Remarks at the Unveiling Ceremony of the Rahima Moosa tombstone by President of the ANCWL Mrs Angie Motshekga
Programme directors, Mr Vincent Smith & Ms Thoko Magagula
Minister of Arts and Culture, Mr Paul Mashatile
Family and friends of Cde Rahima Moosa
ANCWL veteran, Cde Sophia De Bruyn
Leaders of the mass democratic movement
Colleagues, officials, comrades and friends,
Good day. And thank you for inviting us.
I bring you revolutionary greetings from the ANCWL. The WL would like to thank the family of Cde Rahima Moosa for having shared with the nation a finest daughter of the revolution.
We thank from the bottom of our hearts the Ministry and Department of Arts and Culture for remembering one of our own – Cde Rahima – as part of the national effort to chronicle and preserve memories of the nation’s fighters for freedom.
You have indelibly emblazoned into the annals of the struggle that has brought us to where we are today the sacred name of Rahima Moosa, a fearless woman activist from Cape Town, a trade unionist and a fighter for freedom.
Many remember her for the role she had played as one of the organisers in the process leading to the adoption of the Freedom Charter in 1955 and for her role in organising the 1956 anti-pass women’s march to the Union Buildings, with Lilian Ngoyi, Helen Joseph and Sophia de Bruyn.
Indeed we speak proudly of ourselves as South Africans precisely because of the struggles mounted by dedicated cadres like Rahima Moosa.
Building a tombstone in her honour and unveiling it among the people she dearly loved and for whose freedom she had fought is a befitting tribute to a national heroine.
For as long as this monument stands with its connotations of sacrifice and service to the people, so long shall it be burned into our collective memory that Rahima Moosa gave her life to the noble struggle to create a better life for women and the toiling workers of our country.
In the congress tradition, with other architects of liberation, she strove hard to unite the masses of our people beyond the nationalities by which we were ruthlessly divided by the erstwhile racist rulers, as the African people, the Indian people, the Coloured people and the White people.
57 years after the historical 1956 women’s march indeed it brings me great pride boldly to say that we are not a nation of ungrateful people.
We remember, we honour and we cherish for all seasons, all those who gave the most precious of gifts – their very lives – that we may be free. This is what the monument in memory of Rahima Moosa means to me.
By rededicating all our lives to building a better society that she had fought so hard to see, we shall ensure that this monument continues to say to generations to come that this beloved republic originates from the blood of martyrs, national heroes and heroines the stature of Rahima Moosa.
It is against this background that we say ‘thank you’ to the leadership at Arts and Culture.
Like true patriots and loyal servants of the people you have heeded the national call to sustain the women’s struggle for emancipation by among other things reconstructing the history and role of women in the struggle.
You have understood clearly that women constitute a major component of our heritage.
From here we can continue proclaiming with all the pride we can command that women have always been in the forefront of the struggle.
We can say boldly that in the month that we look back at the birthday of a reliable and time-tested revolutionary, Cde Oliver Tambo, we have unveiled the tombstone of Cde Rahima Moosa and have thus celebrated as a nation the life of an icon.
This is even more important for us as this year we celebrate the centenary of the women’s role in the liberation struggle.
We remember the heroines of the struggle to inspire young women to finish the project of liberating and empowering women and society.
We believe that honouring our national heroines is the best way to begin this inspirational journey towards affording meaning to young women’s lives, showing them as it were what our forebears have achieved over a century of unity in action and that they are equally the captains of their souls.
What the democratic government under the ANC has done for women will go down in history as an unprecedented development never seen in this country before.
In apartheid times women were subjected to state-engineered subjection, insult and ridicule. In the new country, thanks to the ANC, the graves of Rahima Moosa, Helen Joseph, Lilian Ngoyi and Charlotte Maxeke were declared national heritage sites.
Declaring the graves of our heroines as national heritage sites indeed enriches the national effort to move the centre by writing back into history the heroic deeds of women.
Historian Luli Callinicos wrote in Oliver Tambo: Beyond the Engeli Mountains (2004: 224) that after the Freedom Charter, “perhaps the most dramatic display of popular participation was the work of the Women’s League which was able to mobilise thousands of women in a series of spirited campaigns.”
Women have not and will never lose sight of our strategic objectives.
We have nothing to lose but our chains. Indeed much has changed since 1994 and continues progressively to change bringing within reach the vision of creating a united, democratic, non-racial, non-sexist and prosperous society.
We have over 42% representation of women in Parliament and a higher percentage of women premiers. We have an entrenched Bill of Rights extending rights to equality, human dignity, Life, freedom and security to all.
What we must see happen in honour of our heroines is the translation into practice our legislative and democratic framework to benefit women, the vulnerable, the workers and the poorest of the poor.
In spite of our many achievements more needs to be done further to transform lives of women. We encourage young women to get involved in the WL to build it into a powerful force with which Rahima Moosa would have loved to be associated.
It is incumbent upon all of us to all take a conscious decision to go to the polls to vote for a government of the people in 2014.Much is at stake.
Without your vote surely you can understand how difficult it would be for government to sustain and defend the gains of democracy we all see. It is this government that has honoured the heroines of the struggle. It has declared the site of the 1957 anti-pass women’s march in Zeerust a heritage site.
Working together we can dismantle patriarchal and cultural structures of power that condemn women to perpetual lives of wretchedness, poverty and underdevelopment. It’s in this way that we can unlock the untapped potential of women best to unveil an era of prosperity for all South Africans.
Lastly, so long as we remember where we come from even as we approach the crucible of elections, “this land, the whole land, will be healed” (Don Mattera, 2004: 47).
I thank you.