Speech by Deputy-Minister Ntombazana Botha, at the Dr Ntsikelelo Katiya Memorial Congregation Fundraising Gala Dinner at the Christian Centre, Abbotsford, East London

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30 Nov 2007


Programme Director
The Honourable Premier of the Eastern Cape Province, Ms Balindlela
Mr L C Lusaseni
Rev. J V Mdlalose
Rev. Gwala
The Congregation gathered here today
Distinguished benefactors and guests
Ladies and Gentlemen

Let me state upfront that I accepted the invitation to speak at this Fundraising Gala Dinner because I believe that we, in South Africa, have once again come to a moment of truth – a moment in time when each one of us must stand up and be counted. Within the current international and national political climate each of us must contemplate our yesterday, our today, and find the right path towards our tomorrow.

The Eastern Cape is the second-largest Province of South Africa with a population of approximately 7 million and it is one of the poorest provinces. However, may I, at the outset, kindly request that I confine my address to the township of Mdantsane where Church Centre will be constructed. I am hoping that at the end of my address you will understand why I wanted to come and share with you the trials and tribulations of the people of Mdantsane. 


Yesterday was a life of embitterment, hardship, and repression, but also of immense courage in the face of oppression, and the triumph of making a better life under restrictive laws.

Within the history of South Africa, the history of the Church has a rich and central role - whether it is the development of the Mission Schools such Lovedale, Healdtown or Blythswood; whether it is the establishment of the iNcera Mission Station by the Presbyterian Church; whether it is the formation of the African National Congress (ANC) in a small church in Bloemfontein; or whether it served as a place for developing political activism - it has played a role in developing not only the spiritual well-being of South Africans, but equally contributed to the education of countless young women and men, and housed, protected and offered sanctuary to countless activists, school children, and parents. It’s teachings mentored great leaders, like Charlotte Maxeke, Nkosi Albert Luthuli, O R Tambo, Beyers Naude, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, and Father Lapsley, to name a few.

During the long years of Apartheid, we recall the hundreds of clergy who were detained, jailed, threatened, banned, and tortured alongside the people they served as abefundisi, as members of the laity, uManyano loo Mama (Mothers Unions). But, we also remember those members of the clergy who challenged congregations from the pulpit not to be complacent and accept a repressive system. We recall how uTata uLuthuli, who was in the leadership of his church, urged people to fight for the freedom of all South Africans. 

We recall uTata uBeyers Naude who was defrocked by the Dutch Reformed Church because he dared challenge the powers that be, by propagating inter-faith worship. We also recall how Bishop Tutu challenged the injustice of the apartheid system from the pulpit.  His efforts were rewarded by the international community when he became the second African to receive the coveted Nobel Peace Prize. Still today, Archbishop Tutu has not changed his tune. He still calls for accountability and moral astuteness in all our interaction as elected leaders and public representatives of a democratic South Africa. He recently warned the African National Congress not to elect a leader that would shame us. The Archbishop still remains the unshaken voice of conscience.

BooDade nani Bazalwana, we still remember the seminal moment in the 1980’s when the Church, in response to the repressive apartheid regime’s “total onslaught” responded collectively to the political crisis of repression, detention without trail, death in detention and the wide scale harassment, incarceration and insensible killing of children, women and men. We remember the Church’s call to action – the development of the Kairos Document. In 1989, at the height of the anti-apartheid campaign and the suppression of the United Democratic Front, the church was at the fore-front of that Defiance Campaign. The Kairos Document, embedded in Liberation Theology, was a collective initiative by various church, civic and political organizations urging the church, its clergy, and its congregations to stand for the truth. The church called upon each one of us to enter the political battlefield and rise against injustice.  The Kairos document, in calling for a prophetic theology as opposed to a state theology, confirmed, in bold script, what the church has always stood for, namely, the liberation of, and betterment of the lives of all God’s people.  This liberation, betterment and upliftment, importantly, would be achieved through our own struggles and by being involved in the ministries of the church.

With the advent of democracy, how has the role of the church changed? Is its role not still one of seeking the betterment of all the lives of the people of God? Is the spirit of the Kairos Document still alive?

In 1975 H F Verwoerd, then Minister of Native Affairs, is reported to have said “Wake up! East London must come into line! I am tired of this wait and see council’. I will only accept the complete and ultimate removal of the Bantu locations from the City. ” 

This statement, read within the context of the institutionalisation of apartheid, follows countless reports and two commissions, since the early 20th century concerned with overcrowding, health conditions and oppressive living conditions of black people and Africans living in East London, the East Bank, which gave rise to Duncan Village, and the West Bank. These inhumane living conditions became a pretext for the implementation of the Group Areas Act in East London, and the removal of all African people from East London to a farming area which would eventually become the township of Mdantsane.

Mdantsane, as a constructed township under the Apartheid Government was a product of this ideology of separate development, rather than realistic socio-economic planning. Mdantsane, the apartheid authorities believed, would cater for a more rurally-orientated community .   

Mdantsane, as an apartheid town, grew and was settled by forced removals, removing people from their homes in not only East London, West Bank, and Duncan Village, but Port Elizabeth, the Western Cape and exRobben Islanders, who were forced to live in the so-called “independent homeland” of Ciskei under the repressive regimes of Lennox Sebe and Oupa Gqozo. The history of Mdantsane is of settlement through banishment, and a patriarchal and oppressive system of an illegitimate government. C-section in Duncan Village became a transitional space where families and individuals were located to before they were finally moved to Mdantsane. The idea was that Africans would be moved from the slums to the ordered garden city of Mdantsane.

The so-called citizens of Ciskei, as you may remember, lost their South Africa citizenship, were denied human rights, were subject to detentions, were prevented from forming trade unions and denied freedom of association. Under such circumstances the inequalities of development, unemployment and poverty were exacerbated. Ngelo xesha kwakusithiwa kangangendlela ekuhlutshekwe ngayo eMdantsane “inkawu ityiw’ ilila, imfene isinda ngokugoloza”. Even though South Africa experienced an economic boom in the 1960’s, this prosperity was only enjoyed by white South Africans. The Black majority of South Africans were excluded from picking the fruits of this economic boom. Instead, the Blacks experienced ever increasing barrage of apartheid legislation and institutionalised state violence.  The hopes and expectations of self-government and a life based on the principles of humanism (ubuntu) and freedom of association were severely repressed and suppressed.


The fragmentation of the social fabric in Mdantsane was due to the fact that the township was, as stated before, developed along ideological lines, and its services and infrastructure were unsustainable. The township was dependent on state subsidies for maintenance.  The infrastructure was fragmented. The social capital, in the form of the many social clubs and societies operational in the West Bank kwaTsolo, kwaMekeni eNew Bright, eDuncan naseZiphunzana did not survive due to the forced removals to Mdantsane.

When the ANC and other political organisation were unbanned in 1990, the expectations of the people of South Africa, and more especially the people of Mdantsane had high expectations of a better life. The expectations were and still are for the improvement of the socio-economic conditions – poverty, unemployment, jobs, lack of adequate municipal services, access to safe and reliable electricity, access to healthcare,  education opportunities and properly equipped schools, sports and recreation facilities, crime, substance abuse, violence against women and children - the challenges are enormous.

After the first democratic elections, Mdantsane, once again, became part of the East London local government structure. In 2001 President Mbeki announced the Integrated Sustainable Rural Development and Urban Renewal Programme of governments, which are specifically aimed at responding, in an integrated manner, to the severe socio-economic conditions occasioned by the apartheid policies and the unequal distribution of resources and development. Mdantsane was identified as one of eight (8) urban renewal nodes in the country. The Urban Renewal Programme, in essence, uses a people-driven and people-centred approach to address the challenges of the reconstruction and development of the area.

You will remember that buildings and infrastructure were burnt down or destroyed during the uprising. We deeply regret the destruction of resources. The result of these acts of vandalism which were committed by a desparate people is that it left Mdantsane Township fragmented and broken, spiritually, culturally, socially and economically. What we have inherited, in our democracy, is a broken nation, and a socially fragmented people. This fragmentation has created vulnerable livelihood options.
Poverty levels are high in Mdantsane. Our calling, as citizens of this land, and as church congregants, is to ask ourselves, what is our role, how will we help heal this nation, and provide sustainable options so that we lead a dignified life?

So, today we call upon all the people of God, like Nehemiah (the governor of Judah), to come and rebuild the “walls” of Mdantsane. After Nehemiah had seen the destruction in Jerusalem – the walls  that had been broken down and the gates that were destroyed, he called together a few men and said to them: “See what trouble we are in because Jerusalem is in ruins and its gates are destroyed. Let’s rebuild the city walls and put an end to our disgrace” (Nehemiah 2:17).

This is God’s call to each one of us to work individually and collectively to heal the wounds of the past,  to reconstruct what was destroyed and to renew the land. 

In order for us to rebuild, heal the wounds, and cultivate our lands, we need as Government, the Church and all other organs of civil society to be honest in assessing, analysing, and providing collective solutions to the challenges that are facing us today.  These range from crime, gangsterism, poverty, unemployment, to diseases such as Tuberculosis, Diabetes, HIV and AIDS and Cancer.  However, in addressing those social challenges, we should not single out one social problem as the embodiment of all our challenges and believe that its solution will serve as a panacea for all our social problems.  The emphasis on HIV and AIDS at the expense of other killer diseases such as diabetes is a concern. As the captain of a ship at sea, you do not have to evade sharks only, but also need to be aware of other potential hazards that can befall your ship as you sail the hostile waves, icebergs, and rocks in the ocean.

Therefore, I would appeal to the Churches and other civil organisations that we should emulate the captain of the sea in addressing our social challenges, by adopting a multi-pronged and integrated approach to our challenges. The Church has previously, and can today, and will in the future play an important role in instilling and promoting of positive social and cultural values and ubuntu as well as in moral regeneration.  Archbishop Desmond Tutu has consistently called for leaders with moral statue in our society and I do think that we should follow his example.


So, when we look to the future, we must focus our future actions and resources on the needs of the people of Mdantsane. The triumph of the people of Mdantsane is that during the dark days of oppression they were able to stand united despite their diversity, and fought bravely against apartheid regime. But they still have to come to terms with their hurt, their scars, their wounds, be they physical scars on the landscape, or emotional scars of individuals or the community. The construction of the centre by this church community builds on the progress made by Government under the Urban Renewal Programme - Programmes such as the earlier Mdantsane East London Development or MELD project, and the more recent Mdantsane Urban Renewal Programme or MURP. All developments prior to the MELD project of 1998 considered Mdantsane as an entity separate from East London and did not seek connectivity between these two towns. This has bedevilled the renewal of Mdantsane.  The successes of the more integrated Urban Renewal Programme, has been the following: 98% of families have access to electricity and 30 schools have been electrified;  12 878 people receive social grants; Mdantsane has 15 clinics and one mobile clinic;  the Mdantsane Tourism Centre has been operational since 2005, and the Urban Agriculture Programme has received funding for 12 projects.  The importance of the Urban Renewal Programme is to make Mdantsane attractive for investors, who will create more opportunities for jobs. The creation of the policing forums will strengthen the crime combating efforts and thereby attract more investment.

The role of the church in this township is to collaborate with Government to enhance this investment opportunity, and so create prospects to better the lives of the people of Mdantsane.  The Church must serve a collaborative role, and serve a different purpose, that of enhancing social capital by contributing to the building stable community and strengthening the service ethos. A service ethos so strongly embedded and lived out in the Church. The role of the Church in South Africa today is to act as a bonding agent, which strengthens social networks and creates civic virtue. The construction and development of the church centre will be a significant contribution. Some of you have been invited tonight to make a financial contribution. Your contribution will mean a lot more to the people of Mdantsane than the money you will be contributing. I trust that the operations of this centre will also respond to the challenges I have shared with you.

 I leave you with a reading from Psalm 51: 18 which says “In your good pleasure make Zion prosper; build up the walls of Jerusalem”.

It is important that we should hold our hands and work together, that we put our efforts together, that we pool our resources and use our collective God-given intelligence and creativity to ensure that we continue to build this nation for ourselves and for future generations.

I thank you.

CA, 3/ELN Box 1402. report of meeting, 07 December 1957, quoted in Minkley, Gary “Corpses behind screens’: Native space in the city”, in Judin, H and Vladislavic, I (eds) (1998) “blank_ Architecture, apartheid and after” Nederlands Architecture Institute, Rotterdam

Leslie Bank, MURP,GTZ funding, FHISER

:Leslie Bank, GTZ funding, FHISER

Leslie Bank, Urban Renewal and Mdantsane, MURP, GTZ funding, FHISER