21 former MK freedom fighters honoured

Thursday, May 23, 2024

Deputy President Paul Mashatile has officially handed over headstones to 21 affected families of fallen former Umkhonto we Sizwe (MK) operatives who died between 1986 and 1990.

The Deputy President described the occasion in Soweto, Johannesburg, as an important and historic moment that must go down in the annals of history.

“We are living up to the constitutional injunction which enjoins us to, ‘recognise the injustices of our past, honour those who suffered for justice and freedom in our land, and to heal the divisions of the past and establish a society based on democratic values, social justice and fundamental human rights’,” he said on Tuesday.

He said he hoped that the unveiling would bring closure to the suffering and agony of the families who endured the pain.

The Deputy President told the families and the other attendees that the liberation heroes had made enormous sacrifices, including disintegrated families to secure the freedom many enjoy today.

He took the time to pay tribute to the brave men and women who made the ultimate sacrifice in service to the country.

“We will never forget their selflessness, courage, and commitment to defending our nation. They demonstrated remarkable courage and strength in the face of adversity, showing unwavering determination and fortitude in the most difficult of situations.”

He believed that it was unfortunate that many liberation heroes never saw the dawn of democracy ushered in 1994. “However, they have paid the ultimate price with the hope of a South Africa that we have today.”

He recounted the journey of South Africans before 1994 as challenging and arduous.

The country’s second-in-command said the apartheid system robbed black South Africans of the right to exercise fundamental human rights.

These include the right to vote, access to equal access and quality education and healthcare, and the freedom to move around freely throughout the country without restriction.

Despite facing immense challenges and brutal crackdowns, he said South Africans never gave up their fight for freedom and equality.

“As we remember and commemorate their sacrifice, it is important for us to not only honour their memory but also to ensure that their legacy lives on. We must continue to support and care for our veterans and their families. We must strive to create a society that values and respects the sacrifices made by MK veterans and their families.”

He said the country has a collective duty to protect the democratic gains and break free from the shackles of poverty and high levels of inequality.

Deputy President Mashatile said under-development was now the common enemy, which needed a more focused response.

Meanwhile, he expressed regret that some veterans and their families were still struggling with poverty after 30 years of democracy.

“Sadly, most of these brave men and women were never able to save for retirement or their children’s futures by funding health care plans or pensions, or by looking into different options for skills development or financing for their schooling.”

He said government was actively working to bring about the change it deserves.

Through the Presidential Task Team on Military Veterans, he said the state was committed to addressing the concerns and needs raised with the government regarding veterans’ benefits, support, and improving access and services to military veterans.

“We are committed to providing support to the families of MK veterans in various ways, including financial assistance, to ensure they can lead fulfilling lives.”

A wreath-laying ceremony took place at five cemeteries, including one headstone in Ga-Rankuwa, two at Crystal Park, four in Tembisa, seven at Avalon and eight at Westpark. – SAnews.gov.za