SEFAKO MAPOGO MAKGATHO PRESIDENTIAL GUEST HOUSE, PRETORIA
ADDRESS BY HIS EXCELLENCY,
12 July 2012
Esteemed Makgatho Family,
Deputy President of the Republic Mr Kgalema Motlanthe
The Minister of Arts and Culture, Mr Paul Mashatile and all Ministers present,
Honourable Premier of Limpopo,
Honourable Deputy Ministers and MECs,
Tshwane Executive Mayor, Councillor Ramokgopa
Members of the Diplomatic Corps,
Presidency Stakeholders and Special Guests,
Fellow South Africans,
In the State of the Nation Address in February this year, we announced that we would prioritise the promotion of an inclusive heritage in our country.
The symbols, geographic names and other features of the country need to reflect the diversity of our nation, our history and our future.
We are here to honour that commitment and to continue to immortalize and preserve our struggle heritage and history. We are doing so during an important year, when we mark the centenary of the oldest liberation movement in the African continent, the ANC.
We thank you for joining us therefore, to witness this historic occasion.
Today we are celebrating yet again, the legacy of an outstanding South African, the Limpopo-born teacher, politician and journalist – Sefako Mapogo Makgatho.
His contribution to the freedom and democracy we enjoy today, in the early years of our struggle for freedom, is being recognised through the naming of the Presidential Guest House in his honour. In April this year, we had the privilege of bestowing the National Order of Luthuli on President Makgatho, recognising his sterling contribution to the struggle for liberation.
In May this year we renamed Kings House, the Presidential Residence in Durban, after the first President-General of the ANC, John Langalibalele Dube.
This Presidential Guest residence is a meeting place of people from all walks of life. We host Heads of State and Government from all over the world.
We receive members of the national executive and all spheres of government, representatives of business, non-governmental organisations and people from all walks of life.
When they visit this residence, we want them to be inspired by the legacy of a man who decided to dedicate his life to making South Africa a better place for us all.
With the important dialogue on social cohesion just a few days past and Madiba’s 94th birthday just a few days before us, this moment could not have been timelier. Once more we wish Madiba well on his birthday!
The naming of this residence is also timely given the fact that our Tshwane Metropolitan Municipality has recently renamed a number of streets after heroes and heroines of our liberation struggle and other distinguished South Africans.
Among the changes, Zambezi Drive in the north-east of the city has also been renamed Sefako Makgatho Drive.
As the democratic government, we are giving this city a new face, capturing the rich political heritage of our country and the selfless and heroic struggle against colonial oppression and apartheid.
Such transformation is most appropriate for this city because Tshwane is the seat of government.
We have a responsibility to reflect a free South Africa accurately, boldly and proudly. As a nation we must together continuously pay tribute to men and women who committed their lives to fighting for human dignity, equality and freedom and must enshrine the values that they represented.
Compatriots and friends,
We are truly proud to name this Residence after President Makgatho. He knew the Brynterion Estate precinct including the Union Buildings very well, and appears to have been a regular visitor!
He said in his 1919 address to the national conference of the ANC in the Cape Province;
“I must apologise to the Free State delegates for my inability to visit them during this time of trouble.
“I hope they will understand when I say that in recent months these manifold troubles have increased my work in Pretoria.
“I have been in constant attendance at the Union Buildings and other offices, where I have had numerous conferences with heads of departments, and at various times with General Botha, before he left, and with other Ministers such as Mr Malan, Mr de Wet and Mr Burton on various questions more or less serious’’.
President Makgatho believed in direct engagement with the oppressors who were sitting in the Union Buildings, in efforts to make them realise that they were destroying the country.
It is befitting that a residence linked to the Union Buildings be named after him.
President Makgatho also so inspired President Nelson Mandela that he named his only son, Makgatho Mandela, after him in 1951. That was the year in which President Makgatho passed on, here in Pretoria.
Born in then Pietersburg and now Polokwane, President Makgatho led the South African Native National Congress from 1917 to 1924.
He made his contribution to our country as a teacher, a trade unionist, journalist and political activist of note. He established the Transvaal African Teachers Association to fight for improvement of conditions in education.
Before leading the ANC, he also played a key role in the formation of the African Political Union and the Transvaal Native Congress, experiences which prepared him for his subsequent role of leadership in the organisation.
Most importantly, he was a fearless activist who defied authorities in many campaigns, decades before the Defiance Campaign was even conceptualised.
In 1912 for example, he boarded a train carriage reserved for white people to make a point against racial discrimination.
Another campaign he undertook was an effort to end other racially-based absurdities, such as the prohibition of Africans to walk on the pavements in Pretoria.
The bizarre prohibition of walking on the pavements and other racist laws was best captured by former ANC secretary general, RV Selope Thema in an article on 25 July 1953. He said;
“In those days the black man was treated as a beast of burden. He was knocked and kicked about with impunity.
“In the magistrate`s courts his voice was hardly heard and his evidence hardly believed.
“He was stopped at street corners by policemen demanding the production of his pass and his tax receipt. He was not allowed to walk on the pavements and had to dodge motor cars in the streets. He was not allowed to travel first, second or third class on the trains.
“He travelled in trucks almost similar to those used for cattle and horses…. Politically he had no voice in the making and administration of the laws. Economically he was kept in a state of abject poverty’’.
These are the conditions that President Makgatho and many of our illustrious leaders fought against.
We also remember his passionate fight against pass laws.
He spoke eloquently about the evils of pass laws in his 1919 presidential address. He said;
“The authorities insist that they cannot abolish passes which are a great help to the natives, as they serve to identify dead ones and stop living ones from committing crimes.
“But, chiefs ladies and gentlemen, you will understand how illogical is this allegation when I say there were no passes in Johannesburg before 1893 and there was less crime proportionately in those days; but since the multiplication of passes, Johannesburg has been known as the University of Crime.
“Again like the Cape Natives who carry no passes, white men also die in Johannesburg and it has never been suggested that they too, should carry identification passes.
“What is so difficult for us Natives to understand, is that a form of help should be forced upon us against our wish, that we should be fined, imprisoned, and ridden to death by mounted policemen, with our women also under horses’s hoofs, and shot at, simply because we say we are not in need of the help that is offered. What kind of protection is so compulsory?’’
This is a rich history, a history that many adults do not know, let alone our children! We have to teach ourselves the history of our country, all of us black and white, so that we can appreciate the freedom we enjoy today.
Even though our history is painful and uncomfortable, we cannot wish it away. We must learn from it and build one united nation from the ruins of the divisions of the past.
We were given the direction by our leaders such President Makgatho, who preached unity and a non-racialism as early as 1919.
He said;“The ANC aims to unite Africans,… to spearhead a common struggle for freedom and determination; to destroy racism and to create on its ruins a non-racial South Africa with traditional democratic rights that would be available to all, irrespective of race, colour, religion, sex, possessions, formal education and so on’’.
This is the foundation of the work that the ANC is doing, as it works together with all parties, to build a united, non-racial, non-sexist, democratic and prosperous South Africa.
Compatriots and friends,
It is my honour and privilege to welcome you to the Sefako M. Makgatho Presidential Guest House.
I thank You!