Biko died because he dreamt dangerous dreams - Mamphela Ramphele

AgangSA leader says late BC leader dreamed of a society in which Black people were not treated as inferior or sub-human

Dr Mamphela Ramphele, address given in Mthatha, Eastern Cape on 12th September 2013

Molweni! Good afternoon! 

Fellow citizens, I am honoured to be with you today as we pay tribute to the heroes of our nation, especially those men, women and young people who died fighting to free us from the chains of oppression, for us to live a life of freedom.

We are here together to honour the sacrifices of the heroes of our struggle and to take inspiration from their work as we continue the fight to realise the promises on which our young nation is founded - human dignity, equality and freedom.

Who are these heroes I am talking about? We remember the brave battles put up by our various kingdoms against colonial invasion and oppression throughout the centuries, including the Bambatha Rebellion and the bravery of King Hintsa here in the Eastern Cape, among many others.

We remember how brave men and women were forced to resort to the armed struggle, notably by Umkhonto we Sizwe, The Azanian People's Liberation Army and the Azanian National Liberation Army.

We pay tribute to the fallen heroes of Sharpeville and the students who rose up in on June 16 1976 to reignite the struggle.

Today we honour the visionary leadership of Steve Bantu Biko, who died in prison on this day in 1977. 

His only crime was that he was a young man with big dreams. He dreamed dreams that nobody his age, who was not born into privilege, had a right to dream, according to our then oppressors.

His only crime was to dream of a future society based on the democratic values of social justice and fundamental human rights.

He died because he did not dream safe dreams - dreams about going to university, getting a degree and living a life that would make him the envy of most of his fellow oppressed. Such was his selflessness.

He dreamed dangerous dreams. He dreamed of an alternative society, a society in which all people were equal, one in which millions of Black people were not treated as inferior or sub-human. He dreamed of a society in which all people were treated as full human beings, with an equal chance in life.

Steve Biko was dangerous because he did something about his dream of a society free from oppression. He inspired millions of Black people to share in his dream and rise up to claim it.

This, at a time when the mood in the Black community was one of despair and hopelessness, after the banning of the ANC and the PAC, following the Sharpeville Massacre.

"People must not give in to the hardship of life. People must develop hope," he told us.

Steve Biko taught us not to accept our oppression as if it was something that came from God.

We at AgangSA pledge to keep alive Steve Biko's legacy of selfless commitment to the good of all humanity - and to continue to fight for that which he died for - a free society where equality and justice reign supreme.

We pledge to improve the quality of life for all and free the potential of each person. We pledge to build a united and democratic South Africa, in which we can all finally realise true freedom for all. Freedom from poverty, crime and corruption. A job, a home, a life of dignity.

We pledge to make true Biko's dream of a South Africa free from exploitation and ignorance by working for excellence in education, in healthcare, policing, and integrity in public office. We will restore power to the people. We will work hard to have a government that listens to the people and is accountable to the people.

Yesterday, as I was preparing for my trip down here to honour Biko's memory, I heard with a heavy heart the news about how the public health system in this province was on the verge of collapse, to the detriment of millions of people.

SABC news bulletins said a report presented by the Eastern Cape Health Crisis Action says there is a chronic shortage of doctors and nurses, inadequate medicines, poor equipment and shortages of pharmacists.

The Treatment Action Campaign (TAC) says they have formed the coalition to ensure that government takes care of the crumbling health system in the province, which puts HIV and TB patients at risk.

The TAC blames the crisis on lack of leadership in the provincial government. Add to this the problem caused by the fact that 8 000 of health department officials do business with the state, it's no wonder there are such problems.

What would Steve Biko think of this betrayal of the ideals that he and many other heroes of the struggle died for? Why, indeed, do our people still have to suffer and live like forgotten people, almost 20 years since liberation?

What, indeed, is the meaning of freedom if you can't get lifesaving HIV medication because of someone else's negligence and incompetence?

Lest we forget, Steve Biko and his peers started the Black Consciousness Movement, driven by the burning desire to put power into the hands of the people. They believed that Black people were quite capable of determining their own destiny and running government better than our apartheid oppressors did.

They believed that, once we defeated apartheid and installed black majority rule, black people will govern guided by the principle of Ubuntu, which is the highest expression of caring for the well-being of humanity.

The incompetence and ‘don't care' attitude displayed by the Eastern Cape health department, which puts people's lives at risk, despite the constitution guaranteeing the right to life, is a glaring example of the betrayal of our struggle that this government has become notorious for.

When we gained our freedom, we set built solid foundations on which to grow a prosperous society that redressed the many wrongs of the past. Denying people access to decent health care is a fundamental departure from the principles on which this nation is founded.

Small wonder people are worried that our country is on the wrong path, and that there is a desperate need for change.

After nearly 20 years the country's leaders have failed to deliver on the promise of freedom that so many fought and died for.

People say and I agree that 20 years is too long to wait for jobs, for quality education, for quality health care and for safe and secure places to live. Twenty years is too long to still have millions of our fellow citizens living in poverty.

The time has come to restore the promise of a free South Africa, to offer hope and the prospect of a dignified life for all.

The time has come to finally bring about true freedom for all. Our country has reached a crossroads. We need change now - before things get worse and the damage becomes too difficult to fix. That's why we need a new government in 2014, one that governs with competence and accountability. A clean competent government that listens to the people and is accountable to the people.

Corruption lies at the core of what is wrong with our country. Because of corruption, we have achieved far less in almost 20 years of freedom than we had the potential to.

This is not the legacy our great leaders had in mind. This is not the country dreamed of by our beloved Madiba, by Steve Biko or Lillian Ngoyi, by Ruth First or Robert Sobukwe or Chief Albert Luthuli or Charlotte Maxeke or Cecilia Makiwane.

Once again, our country needs modern day heroes and heroines to save it from the cancer of corruption that has become integral to the politics of our young new nation.

Unless we deal decisively with corruption, we can forever say goodbye to the promise of freedom in our lifetime - human dignity, equality and freedom.

What sort of freedom is that whereby millions of young people keep being lost from the education system and excluded from the economy?

How, indeed can we realise the constitutional dream of equality when millions of people have no hope of getting a job and can't put food on the table or send their children to decent schools?

Why, indeed, do so many people still have to suffer the effects of poor healthcare? What is freedom when you are forced to live in fear of rampant crime?

As president Mandela said in 2000: "Freedom alone is still not enough if you lack clean water. Freedom alone is not enough without light to read books at night, without time or access to water to irrigate your farm, without ability to fish to feed your family."

Now 13 years later, things have become worse. Freedom without dignity, and equality is not enough.

We are at a critical moment in our history but I have faith that we have a huge potential for the future. I believe we can still build the great, equal and prosperous society that Steve Biko, Mapetla Mohapi, Solomon Mahlangu, Hector Pietersen, trade unionist Neil Aggett, and many other young heroes died for.

But, let us not make the mistake by giving the impression that to be a hero, one has to be in politics. I have seen other wonderful examples of true leadership throughout my travels in this province by ordinary people committed to community development.

The work that is done by these remarkable men and women provides a good examples of how ordinary can have a huge impact, changing the lives of their communities for the better. We must celebrate these unsung heroes.

Such projects remind me of the work I did, when I worked with communities to found the Zanemplio Community Health Centre in eZinyoka near King William's Town in 1975.

They are just as important as the work I did with the community of Lenyenye in Limpopo, to set up the Ithusheng Community Health Centre, when I was banned there in 1977.

We need more of such initiatives as government alone cannot do the work - and, in fact, should always work with NGOs and communities and fund them for maximum impact and guaranteed success.

These are good examples of the active citizenship that is needed to fix what is wrong with our country.

But, the greatest opportunity to bring about the change our country needs

is to harness the enormous energy of our young people. That is why AgangSA's message of hope that we can restore the promise of freedom has been well received by young people.

This is particularly important as ours is a majority young country.

I truly believe in the capacity of the next generation of South Africans to lead our country forward.

It is young people who make up the bulk of first time voters and can play a pivotal role in bringing about the change our country needs in next year's elections. That is because the youth are most likely to vote for the future they want, not out of nostalgia for a past they had no role in.

For example, young people are not responsible for the fact that the policies of successive governments have created lost generations who lack the skills needed to find work in the modern economy.

Young people know that this government is destroying our economy and our society. They know that we must change course now or rampant corruption will rob every man, woman and child of their future and our country of its full potential.

That is why our message has been received with such enthusiasm. Agang South Africa pledges to live by our founding democratic values: human dignity, equality and freedom.

AgangSA pledge to heal the divisions of the past and establish a society based on democratic values, social justice and fundamental human rights.

AgangSA pledges to improve the quality of life for all and free the potential of each person.

AgangSA is inspired by a burning ambition in our youth to aim higher, to dream bigger, and to expect excellence in education and a secure future for all.

It is a future we can have if we expect more from ourselves, our government and our country, and if we vote for the future, not the past.

Many times we have had the courage to stand together and lead our country forward. That time has come again. Of all these factors that will affect our collective future it is the youth who are the most important. They are the true heirs of our centuries-long struggle for freedom.

I say this because I have seen how young, active citizens can change society for the better. I saw it working alongside Steve Biko, Barney Pityana and many other brave young men and women in the Black Consciousness Movement. We fought together against the might of apartheid.

Our country cries out for more active citizenship.

To be an active citizen is to be the spark that ignites change.

It is the spirit that informs transformational leadership, both in our personal and professional actions.

Today we honour many heroes, starting with Steve Biko. He is the true embodiment of a transformative leader to whom we can turn for inspiration.

Like Steve Biko, the path that we follow, the transformational acts that we can all make each day, sometimes involve discomfort. That is what Steve Biko encountered in the prime of his life and enabled him to become the great leader we revere. It is his legacy that we all have a duty to uphold.

He knew that it is education that creates active citizens, who know their rights and are empowered to use them to hold their governments accountable and to fully participate in their economies.

It is only by looking to ourselves for solutions to the problems that affect our communities and by holding those in power accountable for their promises and actions, that we can take the step from passive subjects to active citizens and claim control over our lives.

It is a liberating change in mind-set. We active citizens are the very engine of social change: the individuals who care deeply about humanity and have great ideas, energy and passion that will make a difference to the lives of others.

We need to educate young people and indeed all South Africans to place special focus on the importance of the vote as a sacred tool in the hands of a citizen in a democracy, to help shape the country one belongs to.

To vote is to honour those who made great sacrifices to win our freedom. It is the true coming of age as we accept our responsibilities as citizens.

We all have a duty to mobilise our fellow citizens - first to register to vote, and then to cast our vote on polling day.

Many of our great leaders have left us so it falls to the youth, a new generation of heroes and heroines, to stand up and be counted. You are the generation that has the power to help us finally claim our freedoms: economic, social and political.

You are the true heirs of freedom. It can be yours if you reach out and claim it. Carry the spirit of our great leaders in your hearts. Be steadfast in your resolve to aim for excellence. Be boundless in your optimism, limitless in your love for our country and our people.

Be uncompromising in your commitment to rooting out corruption. Increasing accountability must go hand in hand with a war on corruption and waste.

Good governance and accountability can tackle corruption.

Tackling corruption is central to restoring confidence in our government and our economy. 

But, it starts with you and I. We have to ensure that we ourselves are not corruptible. That is why it's important that all public representatives declare their assets to the public and explain how they achieved their wealth.

That is why I made public my financial status and the sources of income and challenged President Zuma to do the same. Surely he understands that people are keen to know how he earned the money he said was used to build his R270 million palace, including a cattle kraal for more than a million rand.

The billions lost today to corruption and waste can help us fire up the economy.

This government spends billions each year on education, and yet for the children of the Eastern Cape, like those in many other provinces, mud schools, pit latrines and unskilled teachers are the daily reality.

Together we can build an education system that restores pride in the profession, creating highly qualified teachers, proper infrastructure and better learning environments so young people get the education they deserve and have the best possible opportunity of dignified jobs.

Finally, we need to restore dedicated ethical professionalism to our health care system so it can serve the public effectively and efficiently. 

AgangSA believes that we have the resources to restore our healthcare system and provide dignified care for all in need.

We must use our strong science and technology base to attract, train and retain the best health care workers to restore the pride and trust in our system. 

Let us be steadfast in our resolve to aim higher and be humble in our duty to our country. Together we will restore the promise of a free South Africa, a greater future for our nation. Freedom from poverty, crime and corruption.

That is what our heroes died for. That is what Steve Biko died for - a South Africa with a clean, competent government that restores human dignity, equality, freedom and hope for all.

Thank you 

Issued by AgangSA, September 12 2013

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