Premier honours struggle allies

2009-11-12 00:00

THE Reverend John Langalibalele Dube, the first president of the ­current ruling party — the African ­National Congress — will always be ­remembered for his strength of ­character, discipline and patriotism.

More importantly, this country owes it to friends and colleagues from all over the world who supported Dube in his quest to liberate the ­majority of South Africans from the jaws of apartheid.

It is for these reasons that the ­premier of the province of KwaZulu-Natal, Dr Zweli Mkhize, led a delegation to Los Angeles, California in the United States, to acknowledge the contribution of families and friends for the role they played, ­especially in supporting Reverend Dube.

The premier paid tribute to the late Reverend William Cullen Wilcox and Mrs Ida Belle Wilcox at their resting place at the Forest Lawn Cemetery in Glendale.

This tribute brought ­together South African politicians, diplomats and members of the Wilcox family, the oldest of whom is Reverend Jackson Wilcox, the grandson of these fallen heroes.

Speaking in California, Dr Mkhize said: “As South Africa is basking in the glory of its newly found democracy and prosperity, we need to remember those who supported us throughout the long years of oppression and ­discrimination.

“William and Ida Belle Wilcox ­sacrificed all that they had in solidarity with the South African ­people. We will never forget them.”

William and Ida landed in Inanda, north of Durban, as missionaries of the American Board of Commissioners in 1881. They did not only preach against injustice but they were also willing to go down into the trenches to fight on the side of the oppressed. They became the “adoptive” American parents of liberation stalwart Reverend John Langalibalele Dube.

In 1887 they accepted a desperate Zulu mother’s plea to take Dube to the U.S. to give him the decent ­education that only white boys could get in South Africa in those days.

They honoured this responsibility at a great cost to themselves and to their family. They raised and guided Dube to become one of the most ­talented leaders in great times of ­adversity.

William and Ida fought head-on the noxious colonial policies that led to the adoption of the 1913 Natives Land Act by mobilising blacks in an unprecedented manner in South Africa.

In 1909 they founded the Zululand Industrial Improvement Company, the first company in South Africa’s history with shareholdings shared between a ­couple of sympathetic whites and 300 black Africans for the purpose of giving blacks the ­economic power to withstand the land­-grabbing movement of the white ­colonists and the ­administration of what was then ­Natal.

The unprecedented success in ­providing land to many black people in ­different parts of Natal raised ­serious alarm among white colonists who colluded with the national ­colonial administration to bankrupt William and Ida and drive them out of South Africa in 1918, ending their 38-year fight for the rights of black people in South Africa.

William Wilcox died in California in 1928, followed by his wife in 1940. ­Thet were financially poor, in fact destitute, but rich in the gratitude of the black people of South Africa who had the courage to fight for their rights to keep their land and to demand representation in the ­government of South Africa.

“We have to look into the past to see what forces inspired many of our former leaders. It is almost a century since William and Ida left South Africa but they still remain our source of ­inspiration,” Dr Mkhize remarked.

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