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Address by Minister Ronald Lamola on the Occasion of the Handover and Reburial Ceremonies of the Exhumed Remains of Political Prisoners, Bonakele Ngcogolo and Notimba Bozwana in the Eastern Cape Province: Cofivamba, 26 May 2022

MEC for Sports, Recreation, Arts and Culture, Ms Fezeka Nkomonye; Executive Mayor for Chris Hani District, Cllr Wongama Gela; President of the PAC
Families of Ngcogolo and Bozwana; Councillors Present;
Ladies and Gentlemen;
Distinguished Guests;

Yesterday the world marked Africa Day. In 1963, the Organization of African Unity – now known as the African Union – was established. We commemorate days like Africa Day, to reflect on the accomplishments of people across the African continent, and on the challenges they still endure.

Africa Day also celebrates and acknowledges the success of the OAU in the fight against colonialism and apartheid. President Ramaphosa correctly spoke on behalf of all of us yesterday in his Africa Day message when he said: For us as South Africans, Africa Day assumes the same significance as all the National Days we observe in democratic South Africa, because our freedom would not have been possible without the support and moral courage of the people of Africa and their leaders”. Close Quote.

I have chosen to highlight this because, we gathered here today to commemorate true Pan Africanists.

The people who lay here before us today, were inspired by young men who changed the manner in which our liberation struggle was waged. Robert Sobukwe, Anton Lembede and A.P. Mda were young men who believed that this country can be different.

They did not just have a clear vision of what shape our society should take. They had a clear programme of action on how South Africa should be reformed. Surrounded by a racist society, Robert Sobukwe was bold when he said “There is only one race, the human race.”

Very few amongst us can argue that this view has not found expression in our new society we are building. Our heroes and heroines fought for non-racialism and non-sexism, ourselves we cannot afford to falter.

At times, one is tempted to ask, what must happen for us to change the way men relate to women. Every year, we are outraged by yet another horrendous gender based violence crime. Every year, we are outraged by yet another racist incident. Our heroes and heroines who fought for our liberation, did not fight for men to kill women. They did not fight for racists to persist with their backward thinking.

Our generation needs to own this democracy. This democracy is in our hands to prosecute. The baton has been passed onto us from this generation who have lost their lives for us to live in a free society. But we know that, regrettably, women are still not free in our country.

Whilst we can proclaim that we have laws in place to address this abhorrent conduct, our generation must rise up in our communities, the workplace and in all spheres of society against the rape culture, xenophobia and racism. Women must be freed from the bondages of gender based violence and femicide.

Among the heroes and heroines of our people, there are those who gave a new momentum to the liberation struggle. Some laid their lives for freedom and democracy to be born in this great nation. Some of those heroes are Bonakele Ngcogolo and Notimba Bozwana who were cruelly executed by the apartheid regime.

Ngcongolo was a member of the Pan Africanist Congress Task force. Together with his comrades, they travelled by train from Cape Town to attack representatives and symbols of the apartheid regime in the former Transkei. On 13 December 1962, at Queenstown station en route to Qamata, police demanded passes of the PAC Task Force members and began searching them. A conflagration erupted, one police man was killed and three Poqo members were shot dead by the apartheid police forces. Many Poqo members and police members were injured. Ngcongolo was also shot and injured.

Twenty Poqo members were subsequently charged with sabotage. On 22 March 1963, 18 were sentenced to terms of imprisonment ranging from twenty to twenty five years. Ngcongolo was arrested and sentenced to death. Task Force Member, Notimba Mvoto Bozwana, who remained in Cape Town, was also arrested and sentenced to death after the court regarded him as a ring leader. Both Bozwana and Ngcongolo were executed on 11 February 1964.

There are at least 130 political prisoners who were hanged for politically related offences between 1960 and 1990. Following their execution, the apartheid regime retained the custody of the remains of the deceased, denying their families the opportunity to receive or bury them in line with their customs and beliefs. They were buried as paupers in cemeteries around Tshwane in Gauteng.

As the democratic government, we have ensured that of the 130 hanged political prisoners, 47 had their remains exhumed by other parties, and the Missing Persons Task Team supported by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission Unit has also to date exhumed 74 remains of deceased victims. This work enables families to bury their loved ones and to honour and restore the dignity of heroes and heroines of the liberation struggle. We also want to demonstrate our firm commitment towards healing the wounds inflicted by the apartheid regime.

We are forever indebted to our liberation struggle stalwarts, we shall continue with efforts to ensure that their memory lives on. Our role is to deepen democracy and constitutionalism to ensure that their deaths were never in vain. We must also reach out to those who worked towards entrenching apartheid and are its beneficiaries, not to mete out vengeance, but to build a truly inclusive society and learn from our painful past.

As we grapple with the challenges facing our people, we must move with speed to transform their lives. I am reminded of questions that were raised by former President Thabo Mbeki before the National Assembly on the occasion of the tabling of the report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission on 15 April 2003.

Mbeki asked and gave answers to the following national questions:

"Have we succeeded to create a non-racial society? The answer to this question is no.

Have we succeeded to build a non-sexist society: The answer to that question is no.

Have we succeeded to eradicate poverty? Once more, the answer to that question is no.

Have we succeeded to fully address the needs of the most vulnerable in our society, the children, the youth, people with disabilities and the elderly? One again the answer to this question is no."

So Programme Director, we must work together to eradicate the legacy of apartheid ad create a better and prosperous South Africa. As we handover the remains of these two gallant fighters to their families today, let us recommit ourselves as agents for change and fight against acts which bring our democracy and constitutionalism into great disrepute.

I thank you!