ANC icon cast in bronze in honour of land initiatives

2012-01-14 15:37

While the ANC is wallowing in its 100-year existence, a rural Mpumalanga community is quietly celebrating its personal relationship with the liberation movement’s co-founder, Pixley ka Isaka Seme.

Seme once lived among the Daggakraal community near Volksrust, where he owned a farm in 1912. He was ANC president from 1930 to 1937, and was educated at Columbia and Oxford universities.

Seme got to know the Daggakraal community as he was a legal representative for families that were abused by white farmers. He advised these farmworkers’ families to sell their cattle and buy land for themselves.

The families bought farms in Daggakraal and Driefontein (near Piet Retief), and they were able to resist being dispossessed of their properties when the Transvaal government introduced the 1913 Land Act that forbade blacks from owning land.

They held on to their land until today, while blacks elsewhere in the country have been dispossessed.

Seme’s advice to these families precipitated the enactment of the law.

Descendants of the first Daggakraal landowners and Seme’s family from KwaZulu-Natal have teamed up with the Mpumalanga department of culture, sport and recreation and the Pixley ka Isaka Seme local municipality (Volksrust) to erect a R3.9 million monument in honour of their hero.

Provincial culture, sport and recreation spokesperson Sibongile Nkosi said the project would be finished in March this year.

“The monument will comprise a larger-than-life bronze statue, and will include the redesign and landscaping of the site where the statue will be mounted in order to enhance its aestheticism,” Nkosi said.

“We’re doing this in honour and recognition of the important role played by Seme in the liberation of our country,” she added.

Jack Thwala, whose great-grandfather, Petros, was among the first land buyers in Daggakraal said Daggakraal could not be separated from Seme.

“Land ownership for black people was, to him, a prerequisite for liberation. We still have the very same title- deeds our great grandfathers got then.

“If you talk about Seme, you talk of Daggakraal,” Thwala said.

“Seme is an international icon, but it is sad that he doesn’t feature prominently in ANC history,” he added.

Seme family spokesperson Vezindaba Seme echoed Thwala’s sentiments about his uncle’s “inadequate” prominence.

“He was, in fact, ahead of his time and no one mentions that the Land Act was enacted because of his work in Daggakraal and that he started a newspaper,” Vezindaba Seme said.

“You see now that land and media ownership are still burning issues even today. The family thanks the Daggakraal people who saw him as their hero and worked hard for his recognition. His work is being relegated to the periphery of history.”

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