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Menings | Opinion > SeminaarKamer | Seminar Room > English > Essays

Remarks at the unveiling of the UDF Memorial, Rocklands, Mitchell’s Plain

Allan Boesak - 2011-09-02

Remarks at the unveiling of the UDF Memorial, Rocklands, Mitchell’s Plain
20 August 2011

This is a great historic moment, and we all owe the City and the province a great debt of gratitude.

I come today with a reminder and a plea: a reminder of what happened then, and what is possible today; and a plea for what is needed today.

Twenty-eight years ago, at this place, a movement was born that signalled the coming together of a people, the strength of single-minded determination, and the end of the system of apartheid. The UDF brought together the broadest front of organisations and people in the history of our country in a single-minded purpose to pray together, march together, work together, stand together, go to jail together, break down together, build together, sacrifice together – to bring to an end the system of apartheid.

We believed:

  • that freedom was not a foreign country but our right, our destiny and our home
  • that justice was not an orphaned child but the offspring of struggle and sacrifice
  • that non-racialism was not the unreachable dream of fools, but a risk worth dying for by those who had the courage to break the chains of race and ethnicity, the captivity of skin colour, to affirm the worthiness of human dignity.

It was possible then – it is possible today.

It was what was at stake then – it is what is at stake today.

We believed that a nation’s honour does not lie in military might or the foolish pride of ill-gotten wealth, but in justice and compassion, in the protection of the weak and vulnerable, in the cherishing of the things that make for peace.

It was at stake then – it is what is at stake today.

It was possible then – it is possible now.

That was my reminder. Now my plea.

Remember those famous “three little words” we used then? “All”, “here”, and “now”? “We want all our rights; we want them here;we want them now.”

My plea is: do not forget them.

As long as so many of our people languish in poverty and misery; as long as so many are victims of violence; as long as so many children dare not dream, for fear of betrayal and disappointment; as long as there is so much anger and disillusionment, we must not forget them – we must fight for those rights.

  • the right to life and health, to decent education and proper schools to learn in
  • the right to dignified labour and food on the table
  • the right to walk safely by day and sleep peacefully at night
  • the right to honest politicians who know what it means to serve the people, politicians who stand in the breach for the poor and do not feed at the trough of self-enrichment
  • the right not to be stigmatised because I have HIV/AIDS
  • the right not to be hunted down, raped and murdered because I am lesbian or gay
  • the right to believe in a country that cares for all its people.

We want those rights here:

  • in Mitchell’s Plain as they have them in Constantia
  • in Guguletu, Bonteheuwel and Langa as they have them in Welgemoed and Bishop’s Court
  • in Samora Machel and Harare and Joe Slovo as they have them in Sandton and Waterkloof
  • in every township, every squatter camp and every shack and hovel – as they have them in Parliament and the board rooms of corporations.

We want them now. We have waited through struggle years and prison years, and democracy years, and that’s too long.

  • We cannot wait until the rich finally decide how many crumbs we may have from their table.
  • We cannot wait until politicians finally understand that the needs of the people are holy before God.
  • We cannot wait until political parties finally realise that the interests of the nation far outweigh the narrow party political games they play with our lives.
  • We cannot wait until the church at last realises that what the Lord requires is justice, and mercy, and to walk humbly with our God.
  • We cannot wait for South Africa’s people to wake up to the fact that unless we come together as one nation and one people and live up to the ideals and hopes of the UDF and our struggle, and rise even above that, we shall all perish together as fools.

So it is time to revive the spirit of togetherness; to take hands and stand together; time to set aside our divisions and cynicism and selfishness and apathy and stand for justice and nationhood together.

It is time to break the silence and speak out for those struck dumb by injustice and suffering.

We have a destiny to fulfil.

We have a nation to build, a future to secure to make our people flourish; to make our dreams a reality; to make our sacrifices worthwhile, to make our children proud.

Thank you!