African freedom came through solidarity
The funeral of South Africa’s founding president Nelson Mandela was a reminder of the struggles Southern African Development Community countries went through to fight colonialism and apartheid.
Mandela’s death also refreshed the memories of people of the region on how the freedom they enjoy today came about. What also came to the fore were the sacrifices that countries of the region made to ensure sister countries were freed from the yoke of colonialism.
In eulogies at Mandela’s burial at his rural home in Qunu, speakers from the region recalled how they helped each other to fight colonialism and apartheid. Mourners heard of the price that countries, which attained independence first had to pay to help their neighbours and sister nations in the region to gain independence.
Development programmes had to be shelved, as the independent nations of the region worked round the clock to bring about political freedom to the entire SADC bloc.
The presence of former presidents such as Kenneth Kaunda of Zambia and Maria Nyerere, the widow of Tanzania’s founding president Julius Nyerere, was testimony of the unity African liberation movements have.
Master of ceremony and African National Congress deputy president Cyril Ramaphosa had told the gathering of the role Tanzania played in helping South Africa fight apartheid before Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete took to the podium to deliver his eulogy. President Kikwete also spoke about the sacrifices Tanzania made to help fellow SADC countries achieve independence.
Kaunda, in his speech, reminisced on the challenges encountered in delivering South Africa from apartheid bondage. He used the opportunity to remind the apartheid government of its degrading treatment of Mandela and his countrymen and women. “I had a chance to meet a number of friends of the Boer company. I spent three nights with (former prime minister John) Vorster on a train (stationed on the railway bridge over Victoria Falls, which separates Zambia and Zimbabwe),” said Kaunda.
“I asked the prime minister to please release Nelson Mandela and his colleagues and come together in discussions. It came to nothing.
“Then came another Boer leader – I think he was called (PW) Botha – to discuss the future of South Africa together. I didn’t succeed and it also came to nothing.
“Then came my meeting with FW de Klerk… and, after a few hours, I called a Press conference where I said: ‘I think I can do business with his man.’ Thank goodness he released this great man.”
It is such solidarity that delivered freedom to the SADC region and indeed the African continent at large. Such history must continue to be taught to the young generations so that they have an appreciation of how the freedom they are now enjoying today came about. We hail the decision by former liberation movements from Southern Africa to establish a political school as a way to preserve the liberation legacy. The liberation movements must move with speed to set up the envisaged school because their existence and the fact that they continue to be ruling parties in their countries faces a threat from imperialists and neo-colonialists.
Some of the imperialists were in attendance at Mandela’s funeral and were not even ashamed of their hypocrisy that only yesteryear they were at the forefront of denying Madiba his freedom and the freedom of his people. The hypocrites must not be allowed to hijack the region’s and Africa’s agenda.
The political school to be established in Tanzania will go a long way in strengthening the liberation movements in terms of ideology and teaching the history of the freedom struggles in Southern Africa. The liberation movements played a huge role in the decolonisation of Africa and such legacy should be preserved. The need to constantly remind our Southern African Development Community region of the fact that we were the main actors of our liberation cannot be over emphasised. We achieved this independence through struggle and sacrifice, as either leaders of the liberation movements, freedom fighters at the war front or the masses who assisted the cadres with material and moral support. The region should never lose sight of that particular fact, which should be celebrated and preserved, given that there are forces bent on erasing memories and values of the liberation struggle. Such forces were in abundance at Nelson Mandela’s funeral and should never be given a chance to distort our history.