move to Victor Verster Prison prompted repeated rumors that he would be released soon. The government who initiated the transfer hoped that this move would be taken as a conciliatory gesture, which in turn, increased the rumours that Mandela would be released soon. Although this move did allow certain privileges for the struggle hero, Winnie Mandela refused the unlimited visiting hours the Government had offered her. She was quoted as saying she would adhere to the 40-minute period she has been allowed, because she still considered him a political prisoner.
As seen in the New York Times article dated 8 December 1988, Mandela’s lawyer at the time, Mr. Ismail Ayob reported that:
”I spoke with Mrs. Mandela,” Mr. Ayoub reported. ”Her reply was that Mr. Mandela still remained a prisoner of the South African Government and that the concession made today to him personally is clearly a response to the domestic and international pressure for his release.”
Although this move to Victor Verster Prison helped to facilitate a transition to freedom, Mandela was only released after living at the prison for 14 months.
Today Anton Lembede would have celebrated his 70th birthday this year, had he not died so young at 33. We honour this founding member and first president of the ANC Youth League in the #LongMarchToFreedom. Visit him and other Young Lions, #Tambo, #Mandela and #Sisulu at #FountainsValley, Pretoria.
‘The hour of youth has struck!.’ So proclaimed a flyer issued by the Provisional Executive Committee of the newly formed ANC Youth League, advertising the organisation’s first conference to be held in September 1944.
The Youth League had launched six months earlier, at Johannesburg’s Bantu Social Centre in March 1944 but it was at the September conference that Anton Lembede was elected from among his equally dynamic peers to become first president of the ANC’s youth wing.
Outstanding because of his intellect, qualifications and passion, the dynamic leader invented and was greatly driven by the ideal ‘Africanism.’ He had a deep and almost fanatical love for Africa and would, on occasion remark that, ‘I live for the freedom of my people, and I shall die for Africa’s freedom’. It is no surprise that the motto of the Youth League was ‘Africa’s’ cause must triumph!’
According to Lembede’s close friend and housemate Ashby P. Mda, the first person to mention or suggest the founding of a Youth League was actually Manasseh T. Moerane. However, Moerane was not to take a leading role in the formation of the League and subsequently has not been noted in popular histories of the ANCYL.
Both founding members, Lembede and Mda had become close friends in 1943 and had to share accommodation as a result of their low wages. Their time together was spent engaging in intellectual discussions which gave birth to the ideals that were to shape the organisation and future generations to this day.
Mda acknowledged that Lembede ‘took his word in many things’ and was very respectful and loving toward him. He never wanted to clash openly with him, but in private they had intense arguments. He would attack others publicly but was to Mda ‘as soft as a newly wedded maiden’. This gave others the impression that Mda was steering Lembede from behind the scenes, but in fact they clashed in privately on many issues of principle.
In the 1930s the ANC, under the leadership of Alfred Bitini Xuma, had been revived but its methods remained cautious and respectful towards the white elite. Every resolution of the ANC started with statements like, ‘We pray the Minister… We humbly request…’ Annoyed by this pacifism, this group of young intellectuals became agitated and demanded a shift towards a more militant style of politics. Jordan Ngubane, a youth leader regarded as a philosopher, together with Lembede and Mda drafted the League Manifesto, although Lembedes’ ideas are said to have dominated the document.
Although Xuma was worried that the manifesto was disrespectful as it was scathingly critical of the senior ANC, he still gave the youth support. The document pointed out that the formation of the Youth League was based on criticisms against the ANC which was seen as elitist and ‘not an efficiently organised bloc’, lacking a ‘constructive programme to enforce the repeal of all oppressive legislation’. The Youth League aimed at imparting to the ANC a national character rooted in African nationalism and African self-determination.
Many older ANC leaders dismissed the League as irresponsible and cheeky, partly because Lembede was extremely passionate and dogmatic about his beliefs. However, his influence was shown when the moderate Xuma lost the presidency in 1949 to James Moroka who was more supportive of the Programme of Action presented by Lembede in the same year.
Sadly, Lembede died prematurely on the 30th of July 1947 at the age of 33. Mda took over leadership and formed a working committee consisting of Walter Sisulu, Oliver Tambo and Nelson Mandela. These, as history has shown went on to further prove that indeed the hour of youth had struck.
Glaser Clive. The ANC Youth League. Johannesburg: Jacana Media, 2012.
Karis Thomas and G.M Carter. From Protest to Challenge: A Documentary History of African Politics in South Africa, 1882-1964. Vol 2. California: Hoover Institution Press, 1979.
Statement during the Anton Lembede Memorial Lecture at the University of Fort Hare. 10 October 2002. http://www.ancyl.org.za/search.php?search=Anton+Lembede+&submit=search&sa=
Gerhart, Gail M. Interview with Mda, A.P. 01 January 1970. http://www.aluka.org/action/showMetadata?doi=10.5555/AL.SFF.DOCUMENT.gerhart0016
On the 5th of December 1925, Queen Labotsibeni passed away.
Born in 1858 at eLuhlekweni northern Swaziland, Labotsibeni was a Princess of the Mdhluli section of the Swazi Nation. She was the wife of Ngwenyama Mbandeni and mother of Bhunu Heli Mahlikhlo Ngwane III and grandmother of King Sobhuza II. She was proclaimed the Ndhlovukazi (Queen) after the death of her husband in 1889 and ruled for 36 years, first as the Queen mother and then as the Queen Regent as Sobhuza was too young to rule.
Labotsibeni’s ascension to the throne was rather atypical as Swati traditional laws did not allow a woman in her situation to rule. Second, her clan, Mdluli, was not next in line to rule Swaziland. In spite of this, she was chosen because of “her outstanding intelligence, ability and character and experience.” Also known as Gwamile (meaning the indomitable one) she was acknowledged by many representatives of Britain as one of the cleverest rulers in Africa, a shrewd diplomat who bravely led and defended Swaziland.
During her reign she tried to regain tracts of land that her husband had lost to European settlers by raising 40 000 pounds to buy it back, however she was not successful. Her campaign coincided with protests against South Africa’s 1913 Natives’ Land Act. In solidarity, Labotsibeni contributed to the South African Native National Congress (SANNC) 1914 delegation to Britain to protest the act. In 1921 she and Crown Prince Sobhuza, later King Sobhuza II, financed and co-founded the Abantu-Batho newspaper, the mouthpiece of the SANNC. A strong African nationalist, the Regent had registered the infant Prince Sobhuza as a member of the ANC at its inception in 1912.
A rainmaker and one of the richest women in South Africa, she was not known to wear European clothes although the Queen of England is said to have sent her many. This was perhaps a sign of her Africanism and being grounded in tradition. She died in Swaziland at the age of 80.
We remember this great woman and icon of the struggle for freedom today at the Long March To Freedom.
Christison, G. 2007. African Jerusalem: The Vision of Robert Grendon. PhD Thesis, University of KwaZulu-Natal, pp.773 and 774.
Ginindza, T. 1996. Labotsibeni/Gwamile Mdluli: The Power Behind the Swazi Throne, 1875-1925, Annals, New York Academy of Sciences, pp.135-158.
Mkhonza, S. 2012. Queen Labotsibeni and Abantu-Batho. In: Limb, P. ed. 2012. The People’s Paper: A Centenary History and Anthology of Abantu-Batho. Johannesburg: Wits University Press.
Today marks 93 years since President of the Pan Africanist Congress (PAC) was born.
Sobukwe was a man of exceptional capabilities who inspired radical black thought. Due to his influence in the struggle the apartheid government enacted the “Sobukwe clause”, a statute which at face value seemed to grant broadly applicable powers, but was specifically intended to authorise the arbitrary extension of Sobukwe’s imprisonment.
This Clause which was also seen as the 1963 General Laws Amendment Act No 37 “strengthened the 1962 [GENERAL LAWS AMENDMENT] ACT … by further defining political crimes” (Riley 1991: 82). For instance, Section 5 made a capital crime out of “receiving training that could further the objects of communism or advocating abroad economic or social change in South Africa by violent means through the aid of a foreign government or institution where the accused is a resident or former resident of South Africa” (Dugard 1978: 125t). It made provisions for imposing “sentences ranging from a minimum of five years’ imprisonment to death for anyone leaving the country to learn sabotage techniques, for advocating the forcible overthrow of the government or for urging the forcible inter-venti on in domestic South African affairs by an outside power, including the UN” (Riley 1991: 82).
The 1963 act also included certain provisions for an indefinite detention. The clause was also known as the “Sobukwe Clause” since it was specifically aimed at keeping the PAC leader Robert Sobukwe in jail (as also later admitted by the government). Thus after a three-year sentence, he “was actually detained for a further six years on the annual decision of the Parliament”.
Part of the reason for the drastic measures taken to prevent Sobukwe from speaking and protesting was that his ideologies of freeing the African mind were far too revolutionary for the apartheid government. This act was later superseded by the INTERNAL SECURITY ACT of 1976.
To learn more about this iconic struggle hero you can read:
How Can Man Die Better: The Life Of Robert Sobukwe by Benjamin Pogrund
Today we commemorate struggle and intellectual leader, Robert Sobukwe who was born on 5 December 1924. We discuss his political thinking as part of his contribution to the struggle.
Robert Mangaliso Sobukwe was a popular Africanist leader and thinker who fought for the political emancipation of Africa.
Sobukwe rose to national prominence when he broke away from the African National Congress (ANC) in 1959 to form the more radical Pan Africanist Congress (PAC). This breakaway group experienced many difficulties with the views of their former political party, the ANC. The newly formed PAC believed that the membership of the Youth League was open to all who “lived like and with blacks”. They felt that the ANC was incapable of promoting black liberation, because of its large number of white members. Essentially they believed that the majority of white members within the ANC had diluted the traditional Black Nationalist position of the ANC. The PAC wanted black South Africans to be in control of their own liberation struggle, without the influence of white liberals, including communists.
The PAC believed that it was the historic task of the black working class and its organisations to mobilize the urban and rural poor so that, along with the radical groups of the middle class, they could bring an end to oppression and exploitation by the white ruling class. During this struggle one national culture, underpinned by socialist values, would emerge.
Keeping these views in mind Sobukwe thus promoted African Nationalism (later called Black Consciousness) and pushed for his Pan-African vision of ‘a government of the Africans, by the Africans, for the Africans’. This can be seen in his speech delivered at the first annual meeting of the newly formed PAC:
“We aim, politically, at government of the Africans by the Africans, for the Africans, with everybody who owes his only loyalty to Afrika and who is prepared to accept the democratic rule of an African majority being regarded as African … Socially we aim at the full development of the human personality and a ruthless uprooting and outlawing of all forms or manifestations of the racial myth” (Sobukwe, 1959/2014: 480).
Sobukwe’s philosophy of African nationalism was essentially a basis for the complete unity of the African people. It was also the basis for the achievement of national freedom for the African people as a step towards a well-developed democratic order in South Africa. Sobukwe and the PAC believed that anti-racism and anti-imperialism, non-cooperation with the oppressors and their political instruments, independent working-class organisations, and opposition to alliances with ruling-class parties would result in the successful execution of the national liberation struggle.
Sobukwe was an icon of African Nationalism and used African Nationalism as the means to emancipate Africans completely. He wanted to liberate them from political oppression, social degradation and economic exploitation.
On the fourth of December 1981, Ciskei was granted independence.
Ciskei which means “on this side of the Kei River’ was granted independence by the South African government in 1981, following a referendum conducted by Lennox Sebe, leader of the Ciskei National Independence Party (CNIP).
Under South Africa’s policy of Apartheid, land was set aside for black peoples in self-governing territories. The homelands system lay at the heart of the National Party (NP) government’s policy of territorial and political separation based on race. The Bantu Authorities Act was passed in the early 1950s, increasing the powers of traditional authorities in preparation for self-governance, and in 1959, the Promotion of Bantu Self-Government Act provided the legislative basis for the future homelands. The government argued that Africans could develop as a nation better if they were settled in their tribal home lands.
(20 Feb 1980) Homeland leader Chief Lennox Sebe rejected a South African plan for “independence” for his Ciskeian people on Wednesday, (13 February), unless they were allowed to keep South African citizenship in this clip;
Ciskei was designated as one of two homelands or “Bantustans” for Xhosa speaking people. Ngqika (Rharhabe) Xhosa people were resettled in the Ciskei, and Gcaleka Xhosa were settled in the Transkei, the other Xhosa homeland. It was the largest un-segmented Bantustan, in south Eastern Cape Province (currently the Eastern Cape) with a succession of capitals during its existence. Originally, Zwelitsha served as the capital with the view that Alice would become the long-term national capital. However, it was Bisho (now spelled Bhisho) that became the capital until Ciskei’s reintegration into South Africa.
After the granting of independence, Sebe was elected “President for Life” of the new “state.” The Sebe regime rapidly became notable as one of the most repressive of the Bantustan governments. It is believed by some that Sebe never enjoyed any degree of popular support. However, some residents of the Ciskei during his time did support his traditional type of rule and recall how he used to slaughter a beast at the end of every month. He is also credited for building and developing Bisho. It was not until 1989 that open opposition to his government gained momentum. On the 15th of December 1993 the South African Parliament voted to restore citizenship to residents of the so called independent states. As the political situation in South Africa improved in 1990, residents of Ciskei began to agitate for similar reforms. The South African Homelands or Bantustans ceased to exist on 27 April 1994, and were re-incorporated into the new nine provinces of a democratic South Africa.