Aforika Day celebrated at centre

2016-06-15 06:00
SABATA MPHO MOKAE shows the book that he was giving the lecture about.

SABATA MPHO MOKAE shows the book that he was giving the lecture about.

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AFRICANS were encouraged to draw the line between economic liberation and mental liberation and to determine which one was more relevant.

That was a comment made by one of the attendants at the Aforika Day celebration that was held at the Ivuma Arts Centre in Galeshewe on Wednesday, 25 May.

The aim of hosting the event was, according to the organisers, to reflect on the current challenges in society and to highlight the positives.

The day’s programme was filled with activities from different local artists and school learners were also in attendance.

The guest speaker of the day was Sabata Mpho Mokae, who gave a lecture on “Native Life in South Africa, a century later.”

Mokae is a M-Net Literary Film Award winner, a poet and a non-fiction and fiction writer.

During his lecture, Mokae referred to Maureen Rall’s writing in Peaceable Warrior: The Life and Times of Sol Plaatje.

She wrote that when the deputation of Solomon Tshekisho Plaatje and his South African Native National Congress (SANNC, the now ANC) comrades boarded the sea vessel Norseman in Cape Town, for London, England, they took with them a lengthy formal petition to the king of England in which the SANNC protested against the Land Act.

The 1914 deputation was made up of Plaatje and comrades Saul Msane, Thomas Maphikela, Walter Rubusana and John Dube.

The petition dwelt in detail on the moral and legal obligation of the Crown to uphold non-racial principles.

They implored the king to annul the measure that had been passed without consultation with black South Africans.

This measure deprived them of their rights as British citizens, segregated them in the land of their birth and forced them off the land of their ancestors.

Mokae further highlighted that Plaatje regularly updated the nation on his travels and activities.

He wrote in the Kimberley newspaper, the Diamond Fields Advertiser of 14 July 1914, that he had embraced the three-week confinement on the ship and had used the time to compile “a little book on the Native Land Act and its operation”.

He had hoped to have it published immediately after landing in England.

Mokae highlighted how the SANNC deputation met with the colonial secretary, Lord Harcourt, in June 1914.

In Plaatje’s words (quoted from Brian Willan’s Sol Plaatje, South African Nationalist): “Harcourt made no notes and asked no questions at the interview accorded to our deputation.

“He listened to how desperately we resisted the passing of the law; how the Government ignored all our representations, and those of the churches and missionary bodies on our behalf; how we twice applied to Lord Gladstone for opportunities to inform him of the ruin which is wrought by the law among our people; how Lord Gladstone wrote in each instance saying it was ‘not within his constitutional functions’ to see us.

“To all this Mr Harcourt replied with another ‘assurance of General Botha’ that ‘we have not exhausted all South African remedies before coming to England”.

This, according to the lecture, was also at the time when the Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria was assassinated in Sarajevo, which led to the chain of events that resulted in the First World War on 4 August 1914.

He elaborated that England had a more pressing matter to attend to than the plight of native South Africans who had become, in Plaatje’s words, pariahs in the land of their birth.

“Having witnessed the Siege of Mafikeng during which he had played a significant role, Plaatje wrote in Native Life in South Africa about the war in London: ‘It did not then occur to the writer, a stranger then of only six weeks in London, that after seeing the capital of the Empire under conditions of peace, he was soon to see it under a war cloud filled with all the horrors of the approaching war storm and all the signs of patriotic enthusiasm. We were about to see Mafeking over again, but through the biggest magnifying glass’,” said Mokae.

According to Mokae, other members of the SANNC left England, but Plaatje remained and addressed gatherings, agitating against the Native Land Act.

“His meetings were held under the auspices of the Brotherhood Movement, which remained on good terms with him for a very long time. It was during this time that he focused on getting his Little book on the Land Act and its operations published,” Mokae continued.

According to Mokae’s lecture, the book was written in response to the Native Land Act and in aid to a campaign against that legislation. Plaatje said the South African native knew all that was there to know about ‘the very strange law’ that the Native Land Act was because he was at the receiving end of it.

The lecture turned to discussions where emphasis was put on the seriousness of the language issue and the number of certain books that needed to be translated into the African mother tongues.

Another attendant, Khula Mapatsi, expressed his wish that the presentation should have been made at Parliament for all the MPLs to benefit.

Africa Day is celebrated annually on 25 May within the African continent to mark the formation of the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) on 25 May 1963 and the African Union (AU) in 2002.

The day also focused on the progress made since then regarding democracy, peace, stability and socio-economic development.

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