President Motlanthe pays tribute to fallen struggle heroes

Friday, February 6, 2009

Parliament - President Kgalema Motlanthe on Friday paid tribute to the fallen struggle veterans who contributed immensely to the country's democracy.

Delivering his first State of the Nation Address to a joint sitting of Parliament, the President said these South Africans represented the hope and resilience that characterised the nation.

"Within the galaxy of outstanding South Africans were Members of our democratic Parliament to whom we had the misfortune since last February to bid the final farewell," he said.

These struggle veterans, the President said, included Brian Bunting, Billy Nair, Ncumisa Kondlo, John Gomomo, Joe Nhlanhla, Cas Saloojee, John Schippers and Jan van Eck.

"To these, I would also like to add Ms Helen Suzman, a truly distinguished South African, who represented the values of our new Parliament in the chambers of the old."

He said it was because of these patriots that South Africa is where it is today.

"It is these and other patriots who should take the greatest share of the accolade when we pronounce that - whatever economic storms may pound our shores, whatever political uncertainties may visit our collective consciousness in a transition - our nation is in a good state."

The President further saluted the late President of the African National Congress, Oliver Reginald Tambo, for initiating and piloting through continental and world bodies what became a compass for the peaceful resolution of the conflict in our country.

"That courageous step to devise a framework that would seek peace and reconciliation, in the place of war and conflict, reversed for good the false dawn of a hundred years ago: that is, the conclusion in 1909 of the National Convention which presaged the formation of the Union of South Africa."

While that Convention defined the territorial integrity of South Africa as it is known today, it was based on racial oppression and exclusion.

He said 15 years into democracy, and South Africa can assert that the fear, the insecurity and the loathing that 100 years ago generated an exclusive and illusory peace among colonial masters, were not only unfounded; but truly misplaced.

"Those fears and insecurities gave rise to decades of resistance. In this regard, we salute that brave son of our people, Solomon Kalushi Mahlangu who went to the gallows 30 years ago with his head held high, in the proud knowledge that his blood would nourish the tree of freedom."

The President said, 130 years on, South Africans could only marvel at the hope and the resilience that infused those stout hearts.