“As a government who listens to our people we are here today to rectify our embarrassment and honour Robert Mangaliso Sobukwe with the dignity he deserves.”
These were the remarks of admittance made by Bongiwe Mbinqo-Gigaba, MEC for Sport, Arts and Culture, to the Galeshewe community on Human Rights Day, observed on Wednesday (21/03).
Her department launched the renovation of the law office of the late Robert Sobukwe. Widespread public scrutiny was unleashed when a wreath-laying ceremony in memory of Sobukwe was conducted at the building, located in the Mayibuye Precinct, Galeshewe, on 27 February.
Express Northern Cape on 7 March published articles about the outcry of the community pertaining the condition of the office building.
The vandalised building had been covered in filth, urine and faeces, as it had turned into a drug haven for criminal activities.
Mbinqo-Gigaba expressed the disappointment she had felt after the embarrassing issue was raised by the public.
“It seems we are dealing with a version of the “broken glass” syndrome, where anything official or commemorative becomes a magnet for the disaffected’s dissatisfaction,” said Mbinqo-Gigaba.
The wreath-laying ceremony at Sobukwe’s home and his law office marked the 40-year anniversary of his passing. He was honoured nationwide through, among other events, lectures at various universities, including the Sol Plaatje University.
The official announcement was also made that the Kimberley Hospital will be named after Sobukwe. The renaming ceremony is expected to be held in June.
The renovation of the office building was announced by Sylvia Lucas, Northern Cape premier, during her State of the Province address.
Mbinqo-Gigaba remembered Sobukwe as an inspiration to many in South Africa, spreading the message that a dream of a better world was possible.
“The apartheid government tried to let him perish in detention, but they failed.
“He endured unjust trials and long years in prison, took to the streets in defiance of unjust laws and never knew if he would see his wife and children; all because he believed that the only way to be freed from the shackles of colonialism and apartheid was to selflessly donate to the cause of the freedom we are enjoying today.”
During her speech, she quoted former president Nelson Mandela: “We should never forget those on whose shoulders we stand and those who paid the supreme price for our freedom.”
Mbinqo-Gigaba added to this.
“Let me add that those upon whose shoulders we stand and who paid the supreme sacrifice for us to be free, are both in South Africa, in the African continent and in the rest of the world.
“Side by side we fought not just for the freedom of South Africa, we fought also for the freedom of the oppressed people wherever they are.”
She called on members of the public to ensure that they retained the structure in the pristine condition which had been envisaged, in order to enjoy the collective benefits of the legacy of Sobukwe.
“The office belongs to all of us, the government and the community.
“It is therefore our joint and collective responsibility to ensure it remains protected and far divorced from vandalism and theft.
“There is no obvious political explanation to vandalise this building, other than as an expression of anxious masculinity and wanting to prove a point to your peers.”
“The office is part of our heritage and our heritage is everything that we inherit from families and our society. It is our very heritage that gives us our sense of identity and belonging , therefore we must stand up for what is ours and report any damages to the local authorities,” said Mbinqo-Gigaba in conclusion.