Address by Deputy Minister Nocawe Mafu on the occasion of the Charlotte Maxeke Memorial Lecture in Tsolo, Eastern Cape

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23 May 2021

Programme Director, Professor Vuyisa Tanga
Honourable MEC uMama Nkomonye
King Sabata Dalindyebo Municipality Mayor, Councillor uTata Nelani
Mhlontlo Local Municipality Speaker, Councillor uTata Jara
Members of the three Mayoral Committees that are present
The Director General of DSAC, Mr Vusimuzi Mkhize and his team
MI consider it a great privilege and honour to have to be granted the opportunity to share with you on the life and times of uMama Charlotte Mannya Maxeke, what her story should mean to us today, and how then best to safeguard her legacy in real programmatic terms.embers of the Mannya and Maxeke families and representatives of the Charlotte Mannya Maxeke Institute here present.

I consider it a great privilege and honour to have to be granted the opportunity to share with you on the life and times of uMama Charlotte Mannya Maxeke, what her story should mean to us today, and how then best to safeguard her legacy in real programmatic terms.

This celebration also comes at a time when the African Union Heads of States and Governments have declared 2021 as the Year for Arts Culture and Heritage as Levers for Building the Africa we Want, it is not surprising considering that Mme Maxeke herself was an artist, a singer and a writer of note.

The decision by the African Union is an acknowledgement and recognition of the role that arts; Culture and Heritage can play as catalysts for the socio economic development and integration of the African Continent.

Africa Month is further regarded as a platform to promote the AU institution and its programs towards the attainment of its vision – ‘An integrated, prosperous and peaceful Africa, driven by its own citizens and representing a dynamic force in the global arena’.

Eaxctly150 years ago, this soil gave birth to one of its most beloved daughters, who was to be beacon of hope for a people that were under deep colonial repression and subjugation. Owing to the staying power of patriarchy in both the black society and the privileged white society at the time, it had not been expected that a young girl, from so modest a background would went on to conquer the world in the way this heroine did.

Born of a mixed ethnic parentage, hers is a remarkable story that, when all is said and done, we are, after all, from one stock. In fact, despite the seeds of division that successive colonial administrations sought to sow at the time, hers is a reminder that that we are one people, and the observable differences of language, culture, and traditions do not run deep, and are therefore only idiosyncratic, and thus of no significance or consequence. Even as early as that period, we see a meeting of two worlds, one in the south of Limpopo River and the other nestled deep in the hinterlands zakwa-Xhosa! The rest, as they would always say, is history!

Having read some of the available literature about uMama Charlotte Maxeke, one thing that became self-evident is her versatility. This is evidenced by the many dimensions to her life story. It is these many dimensions to her life that I want to explore, and from which I hope there would be a lot for us to learn. I would also wish to have these further explored in the critical engagement we have planned to have as part of the formal programme this afternoon.

While the list may be by no means exhaustive, for the purpose of this engagement today, I wish to explore the following dimensions of her and triggers for further thought and engagement in the next segment of the programme: (1) Charlotte Maxeke the mother, the matriarch, (2) Charlotte Maxeke the public intellectual, (3) Charlotte Maxeke – a woman of faith, and (4) Charlotte Maxeke – the feminist and (5) Charlotte Maxeke – the liberation struggle icon.

I have deliberately cited the political dimension of her lifestory last, so as to foreground the many other dimensions, which are often overshadowed by Charlotte Maxeke – the political. And so, here we go!

UCharlotte Maxeke njengoMama nentloko yekhaya engumama

Enyanisweni, ubumama nobuzala obu sibubona kwintlantlo zonke zobomi bakhe okubonakaliswa njengakwelabinzana elimchaza njengo “mother of black liberation”, nelithi “the political mother figure”, njalo njalo. Oku ke kubonisa ukuba zange alahle ubuni bakhe njengomntu ongumfazi okanye ongumama ukuze ilizwi lake livakale, ndaweni yoko, wasebenzisa ubufazi bakhe ukuzisa inguqu kwintlalo yoluntu.

Oku ke kumele kube sisifundo kuthi sonke boomama; sonele kwaye sinento yonke singaba bantu esingabo! Akumelanga ukuba sicaphuke xa kumele sidlale indima yethu yokukhathelela nokukhulisa njengomama, ngoba akukho mpixwano nangquzulwano phakathi kwale ndima nobunkokheli. Ngamanye amazwi, asimelanga ukuba sifune ukulinganisa abantu abangamadoda, silahle ukuba ngaba bantu abanothando nabakhulisa benenkathalo, ngoba sisengaba zinkhokeli ezibalaseleyo ngaxesha-nye, njengoko UMama Maxeke waba ngumzekelo omhle walonto.

Charlotte Maxeke – the public intellectual

The most enduring memory of uMama Charlotte Maxeke, if we are to seriously safeguard her legacy, should be that of someone who valued education, not only for herself but for her people, as well as the people of the world. Among the many “firsts” that should have a lasting impact in the public imagination, as we remember her, and seek inspiration from her, should be her exploits on the education front, at the time when it could not even have been imagined that a woman of such modest upbringing could went on to be counted among the first cohort of alumnae at a prestigious institution in the State of Ohio in the United States, Wilberforce University. As history would have it, uMama Charlotte became the first black woman in this country to obtain a Bachelors Degree at an American University

Given that she was grounded in the values, mores and traditions of her people, she knew that for education to foster and make a meaningful impact in her country of birth, it must be extended to as many people as possible. While we proudly tout her as the first black woman to ever obtain a Bachelors degree from an American University, uMama Charlotte frowned at the prospect of being the “only black woman to obtain a degree from an American University”.

Unlike many of us who who will have celebrated this “first”; unlike many of us who will have thrown their weight around, with palpable triumphalism and pomposity; unlike many of us who will have chased at every opportunity to become a naturalized American citizen, uMama Maxeke never forgot who she was, hardships of her people that she had left behind, and the task that remained back home in uplifting the black communities. And that is exactly what she did. With support from her husband whom she met at Wilberfoce University, one of their first projects upon their return was to establish a school in Evaton, east of Johannesburg. It was Madiba who was to later embellish Mama Charlotte’s ideals with regards to education when he lectured many a times that “education is the passport to the future, for tomorrow belongs to those who prepare for it today --- if you think education is expensive, try ignorance”.

Far too many of us bask in the glory of being “the first” and “the only black”, as though if were to take others with us, there would be a resultant material loss or reduced personal status. Such was never the case with uMama Charlotte. It is for this reason that she once chided her audience in one of her many public addresses that:

“This work is not for yourselves. Kill that spirit of self and do not live above your people but live with them, and if you rise, bring someone with you …”

Given the moral and ethical decay we continue to experience – with so many social ills that threaten to stymie our goal of a united, non-racial, non-sexist and democratic society – these words have to start meaning something to all of us. In fact, I would even go as far as to say that they must begin to circumscribe our day to day lives, so that we collectively begin to live a life of purpose and meaning; in living true to the legacy of this giant on whose name we are gathered here today, and whom we shall be memorializing and celebrating for the entire year, in line with the Cabinet declaration in April that 2021 will be “the year of Charlotte Maxeke”

Charlotte Maxeke – Inkosikazi enokholo

Kubonakala ngathi yonkeimpumlelo yakhe yazalwa lukholo awayenalo, ingakumbi ngobulungu bakhe kwi African Methodist Episcopal Church (AME). Oku kubonakala kabini, okokuqala uhambo olude awaluthatha ne African Jubilee Choir esiya eNgilane ngo 1891; okwesibini yimpumelelo yakhe eWilberforce University, eyayilelinye lamaziko ezingca ngawo iAME kwela lizwe, eyayilithemba labantu abaNtsudu base Melika, uninzi lwabo olwalusengamakhoboka kumasimi omqhaphu kumazantsi elalizwe.

UMama uMaxeke, akazange avume ukuba likholwa elidikidiki njengoko babesenza ontangandini. Wayala wayichila imfundiso eyityhefu yontamolukhuni bamaKristu eyayisakha umsantsa phakathi kwenkolo nomzabalazo wamalungelo kwelinye icala.

Ngokweyakhe inkolo uMama Maxeke, kwakungeko nkonzo enokuzibiza ngokuba iyinkonzo ibe ingenakukwazi ukumela amalungelo abaxhatshazwa kuquka nokuma esidlangalaleni ichase iimeko zopilitiko ezinogonyamelo.

Ngamanye amazwi, ngokaMama Maxeke, inkonzo kwakufanele izibandakanye kwintlalo yoluntu, yayingekwazi ukuchasela kodwa kwakumele imele amalungelo abantu, ngapha koko ukuxhatshazwa kwamalungelo oluntu kuchasene nemfundiso zikaKristu. Kungesi sizathu ke mhlawumbi endingathanda ukumwonga ndithi ngu

“ mother of black theology”.

Ngokuqinisekileyo, yile ndlela yakhe awayezibona ngayo izinto le eyenza ukuba athabathe inxaxheba kwezopolitiko- eyayimhlaba ongcwele kubafazi ngelo xesha. Ndivumeleni ndiye kwisigaba esilandelayo, eso sika Charlotte Maxeke- Charlotte Maxeke- Umlweli wenkululeko oqaqambileyo.

Charlotte Mxeke – the liberation struggle icon

When the African leadership coterie met in 1912 to discuss “the African Question” and the way forward, as a response to the land dispossession and exclusion of Africans, in the aftermath of the formation of the Union of South Africa in 1910, Charlotte Maxeke went to Waaihoek in Bloemfontein in 1912, as the sole female voice in this watershed conference.

uMama Charlotte was way ahead of her times as it had not been expected that a woman, regardless of her standing and educational background, would make her way into this conference of the South African Native National Congress in 1912. uMama Charlotte could have very easily basked in the glory of being the very first woman to obtain a Bachelors Degree from an American university, and then took instant advantage of any other opportunity made available to her so that at all costs she remain in the United States, and even becoming a citizen of that country.

To the contrary, she understood that the mission was much more noble and bigger than self-interest. It is for this reason that she hastened to return back to her country of birth, to join her fellow comrades in waging a just war against colonial injustices. If she was to do this, the first political home she found was in the South African Native National Congress, since her attendance of the 1912 watershed conference.

It was no accident that in 1918, when circumstances dictated that women have a chapter of their own within the SANNC in the form of Bantu Women’s League, uMama Charlotte became its first President. It was due to her efforts and strife that women were formally admitted into the membership of the ANC, even this milestone was only reached well after her death. It was to be these seeds that she had planted while alive that saw women taking the struggle forward by being actively involved in the Defiance Campaign of 1952 and later at the Congress of the People in 1955, in Kliptown, where the Freedom Charter was unveiled and adopted.

There have been attempts to write women out of the liberation heritage narrative, as though we were passive and indifferent to the raging struggles around us. What we are doing here today is to excavate the archive and foreground the efforts of one woman, uMama Charlotte, who undoubtedly represents the many women, often unsung, who have equally made a contribution towards the attainment of our freedom and liberty

Let our homework today be about going out to unearth the many stories untold about our heroines, even here in Tsolo and the province at large, who remain unrecognized, unknown and unsung. Let us begin to localize our history, so that it begins to make sense to the younger generation; so that they can relate to it, and be inspired by it.

Charlotte Maxeke- Umxhasi nomlweli wamalungelo abafazi

Le ndima yokugqibela kulentetho yam, eyingongoma efanelwe inikwe ingqwalasela ngakumbi, xa siqwalasela imeko yabafazi kweli lizwe. Andinakukholeleka xa ndingathi okanye nabani athi urhulumente we democrasi akenzanga nto okanye wenze kancinci ukuphucula imeko yabafazi.

Inyaniso yeyokuba ukwenjenjalo kungathetha ukungabi nanyani. Andithandabuzi ukuba uMama Maxeke ebengoniliseka xa ebona indima esele ihanjiwe ukuphucula imeko yabantu abangabafazi. Inani lamantombazana aphumelela ibanga lematric linyukile kunangaphambili. Xa sijonga ngokomyinge ekhulwini wabafundi abangabafazi kumaziko emfundo ephakamileyo, inani labo linyukile kwizifundo zobugqirha, ezenzulululwazi nobunjineli ebezifudula zithathwa njengezizezamadoda kuphela.

Kwizigaba zozithathu zorhulumente, asikude kuyaphi ukufika kumthetho kamasiligane (50/50 representation) ingakumbi ukuba bonke ogxa bethu eberhulumenteni bebenokuthatha umzekelo kwiqela elilawulayo. Ngokomthetho wokulingana emsebenzini, inani labafazi kumanqanaba aphakathi ukuya kwaphezulu obunkokheli, libonakala linyuka kurhulumente. Oku bekuya kumchulumancisa uMama Maxeke.

Kuyaxhalabisa ke kodwa ukuqhaphela ukuba kumaqumrhu abucala akukho nkqubela efanayo, inguqu ihamba ngonyawo lolovane. Kungenxa yoku ke abahlobo bethu kwisebe lezabasebenzi beyila inkqubo yotshintsho ngumgaqo-nkqubo we Employment Equity.

Ukuxhatshazwa nokubulawa kwabafazi nabantwana lelona hlazo ke uMama Maxeke ebeyakudaniswa lilo xa ebesekho phakathi kwethu.

Ngale minini esikhumbula ngayo uMama Maxeke, umxhasi nomlweli wamalugelo abafazi, kumelwe sizibophelele ekulwisaneni nokuxhatshazwa okujoliswe kubantwana nabafazi nokubulawa kwabafazi. Masisebenzise amasiko ethu afana nolwaluko ukufundisa abantwana abangabafana indlela yokuziphatha noxanduva abanalo njengenkokheli zamasiko nenkcubeko ethu, masiko lawo angahambisaniyo nokuxhatshazwa kwamantombazana.

Kuyinene kona ukuba onke lamalinge awanakuze onele xa sijonge isihomo nesithozela selitsha-ntliziyo lesizwe esiNtsundu, koko ke kukubonisa ubuncinane esibenzileyo ukuze nabanye abanekhwele bazeke mzekweni. UMama Maxeke wancama konke ngeli lizwe nabantu balo, lithuba ke ngoku nathi sibonise umbulelo wethu kuye ngokwenza utshintsho eluntwini. Silindele lukhulu kweli Phondo leNgqwele- indawo edlale indima enkulu kumzabalazo wenkululeko yethu.

Ndiyabulela ngokundiboleka iindlebe, ndithemba ukuba nakuthatha inxaxheba xa sibonisana ngezi ngongoma endithe ndazivelela kulentetho yam.

Mazenethole kwezisengwayo!!