On the occasion of the 34th anniversary of the 1984 Vaal Uprisings, we bring to you the gratitude of our revolutionary greetings from the National Executive Committee of the African National Congress. The occasion of this important day is indeed a tremendous inspiration, which its impetus over the South African political landscape, has become a turning point in the history of our struggle, for the total liberation of the people of our country.
The day of the commemoration of the 3rd September 1984 Vaal Uprisings, is one of the solemn tribute, to the memories of all our martyrs, of all our heroic men and women of our motherland, to all those who have throughout the years of our struggle, volunteered their own lives, nourishing the seeds of the trees of our liberation with their precious blood, for the freedom and dignity of the overwhelming majority of the people of our country.
We pay tribute to these outstanding sons and daughters of our soil, who heroically, sacrificed and with their blood, watered the tree of our national liberation struggle. Their extraordinary acts of heroism, have indeed contributed immensely towards bringing closer our common aspirations, for the building of a non-racial, non-sexist, democratic and prosperous society.
We pay tribute to the true servants of our people, whose leadership contribution, has turned the orbit of the dreams of humanity, into the realities of the present phase of the new improved conditions, of the struggle of our democratic dispensation. We cherish their legendary leadership role, to the noble cause of the struggle for the liberation of our people, which today constitute the lexicon of the beautiful history of our newborn nation.
We shall forever be indebted to their supreme sacrifice and commitment to the development of human society. Their contribution has shortened the long path we had to traverse over the centuries of our struggle, against imperialism and colonial domination.
The fateful events of this epic day shall always evoke the emotional memories of the past and the present, the memories of the difficult choices we have to make as we march into the future. The day has indeed become a painstaking testimony, of how the resilience, commitment and common determination of our people to the struggle, could transform despair into courage against adversity.
Thousands of heroic young men and women throughout the breadth and the length of our beautiful country, occupied the forefront trenches of our struggle, to liberate our people against the injustices of the racist Apartheid white minority regime. They heeded a call from the late President of the ANC, Comrade Oliver Reginald Tambo when he said:
“You have no right to lose faith in the certainty of victory. We have our heroic fighters and gallant leaders, some of whom have laid down their lives; others among them languishing in many jails throughout the country. They have not shrunk in the face of enemy bullets; nor have they succumbed to the bullying and harassing tactics of jail warders.
We of South Africa have taken charge of a sector that is vital to the success of the struggle against imperialism. The whole of the revolutionary forces of the world looks upon us to play our role in this struggle. Our international duty is clear. Let us march against the enemy”.
It is here in the townships of Sebokeng, Boipatong, Sharpeville, Bophelong, Evaton, KwaDukuza, and many other parts of our country, that our people unleashed their struggle against the Apartheid colonial regime to insurmountable proportions. We are indeed humbled, to be a witness to the events of this day, which are a symbol of the powerhouse of our rich history of the struggle, of the rolling mass actions and defiance campaigns.
It is here at the heart of our motherland, where the masses of our people, took their own initiative and the momentum, to carry forward the objectives of our national democratic revolution. Their actions became part of the collective effort of the wider struggle to create a better world for humanity.
The rolling mass actions and the defiance campaigns were driven by the fervent desire of the masses of our people, to fight for the bread and butter issues, as part of the struggle for the attainment of the noble objectives, for the building of a better future. This is a task our people have set to liberate themselves, from the shackles of Apartheid colonial oppression and exploitation.
The majority of our people, the workers, students, the unemployed youth and women, and the bulk of the urban poor, were driven by their common aspirations to fight against the lack of basic services, such as water, electricity, better education, high rates of unemployment, rental increases, high transport costs and the imposition of black councillors, who by extension of serving in the Black Local Authorities, became the immediate puppets of the brutal apartheid racist regime.
It is against this broad political context, that the high-level political consciousness of our people became a contour against the myth of perpetuating racial supremacy as propounded by the forces of imperialism and colonialism. Over the centuries of our struggle, the British colonialism, in collaboration with international monopoly capital, have effectively used racism, as a tool, to consolidate her hegemony over our socio-economic power relations.
This is the fundamental reason why the British empire, has over the years, supported the racist Apartheid regime, at the peril of the wishes and aspirations of the millions of the suffering people of our country. As a result of these objective historical realities, our people, therefore, became the inevitable victims of both the world of imperialism and South African colonialism of a special type.
The fateful day of the 3rd of September 1984, revealed the worst ugly repressive and murderous face of the racist white minority Apartheid regime. It was during this day, that the racist regime, committed some of the worst and untold atrocities in the history of the struggle of mankind.
In an attempt to break the resistance of our people, the white minority regime launched a joint army and police operation, that was called ‘Operation Palmiet’, and over a period of four months, through this notorious operation, a number of more than 142 people were killed. When one reads the Report on the Vaal Uprisings by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC), one cannot but be shocked by how deadly brutal and cruel this period of repression by the apartheid regime was.
Dozens of young men and women were beaten to death, mothers were strangled for having allowed their children to participate in the struggle for the improvement of their living conditions, and men were shot at point-blank range while helpless to defend themselves in handcuffs and leg irons. This was the worse torment of the human soul by the horrors of the Apartheid atrocities.
The Vaal massacre was just another page in the chapters of the history books, about the tormenting episodes of the sufferings of the majority of the people of our country. It was just another horrible episode, about the ferocious acts of white minority regime, which of course constituted a crime against humanity.
The area of the Vaal Triangle was one of the most important industrial economic centres in our country, with a long rich history of working class struggle. It was one of the strongholds of the South African trade union movement and the Congress movement.
The working class of the area and the rest of our country was inspired by the far-reaching political statement during the founding of the South African Congress of Trade Union in 1956 when it says:
“The organizing of the mass of the workers for higher wages, better conditions of life and labour is inextricably bound up with a determined struggle for political rights and liberation from the oppressive laws and practices. It follows that a mere struggle for economic rights of the workers without participation in the general struggle for political emancipation would condemn the trade union movement to uselessness and to a betrayal of the interests of the workers”.
This profound theoretical statement by the South African Congress of Trade Unions during its founding congress, was consistent with the seminal words by Vladimir Lenin when he argues that:
“The political demands can only be sustained when backed by economic strikes, and that the movement as a whole can only be developed by drawing in the most unorganized workers through economic demands. It is this constant interaction and transformation of demands and strikes which makes possible the telescoping of evolutionary socio-political development into revolutionary advance”.
Before the mass defiance protests could spread like wildfire in the area, the white minority regime was mounting an offensive propaganda onslaught, that the Black Local Authorities in the Vaal Townships, were the most successful in the administration and the improvement of the quality of the lives of our people. This was nothing else but the divide and rule strategy by the Apartheid government, to undermine the unity and cohesion of the struggle of our people.
The low voter turn out during the local government elections of 1983 was a demonstration that the Black Local Authorities, did not represent the support of the majority of the people of our country. Out of the total number of the population of the area, the Lekoa Black Local Authority was only elected by less than 14,7% of the eligible voters.
The situation deteriorated when the newly elected council, embarked on a programme of imposing an increased cost of rental services for the matchbox township houses, from the average of R11, 87 cents per month in 1977 to a totally unaffordable R62,56 cents per month in 1984. It was on the basis of these increased costs of living by the local council, that our people took to the streets demanding for the overthrow of the local councils and the oppressive machinery of the Apartheid regime.
During the massive four months stay away which brought the Vaal Triangle to a standstill, the mass democratic formations and the trade union movement, distributed a leaflet calling for the people to join the mass action of boycott against the local council and the fight against the apartheid regime which reads as follows:
“Your sweet, your labour, and your energy have been exploited for years and centuries
For decades and generations, the blood of your people has been shamefully split in vain
- Stand up, you who are oppressed and exploited
- Wake up, you who are oppressed and exploited
- Rise up, you who have been fooled and hoaxed
The leaflet demanded.
- No more rent increase in the township
- No more bus fare increases
- No more tax and General Sale Tax Increases
- No more police and the army in the townships
- No more Black Councils in the townships
- Better education
- Stop corporal punishment
- Allow students to form their own SRCs”.
Through unprecedented rolling mass actions and defiance campaigns, the masses of our people were able to resist the attempts by the world colonial powers and monopoly capital, to impose the Apartheid regime on them. The strategic power of mass mobilization of our people rendered the apartheid state ungovernable.
The deepening crisis was a true reflection of the balance of forces that the Apartheid regime, was no more having the necessary capacity to impose its oppressive laws on our people, and our people, were gaining the momentum to render the machinery of the Apartheid regime ungovernable, and therefore unable to consolidate its stranglehold against the will of the majority, the black people in general and the Africans in particular.
In the words of the towering genius of the world revolutionary movement Cde Vladimir Lenin:
“The masses, which have often been ignored and even despised by superficial observers, entered into the political arena as active combatants.
The masses are learning in practice, feeling their ways of defining their objectives, testing themselves and the theories of their ideologists.
The masses are making heroic efforts to rise to the occasion and cope with the gigantic task of world significance imposed on them by history and however great individual defeats may be, however shattering to us the rivers of blood and thousands of victories, nothing will forever compare in importance with the direction the masses and the classes receive in the course of our revolutionary struggle itself”.
Indeed this day the people of the Vaal entered into the political arena as active combatants through sacrifices and commitment to break the yoke the racist apartheid regime. The Vaal Uprisings was a necessary condition to ensure the collapse of the regime and therefore creating the momentum for the building of a new national democratic society.
The rolling mass action was a theatre of an intense struggle by our people in solidarity with the broad sections of our society. The Anti-Rent Committee of the Vaal Civic Association (VCA) held meetings at churches, that made their premises available in all the affected areas of Boipatong, Sebokeng, Evaton Small Farms, Sharpeville, and Bophelong.
The demand for the removal of the Black Local Authorities and the increase of rent and general taxes, was coordinated by the democratic mass formations as part of our strategic task, to bolster the impetus of the struggle of our people, to mobilize all the motive forces of our revolution, against the onslaught of the Apartheid regime. This strategic task was further bolstered by the reluctance of the Black Local authorities, to heed the demands of our people.
Instead, they took a hostile view of threatening to withdraw the site permits of the churches supporting the struggle of the people and equally imposing the rent increase on the shoulders of the working class and the poor people of the area. School principals and management committees were instructed to bare activities and progressive formations from utilizing school premises for their meetings.
We remember the Roman Catholic Church here in Sebokeng Zone 12 which was repeatedly bombed by the forces of apartheid for its role in sheltering community meetings at the time. We, therefore, thank the role of the church, business and other formation of civil society, for the far-reaching contribution to the struggle for the liberation of our country.
We take the opportunity of this historic day, to convey our deepest sense of appreciation, for the remarkable and courageous work by the leadership of the church, during the difficult times of the dark days of racial oppression. We remember one of our own heroic sons, Father Patrick Noonan, who dedicated his entire life at the service of our people and therefore advancing the goals of our national democratic revolution.
On the 29th of August, the community of Bophelong meet with the councillors of the local administrative authority, to discuss with them about the deteriorating situation in the area, with the intention of persuading them to abandon the plans of increasing the prices of rent and other essential services. Instead of listening to the demands of the community, the councillors threatened them with guns and called the police to teargas them from the hall.
On Monday the 3rd of September 1984 (which became known as Black Monday) the community gathered at the Roman Catholic Church in Small Farms, and from there, people marched to the administration offices to express their dissatisfaction. Police stopped the crowds of community members from Sharpeville and Boipatong from joining the main march in Sebokeng and fired at point blank range killing several of them.
The police shot, wounded, and killed countless people and also arrested thousands of residents. Police also went to the Vaal hospitals, arresting people who came for treatment for bullet wounds. As a consequence, many who were shot or injured in the unrest were too scared to go to the hospital. In the next five days, more than 40 people were killed.
The apartheid regime in retaliation to instil fear amongst our people arrested six community members, Cdes Ja-Ja Mojalefa Sefatsa, Duma Khumalo, Oupa Diniso, Reid Mokeona, Francis Don Mokhesi and the only female, Theresa Ramashamola, who were tried and sentenced to death by the apartheid courts of law.
This was one of the worst travesties of justice as it was evident that no one of the accused was guilty of the charges imposed on them. The only reason which led to the decision by Judge Justice Botha of the appeal court was that the accused shared a common purpose with the crowd to kill one of the councillors.
We remain grateful for the immense work of solidarity and internationalism. As a result of the growing pressure by the international community, PW Botha, the then President of the white only South Africa, eventually commuted their death sentences to jail sentences.
However, as we celebrate this day, we must never forget the huge injustice these comrades were subjected to and the horrific sufferings they endured during the agony of the three years they spent during their stay in death raw.
Cde Ja-Ja Sefatsa, recalls the horrific three years he spent at the death row in a cell closer to the one destined to accommodate political prisoners to be hanged when he says:
“They kill on Monday, skip Tuesday, kill on Wednesday, skip Thursday, kill on Friday.”
The years that comrade Sefatsa spent on death row were among the most horrific in the imaginary life of any son of man. In 1986, some 100 men were sent to the gallows; in 1987 a record of 164 were hanged, and in 1988 the toll was 117.
Before the rough rope was positioned around their necks, a pillowcase was pulled over the condemned men’s heads. After the hangings, it was the remaining death row prisoners, including comrade Sefatsa and the other Sharpeville Six, who had to wash these blood-filled pillowcases in their showers. This is the extent of the rampage of the soulless greed and gross violation of human rights by the racist apartheid regime which the international community declared a crime against humanity.
We equally take the opportunity of this historic day, of the 34th anniversary of the 1984 Vaal Triangle Uprisings, to pay tribute in honour of the Delmas Treason Trialists. These were a group of comrades from the leadership of the UDF and community activists charged with high treason for instigating the Vaal Triangle uprisings.
Comrades Malindi, Mokoena, Mphuthi, Nkopane, Hlanyane, Matlole and Ramagula from the local area were convicted of terrorism. Malindi was sentenced to five years imprisonment and the remaining defendants received suspended sentences with severe restrictions on their rights to freedom of speech and association.
During this day we salute their heroism and contribution to our struggle in all its manifestations. We salute them and many other of our combatants, throughout the country, who committed their lives for the freedom and dignity of our people.
The heroic leadership role of the people of the Vaal was indeed a foundational stone for the future victories of the struggles of our people. The heroic contribution of the people of the area to our struggle accelerated the passage of power from the hands of the Apartheid white minority regime into the hands of the vast majority of the people of our country.
Apartheid colonialism and white supremacy manifested its true character from the first moment of the arrival of the European colonial settlers at the Cape Colony. Over the centuries of colonial oppression and exploitation, white supremacy consolidated its hegemony, by capturing the economy of our country, and therefore the social relationships of our people.
The arrival of the colonial settlers, heralded a period in the history of our country of the most ruthless plunder, of land and the livestock belonging to the indigenous people of the Khoi San in the Cape Colony. The indigenous people of the Khoi San became the first victims of the most barbaric genocide and extermination by the colonial powers.
Upon his arrival at the shores of the Cape colony in 1497, the voyager Vasco da Gama was received with warm hands and unimaginable hospitality by the Khoi-San community. His first glance was to look with greedy eyes at the cattle and the fertile grazing land belonging to the Khoi-San.
What he could do at the end was to thank for the generosity of the Khoi-San, by naming the area the “Cape of Cows” and therefore also erecting a landmark on which he declared the land to be belonging to the King of Portugal. This is how he appreciated the generosity of the indigenous people of our country and the strategic geographical location of the Cape colony, within the architecture of the world power relations.
The discovery of gold and diamond was another significant landmark in the political and economic history of our country. The strategic socio-economic potential of our country led to fierce contestation for control and dominance between the European colonial powers.
The battle for the control and ownership of the wealth of our country, between the European colonial powers, culminated with the Treaty of Vereeniging which saw the establishment of the white only Union of South Africa in 1910. This was the beginning of the institutionalization of Apartheid white supremacy, which led to the marginalization of the majority of the people of our country, from the political and economic mainstream.
This is the context from which the ANC-led government is accelerating the process for the implementation of our policies for the radical socio-economic transformation of our society. This is a decisive intervention aimed at resolving the centuries-old legacy of imperialism and Apartheid colonialism, which has become the principal feature of the South African society.
The only way of achieving the objectives for the building of a non-racial, non-sexist, democratic and prosperous society, is to ensure that we expropriate the land without compensation and therefore empowering the majority of our people, the black people in general and the Africans in particular, into the ownership of the commanding heights of our economy. Our people need land to better their own living conditions.
We, therefore, make an appeal to the international community and especially the President of the United States of America, Mr Donald Trump, to respect the territorial independence and integrity of our nation-state and therefore give the people of our country the opportunity to resolve their own problems in line with the concrete realities of our own situation.
We are appalled by the determination of those forces opposed to the transformation of our country, to undermine our collective effort, to resolve the socio-economic contradictions imposed on our people by centuries of Apartheid colonial domination. The ANC is committed to providing leadership in order to ensure that we achieve this historic determination to appropriate land without compensation.
We make an appeal to all South Africans to be true ambassadors of our democratic republic. The horizons of our democracy have inspired all of us to work together with the common objectives of building a better future for all our people.
We are a nation bestowed with a political responsibility of building a new national democratic society out of the womb of massive realities of the legacy of poverty, disease and underdevelopment. Our country and the people are determined to work together in harmony to achieve the objective of this historic task of building a new South African nation.
The day of the commemoration of the Vaal Uprisings is the platform to assesses and evaluate the impact of Apartheid racial segregation policies and their impact on the quality of life of our people. The truth is that the people of the area are still the victims of Apartheid inequality and spatial planning.
The features of poverty-stricken black townships and affluent leafy middle class and upper-class suburbs, continue to be the testimony of the deeply entrenched injustices of the Apartheid racial policies which its legacy is still so awfully persistent. This is the objective reality that cannot be and should not be allowed to continue.
Therefore the popular upheavals by the masses of the people of the Vaal and many other parts of our country were essentially about the plight of the landless people who were exploited as rental tenants in the country of their birth. As a matter of necessity, our people deserve the security of tenure, that can only come through property title deeds and land ownership.
We assure the people of the Vaal, that the collective leadership of the ANC is hard at work to ensure for the realization of the historic mission, which in our view, is of paramount importance to the future struggle of the people of our country. We have to do so, in order to respond qualitatively to the wishes and aspirations of the millions of the people of our country.
This is the historic mission we have to accomplish, in memory of all our heroes and heroines of our struggle, of all those who perished in the battle cries, dedicating their own lives, for the freedom and dignity of the people of our country. Together as the people and the country, we are determined to build a new nation, based on democratic principles enshrined in our constitution, and the will of the majority of our people.
What remains important is that the achievement of the aims of our national democratic revolution rests on the unity and cohesion of our people. Unity and cohesion are about making South Africa a destination of peace and human prosperity.
The important question of unity and cohesion places a huge responsibility on all those entrusted with the honour to serve on behalf of our people. To be a leader of the ANC is about being a humble servant of the people.
The struggle of the people of the Vaal was not only about the problems of service delivery but more importantly also, about the quality of leadership to serve at the best interest of the people. This is a microscopic question through which we have to honestly subject ourselves to a rigorous self-introspection.
We have to be brutally honest and ask ourselves the pertinent question, as to whether indeed our movement and the people, are able to entrust the calibre of selfless and quality leadership we want. It is time that the ANC and the people of our country, act decisively against the level of opportunism by those who seek to abuse their elected positions to serve their self-interests.
We still have a long way to realize the dreams of the ideal nation we want to build, but working together as the people, we can do more to make our country, a better place to live. We still have a mammoth task in our hands, to make sure that we bring essential services such as clean and accessible water, affordable electricity, free education, and transformation of the capacity of our economy to create more jobs for our people.
The ANC is the only formidable organization with the capacity to transform the living conditions of the people of our country. The ANC remains to be the leader of the future struggle of our people.
We, therefore, make a special appeal to the young people of our country to register for the forthcoming national general elections. Your vote is important as it will contribute towards the development of our country and therefore guarantee your better future.
We urge all our structures and the people of our country to work together in ensuring that the ANC gets an overwhelming majority during the coming elections. In memory of the struggle of the people of the Vaal and many other parts of our country, less go and ensure that we work hard and defend the gains of our hard-won freedom and democracy.
The fortitude and relentless commitment of the people of the Vaal and the entire country to our struggle for national liberation, has become to be the better South Africa we live in today. This is a task we have to bestow on the future generations to achieve the dream of a non-racial, non-sexist, democratic and prosperous society.
We thank you!