Statement by Oliver Tambo at the Funeral of Moses Mbheki Mabhida, 29 March 1986, Maputo

We have gathered here today to bid farewell to a warrior. We have converged from all corners of the globe to pay homage to a revolutionary. We have convened on this grieving piece of the earth to salute a patriot.

We who have walked with the giants know that Moses Mbheki Mabhida belongs in that company too.

We who have failed among the ranks know that he was proud to count himself a foot soldier. A colossus because he was supremely human, Moses Mabhida has departed from our midst.

A seeming void occupies his space, the air so still without his voice. Like the pure note of a bungle, that voice rose from the depths of the Valley of a Thousand Hills, and multiplied.

It rose and grew and multiplied, reverberating from Durban`s Curries Fountain until it was heard in Dar es Salaam and Havana, Moscow and Managua, London and Jakarta, Beijing and Rio de Janeiro, Prague and Washington.

And in Pretoria the centres and symbols of oppression and repression - the Union Buildings and the Voortrekker Monument - heaved and trembled as they received his message: Death to Fascism! Down with Fascism! Freedom for my People!

It is rarely given to a people that they should produce a single person who epitomises their hopes and expresses their common resolve as Moses Mabhida did.

In simple language he could convey the aspirations of all our people in their magnificent variety, explain the fears and prejudices of the unorganised and sense the feelings of even the most humble among our people.

Moses Mabhida could do all this because he was of the people, a product of the stern university of mass struggle and the life experience of the exploited and downtrodden workers and peasants of our country. It was that education which inspired Moses Mabhida to join the ANC, the South African Communist Party and the trade union movement which ultimately coalesced in the South African Congress of Trade Unions.

In the ANC, Moses Mabhida rose from the lowest levels to become a national leader, serving as a member of the people`s army, Umkhonto we Sizwe, Secretary to the Revolutionary Council, and one of the Chairpersons of the Politico-Military Council. He was an international representative and an underground organiser.

He rose through the ranks of the Communist Party to become its General Secretary, while for many years he was Vice President of the South African Congress of Trade Unions.

This combination of functions sometimes surprised and puzzled our friends who wondered why Comrade Mabhida had to serve in so many senior positions in different organisations. But, above all, it enraged our enemies. This combination of functions in one leader of our people upset our adversaries because it reflected the permanence and acceptability among our people of the idea and the practice of the unity of the revolutionary democratic, the socialist and the trade union movements in the South African struggle for national liberation.

It was part of Comrade Mabhida`s greatness that, having quite early on understood the importance of the unity of these great movements, he succeeded in ably serving each one of them individually, and all of them together, as a collective front for national and social emancipation.

Throughout Moses Mabhida`s lifetime, international reaction tried desperately hard and consistently to separate the three movements we have spoken of one from the other and to set them against one another. In the contemporary period, we have seen determined efforts to separate the trade unions from the broad democratic movement and to persuade them to be nothing more than an agency to bring material benefits to a working class which remains enslaved.

But Moses Mabhida knew that the very dignity of labour that those who toil should not only enjoy the fruit of their sweat, but should do so as free men and women. Accordingly, he fought against all attempts to turn the trade unions into appendages of the property-owning classes and resisted all efforts to emasculate the working class as a leading social force for political change in our country.

Likewise, he was fiercely opposed to all manoeuvres which sought to educate the working class to repudiate its own history and allow itself to be turned into a base for the creation of a new political formation separate from and opposed to the ANC and the Communist Party. Moses Mabhida could take no other position because he had learnt and absorbed the lesson passed on to him and to us by the late Chief Albert Luthuli: that the ANC and SACTU were to each other a spear and a shield.

Moses Mabhida know that the durability of the alliance between the ANC, the Communist Party and the trade union movement lay in strengthening each as an independent formation and in securing their cooperation on an entirely voluntary basis. He therefore always worked to ensure that these formation respected one another and developed among them a deep-seated feeling of revolutionary unity and interdependence.

Moses Mabhida knew, it as clearly as he was convinced of the certainty of our victory, that the historic and urgent issue of the day in South Africa is the question of the transfer of power to the people. He saw in the ANC the unique and authentic vanguard to mobilise and lead our people to victory. None among us was more conscious than he that the African National Congress could only carry out its historic mission if it maintained the character it had come to assume - that of a parliament of all the people of our country, the representative of our future, the negation of the divisions and conflicts that racial arrogance and capitalist greed have imposed on our people.

That is why Comrade Mabhida fought hard and long to ensure that nothing should turn the ANC into a rabble of black chauvinists or a clique of leftist demagogues. He battled against all conspiracies designed to weaken the ANC as a fighting organisation of the people, a true national movement loyal to the great principles which inspired its creation and have guided it to this day.

What an experience it was to listen to MADHEVU (?) as he spoke in Zulu, drawing on our heroic past to fire the timid with enthusiasm, encourage the brave and correct those who had erred! The images he as vividly portrayed were of a Shaka and a Dingane - a great giants, who if they were alive today, would be with us a commanders of the people`s army, Umkhonto we Sizwe, and not arrogant local government functionaries of a regime that despise everything African.

The deep well from which Moses Mabhida drew strength and courage, the undying tradition of our people`s resistance to colonialism and racial tyranny, enabled him to teach a whole generation not to fear the tyrants, however powerful they might seem. It gave him the foresight to recognise the enemy clearly, to concentrate his fire on the adversary and never to turn his weapon against the people.

Yet, today, there are some in our country who claim that they drink from the same well but, their manhood having deserted them, they are so petrified of the enemy that they see its brutal armed strength as a superhuman machine in front of which we must cower-and-cringe.

Moses Mabhida will not be with us on the glorious day of liberation. He will not be there when the voice of the liberators proclaims from the height of the spine of our land - the sacred mountains of Ulundi - that the cause for which so many perished has triumphed.

Yet there is an error in those statements, because wherever Moses Mabhida is in the end laid to rest, his grave shall be like a place of pilgrimage, to all those who love freedom as he did, a beacon to the future for all those who value liberty more than their own lives - as he did.

No! Moses Mbheki Mabhida will be there when the trumpet sounds the salute to freedom. He will be there, because the young lions who fed on his courage and daring, the offspring of the lions and lionesses that our fathers and mothers are, they who have dared to rebel as Bambata rebelled 80 years ago - these are his peers and the relay team to whom he has handed the torch that he carries for so long.

He will be there, because his sudden death on March 8th, International Women`s Day, outside the borders of the country for whose happiness he has sacrificed so much, was Nkhize`s call on us to do what remains to be done. And we shall do it - together, in unity. Together, we shall see victory.

Mozambican men and Mozambican women, you looked after our comrade and brother during the last days of his life. Comrade President Samora Machel, you have done more than your duty - you have exceeded our highest expectations in the way you have gone out of your way, taking your people, with you to tend and honour one who was to you a comrade of long standing, a fellow combatant, a leader of the people of South Africa, a leader recognised by the progressive movement throughout the world, an anti-imperialist.

When Moses Mabhida departed, he was at peace because we, too, were in this city of revolutionary change - we were here as your guests and fellow fights for freedom, peace and social progress. We had come, as we must always come, to a liberated zone of humanity, to a corner of our continent that arouses the anger and the envy of our enemies because it is a liberated corner.

Our enemies are on all sides. They think they have surrounded us together. They imagine that they will pierce us with the pincers of an enveloping action - action originating from the Niassa Province and the Cape Province. What they do not know is that we are in their rear and on their flanks. It is their cause that is doomed. It is they who are in a hopeless position. It is they who are in a crisis - a deepening crisis. This moment, which is without precedent in the history of Southern Africa, signals that death is for us but a renewal of life, that death is for us a defeat in battle, a rehearsal for a victorious war.

Today Mabhida walks in the company of Magigwane and Ngungunyane. With these our standard bearers, we can never be defeated. We cannot but be victorious.

We wish to express our heartfelt condolences to the family of Comrade Mabhida, to all our people who feel bereaved by his departure. His family loved him. But they surrendered him to the revolutionary struggle because they loved freedom even more. Today as we grieve with them, they can be justly proud of him and of his life.

Farewell, dear Brother. Uhambe Kahle, Mfowethus. Those who have gathered here to make their pledge in public, or in the silence of their hearts, will be with you on the Maluti Mountains when you toll the ball of freedom. They will be with you from all the corners of the globe because their presence here signifies their own resolve to contribute all in order to wipe out a crime against humanity, in order to assert the dignity of all men and women across the oceans, on all the continents, permanently and unequivocally.

MOSES MABHIDA LIVES.

THE STRUGGLE CONTINUES.

VICTORY IS ASSURED.

AMANDLA! MAATLA!

ES Reddy