Free State should celebrate people like Morena Mohlomi instead of Fidel Castro

Roy Jankielsohn

Leader of the Official Opposition in the Free State Provincial Legislature:

The below speech was delivered by the Leader of the Official Opposition, Roy Jankielsohn (MPL), during the debate on the Second Reading of the Appropriation Bill 2015/16 in the Free State Provincial Legislature today.


Speaker, I spoke in much detail about the Office of the Premier during the State of the province debate and Honourable David van Vuuren spoke about the budget yesterday.


I have to mention that we are in opposition and as such we will carry out our duty unashamedly. There are times when we will criticise, there are times when we will support, and there are times that we will offer alternatives. That is what I want to do today.


Speaker, in 2011 Max du Preez delivered the annual CR Swart lecture at the University of the Free State. In his lecture he spoke a great deal about African philosophers and what we can learn from them.


I am going to talk about this again today, because it appears from the way we debate here that our province has rejected that which is indigenous and inherently good in favour of the perpetuation of a chapter of our history that should be systematically closing. This is bad for the Free State.


We acknowledge that Apartheid was bad, and that black South Africans were denied the most basic of human rights during this time. The two years national service was not voluntary and had a lasting impact on a whole generation of young white people. This is why the majority of white people embraced the new dispensation in 1994 and continue to be patriotic South Africans, even while they are constantly vilified by the governing faction of the ANC through derogatory remarks, especially in this legislature.


Speaker, by naming a building after Fidel Castro, a foreigner and a man of violence, we are entrenching violence as a value that is acceptable and even strive for in South Africa.


Many people regard Fidel Castro a revolutionary and a liberator, which might within a specific context appear to be noble, but one must always be careful not to entrench the concept of violence and violent revolution as on-going ideals in our current society. At the same time we must not forget the plight of many who were victims of Fidel Castro’s human rights abuses, mass executions, torture, imprisonment, and institutionalized theft of property.


For many Cubans, Fidel Castro was a tyrant who, through his deeds, despised all the democratic rights and freedoms that we cherish in our constitution. For others Fidel Castro might be a hero.


The Free State needs to move beyond this ANC Quatro Camp based thinking that the name and image of Fidel Castro represents, and rather seek indigenous role models whose philosophy has the potential to unite, heal, and bring peace and good governance to our society.


Speaker, I would like to take us through some of the positive aspect of Max du Preez’ appraisal of Morena Mohlomi that we should not only learn from, but strive to follow in the Free State.


Mohlomi was a king in the Mohokare area in the eighteenth century. He was a visionary leader whose counter-intuitive leadership should not only be recognised, but become part of our collective vision for the province.


According to legend, Mohlomi was told in a vision “to be a man of love and peace, to be fair and just, to see all people as his brothers and sisters, to have compassion and patience, and to give special consideration to children, women and old people”.


Based on this, we must ask ourselves whether our actions and examples as politicians in the Free State today promote this vision? We must also ask ourselves whether this is what adults are teaching our children in our broader society, in our schools, and in our homes?


If we cannot say an unambiguous yes to both of these questions, then we immediately need to ask ourselves – why not and what should we do to change this situation?


The message is simple and in line with that which is regarded as what is good in all cultures and religions.


Mohlomi disbanded his fighting units and encouraged his able bodied men “to get involved in agriculture and be better husbands and fathers”. He himself set an example by never using alcohol, dagga, or tobacco.


Today, our society is faced with serious problems relating to the spread of HIV and AIDS, teenage pregnancy, drug and alcohol abuse, and the lack of paternal responsibility. Our reaction to these problems has been to distribute contraceptives, pay out child grants, run anti-drug and alcohol abuse campaigns, while continuing to promote so called “macho” (male dominated) values in society.


We should be doing some of these things, but should we not also be teaching ageless and traditional values of personal responsibility, and that nothing can replace a functional, caring and loving family as the most basic social unit of society.


Mohlomi coined the terms “peace is my sister” and “a knobkierrie is far more valuable when used to thrash corn than to kill men on the battlefield”. In fact he started the traditional greeting of “Khotso”.


South Africa has a violent past, and while we now have one of the most progressive constitutions in the world and where the rule of law is supposed to exist, we all live under fear of criminal violence. In this respect our criminal justice system attempts to deal with the symptoms, but not the root causes of this problem.


The cause of the problem lies with the lack of personal responsibility and lack of respect for authority that is a result of the breakdown of the family. Apartheid destroyed families, and we should be vigorously building and protecting families.


Mohlomi said “peace is my sister” to show that if we respect and uphold peace as an important value in our society, then making this value our collective sister implies that we also respect the important role played by of women in our society. Yet much of the violence and abuse in our society is directed towards women, who should all be our collective sisters.


Another important lesson that we can learn from Mohlomi is that which he instructed his chiefs, namely: “When you sit in judgement let your decisions be just. The law knows none as a poor man”.


This is an important lesson for those in authority. Decisions of politicians affect every aspect of people’s lives. Just decision-making does not only apply to the direct use of political authority, but in the motives that underlie political decision-making.


We have to constantly do introspection as politicians to determine what our real motives are and be brutally honest with ourselves in the process.


My request to all of us in the legislature is that we carry out our respective mandates, as an executive as well as legislature, in an unselfish manner that justifies the many privileges that accompany our responsibilities.


I will continue to state in this legislature that “evil prevails because good men and women keep quiet and allow it to prevail”.