Address by His Excellency JG Zuma, President of the Republic of South Africa, on the occasion of celebrating the 35th anniversary of Mitchells Plein, Westridge Gardens, Mitchells Plein
31 Oct 2009
Hon Ministers present
Hon Premier of Western Cape, Hellen Zille
Members of the Provincial Executive Present
His Excellency the Major of the City of Cape Town
Mr Dan Plato
Ladies and gentlemen
We are gathered for a most special occasion.
This celebration of the 35th anniversary of Mitchells Plein promotes unity and common nationhood amongst the people of Cape Town, whether in Mitchells Plein, Rondebosch or Khayelitsha.
The theme of the festival, "Together as One" brings together all the people of Cape Town to celebrate the culture, history and future of Mitchells Plein and indeed the whole city. In its unique way, this event emphasises some of the key rights and values in our Bill of Rights, especially freedom of association and movement.
This festival is a powerful indicator that no wall of division can stand between our people. It reminds us that we must not allow artificial boundaries to separate the people of the Western Cape. We are one people, we are equal citizens and this country is for all of us.
Ladies and gentlemen
The history of this city is synonymous with some outstanding leaders, fighters for justice and freedom. One of these is Imam Solomon, who sadly passed away this week.
Parliament has lost a dedicated representative of the people; we have lost a committed leader and stalwart. His track record in fighting for liberation and human rights is well-known. His sterling contribution will forever remain etched in our memories. It should serve to inspire many more to follow in his footsteps and promote his legacy. We extend our heartfelt condolences to the family.
Compatriots, the celebration of the Mitchells Plein anniversary are no doubt also a celebration of this community's contribution in the fight against apartheid.
Mitchells Plein was the home of a strong grassroots movement, mobilising people against social ills that existed. It was a hotbed of activism. It is not surprising that this is where the United Democratic Front (UDF) was born in August 1983, launched at the Rocklands Community Hall.
Encompassing civic organisations and various constituencies, the UDF among others sought to advance the ideals of freedom and equality embraced in Freedom Charter of the then banned ANC.
In other words, Mitchells Plein is where the war for freedom, equality and human dignity was fought. Mitchells Plein symbolised resistance and the determination to be free. It reminded all of us at all times that we should not stop until victory was won.
While we all are in a celebratory mood marking the anniversary of Mitchells Plein, let us also remember that this is also a moving moment given the sad aspects of its history. This township's existence, like that of many other South African townships, bears testimony to countless flaws of those who sought to condemn our people to the most despicable of the conditions.
We must not forget the sorry tale of Cape Town apartheid politics, starting with the removal of Africans from District Six to Ndabeni Township. Black people were removed from the immediate precincts of the towns and cities, where they were near to their places of work and other facilities.
As if this was not enough, it was the advent of one more epidemic, the Spanish influenza of 1918-1919, which justified and fuelled the creation of another black township, Langa. People were forcibly removed from Ndabeni to Langa. With the institutionalisation of apartheid in 1948, stranger policies were implemented. This undermined the very nature of people as social and free beings, and prohibited freedom of association, movement and place.
The Population Registration, the Group Areas and the Mixed Marriages Acts were but some of these laws which separated the people's residential areas and amenities according to race. The racial classification was also very often flawed and it was entrenched through false doctrines about each race and ethnic group. All these divisions, as well as the rural urban divide, were entrenched through stringent influx control measures.
We are today celebrating because the people of Mitchell's Plein rose above the intentions of the oppressors. They decided to make this a vibrant community, with determination to succeed against all odds. We are celebrating the fact that our people survived apartheid policies which had no regard for human dignity. The social engineering of the apartheid state created the environment that breeds social problems we have to confront now, such as crime and gangsterism.
Fortunately, Mitchells Plein already has a good track record in the fight against crime. We know that the communities of Mitchells Plein and Khayelitsha have taken a strong stance against drugs and gangsterism, and you have government's full support. Let us this evening, pay tribute to some of this community’s crime fighters who paid the ultimate price and lost their lives, such as the late Mervyn Jacobs and Vincent Naidoo.
In their memory, let us continue to battle to keep our communities safer by working with law enforcement agencies to fight crime. Compatriots, out of this celebration, we must begin to make the divisions between the Coloured and African communities here a thing of the past. We are one people and no one should make us despise one another.
It will not be easy given years of division, but unity is possible and achievable, even in the Western Cape. When we celebrate this occasion in song and dance tonight, we should always remember where we come from as a people. We must hold in high regard the values of cohesion and unity that we have yearned for over many years of apartheid.
We must celebrate the fact that apartheid segregation did not break our spirit, and that we still walk tall and know exactly what we want for our country and our continent. Mitchells Plein and many of our communities need a lot of attention. The poverty unemployment, domestic violence, abuse as well as crime must be attended to with much vigour by all spheres of government.
As government we set out to change the apartheid landscape and pattern of settlement which has relegated our people to the wretched of this earth. One of the most realistic ways of doing this is to provide services to our people, so that we ease their socio-economic burden. We met with mayors from all over the country in Khayelitsha a week ago. In that meeting we emphasized the need for improved and faster service delivery. This is what we are working on, and we are establishing mechanisms to monitor all departments to ensure that undertakings are acted upon.
Ladies and gentlemen
Let me re-emphasise that through this occasion, let us extend hands of friendship to one another and realise that we are one people, despite concerted attempts to divide us in the past. Each one of us should feel at home in Khayelitsha or Mitchells Plein, and even at Strandfontein and other places, regardless of whether we stay there or not. Let us revive and restore our popular cultures of jazz, dance, social clubs and all organisations which extol and celebrate our being as a people.
Cape Town is a very cosmopolitan city, whose diversity we should all cherish and enjoy. Above all, we must make this area a safe haven for our communities, particularly our elderly, women and children.
We are truly humbled to be part of this occasion. It is important to us that you felt we should share this special celebration with you. From this event, let it be our resolve to live in peace and friendship. Let us embrace one another and walk side by side, "Together as one."
I thank you!
Issued by: The Presidency
31 October 2009
Issued by: The Presidency
31 Oct 2009
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