None but ourselves

2009-10-10 12:46

LIVINGSTONE “Livy” Mqotsi, who died on September 25, was born to a peasant family at Rhabhula in the Keiskammahoek District of the Eastern Cape in 1921.

He had a long, productive and eventful life. Despite his great personal achievements as an educator, a lawyer, a writer, an industrial psychologist and a renowned political activist, he remained a gentle and humble man.

On joining the teaching profession in the late 1940s he became a member of the Cape African Teachers’ Association (Cata). His sheer talent as a man of letters permitted him to ascend the ranks of leadership and to become one of the celebrated intellectuals in the Non European Unity Movement (Neum, now called the New Unity Movement).

As an Neum member he was in charge of the printing press of its newspaper, Ikhwezi Lomso (The Morning Star). This was the beginning of his second career as a newspaper editor. In 1957 he started Iindaba zaseMonti (East London News), a Xhosa-English weekly in which he lashed out at injustices against the black, oppressed people of South Africa.

This only led to further persecution and harassment by the state. Both these papers were closed down by the government in 1961.

In a 1957 document Mqotsi debunked all the myths about a separate destiny for the African child in the future of this country and proved beyond doubt that Bantu Education was creating a class of slaves to the ruling herrenvolk (“master race”).

By now Mqotsi had become a national executive committee (NEC) member of Cata which had launched a campaign against Bantu Education in 1955. This NEC was expelled en masse from the schools controlled by the ­Native Affairs Department.

In 1956 he was removed from the roll of African teachers despite the fact that he had already left the teaching profession and, as an industrial psychologist, had been engaged by the Chamber of Mines for the purpose of initiating a new system of labour relations on the mines. The mining bosses found that his proposals, because they were designed to facilitate genuine improvement for the lot of African workers, hindered profitability of labour and so they removed him from the mines.

This was regardless of the fact that Mqotsi had been responsible for setting up a new teacher training course known as the Advanced Primary Course at the town of Healdtown in 1953.

Thus began a nightmare of persecution by the state which was determined to destroy him and any others who showed opposition to the implementation of their heinous apartheid policies.

After being dismissed from the teaching profession the state made it nigh on impossible for him to get a job.

He was hounded out of all the jobs he had deservedly acquired?– as a senior educational fellow at Fort Hare; as a research psychologist with the National Institute for Personnel Research of the South African Council for Scientific and Industrial Research; and as a ­senior research officer at Rhodes University. He was banned and ­imprisoned under the Suppression of Communism Act.

As a result of all this persecution the Unity Movement eventually instructed him to leave the country. He fled to Botswana and then to Zambia (1964 – 1969) and finally settled in England (1970 – 2001).

In Zambia the ANC entrusted the intellectual guidance of their star pupil, Chris Hani, to Mqotsi.

In exile, both in Lusaka and in London, he contributed the most consistent and continuous body of ideas in all the phases of the struggle – from 1965 up to 1994, and beyond 1994 deep into the regimes of both Nelson Mandela and Thabo Mbeki.

Mqotsi observed that both ­Europe and America in the guise of Western civilisation had exported their most vile legacy to Africa in the form of slavery and racialism. And Mqotsi devoted his life to fighting and removing these twin evils from society.

Indeed long will his ideas live among us; long will his contribution help us to build a principled leadership for the oppressed in the country.) Giyose is an NEC member of the New Unity Movement


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