The Family of Comrade Peter Mokaba,
ANC Youth League President, Cde Julius Malema,
National Executive Committee of the ANC Youth League,
Limpopo ANC Chairperson Cde Cassel Mathale,
Leaders of the Alliance Partners ANC, COSATU and SACP present,
Comrades and Friends
Let me begin by thanking the ANC Youth League for making this Peter Mokaba Memorial Lecture possible under the appropriate theme of Youth Action for Economic Freedom in Our Lifetime."
I am most pleased that the ANCYL has called on the leadership of our Movement to keep the legacy and memory of Comrade Peter Mokaba alive.
I am equally pleased that the ANCYL has chosen the month of June, itself a revolutionary month on our calendar, to recall the life, the trials and tribulations as well as the struggle heroism of this gallant fighter for freedom, Comrade Peter Mokaba.
His life was closely intertwined with the lives of young people across the country.
In fact the June 1976 uprising left an indelible mark on this young man`s mind, propelling him to leave his country and join others in the struggle for the complete liberation of South Africa.
In our vocabulary today, it is with him that the term "Young Lion" is mostly associated. Yet in life as in his death, Comrade Peter Mokaba was dismally served by historians and even poorly served by journalists, leading many to associate him militancy, revolutionary song and the toyi-toyi.
But Comrade Peter Mokaba was much more than that. That is why our youth yearns for a full and favourable memory of their hero, the freedom fighter, the fierce debater, the seasoned campaigner, the democrat and ultimately builder of a new South Africa. He also was a prolific writer and would articulate his arguments eloquently.
When he passed away in 2002, he was an elected Member of the national Parliament and Deputy Minister.
He was one of the most militant, dynamic and vibrant youth leaders to have belonged to our people`s Movement; the ANC.
Comrade Peter was a revolutionary and a young lion, who dedicated his entire life to the liberation of the African people and the development of the youth of South Africa.
Although much still needs to be done, Comrade Mokaba would be pleased at the strides our country has made collectively to address the legacy of apartheid and colonialism he so hated with passion.
He would marvel at the pride with which we have been integrated into the international world of nations, and being entrusted by the football fraternity to host the biggest soccer showpiece on earth, the FIFA World Cup 2010 on our shores.
Comrade Peter was an avid sports fanatic, a first Dan Black Belt and karate instructor.
He was a softball player and a dribbling wizard who won the nickname "Six Mabone" while playing with the Turfloop Dynamic Bullets.
Therefore, he would have been delighted to witness Bafana Bafana win against Guatemala at the stadium named in his honour, and on Saturday against Denmark, a sign of things to come in the 2010 FIFA World Cup tournament.
Born in this very village of Mankweng on 7 January 1959, Peter was to dedicate his youth as well as his adult life to a struggle to right what he considered very wrong in the racially oppressive and worker-exploitative society he lived in.
There was everything wrong in the society Comrade Peter was supposed to embrace: it was a poor working class and rural setting whose only mark it left to this young man was militancy and radicalism.
Recruited carefully by Comrade James "Mawelawela" into the ANC and ultimately uMkhonto weSizwe (MK), Mokaba belonged to a very eager and impatient group of seven young people that I named "the warriors".
They could hardly wait for their first duties in the fight for liberation. They underwent extraordinary political preparation.
He came back and worked hard as an underground operator and trained MK operative.
It was that kind of spirit and determination that finally triumphed and led us to where we are today as a liberated nation.
Many who knew Comrade Peter Mokaba would describe him as fearless to the point of being ready to take risks that many would think twice before taking.
At the time when the apartheid security establishment was hunting down their targets, Comrade Peter could be found at ease with students at the Wits University.
He was equally at home in many other student residences and gatherings including the Universities of Natal and Zululand and many technikons across the length and breadth of our country, mobilising and recruiting young people into the ranks of the African National Congress and into youth organisations which he led in the main.
He also, through the youth structures, was part of the broad UDF broad leadership. One of the factors that is often forgotten, is that Comrade Peter was a critical factor in the formation of CONTRALESA, together with Comrade Rapu Molekane.
He brought to Lusaka the first group of traditional leaders who came to discuss the formation of CONTRALESA. This was one outstanding contribution that he made as a young person, as they nurtured an organisation of traditional leaders to become part of the democratic forces in the country.
In this way, Comrade Peter demonstrated his understanding of how different organisations of all descriptions needed to fall behind the ANC and be part of the broader ANC family. What was also outstanding was the confidence that traditional leaders had in Comrade Peter Mokaba. They respected him.
The militant student activism of the Turfloop campus in the mid to late 80s was a result of the work of people like Comrade Mokaba. Mankweng here being his hometown, Turfloop University, now the University of Limpopo, naturally became his stomping ground.
It is difficult to imagine any other ANC leader who could sing, chant the slogans and toyi toyi like Comrade Peter Mokaba used to.
I would guess that many in this audience learnt the toyi-toyi from Comrade Peter Mokaba, just as many activists from Turfloop were groomed by Comrade Peter.
He was instrumental in the formation of the South African Student Congress, formed by the merging of the previously all-white National Union of South African Students and the predominantly black South African National Student Congress.
I remember fondly in particular the slogan associated with Peter and the student militancy of the time: Freedom or death, Victory is certain!" Such was the spirit of Peter Mokaba and the youth of the time that the enemy lived in constant fear!
Comrades and Friends
But what can we learn from Comrade Peter`s memory that would assist us in the present determination to free the youth of our country from the shackles of economic oppression?
Perhaps the greatest tribute and lasting respect that we can pay to Comrade Peter is by ensuring that the vision that guided him, of a united and prosperous South Africa led by the youth, is maintained and consolidated.
We can achieve this through education, which we have prioritised in this term of the ANC government.
The ANC government is guided by the knowledge that we are a youthful country with nearly 70% of all South Africans being under the age of 35.
Thus everything we do must answer the needs of our children and those of the youth.
The ANC Youth League should work with the ANC government to ensure that we increase the training of 16-25 year olds in further education and training facilities, enabling us to provide a second chance at education, for those who do not qualify for university. A critical way of ensuring economic emancipation through skills development is to improve access to tertiary institutions. Eligible students should be able to obtain financial assistance, through the National Student Financial Aid Scheme.
The ANC Youth League could play a critical role to assist students and raise awareness, and also make improvement suggestions. The ANC government has also set ambitious targets for skills development, to produce additional engineers and technicians, and to increase the number of qualified mathematics and science teachers.
Comrade Peter is still credited today with bringing youth issues into the core of government policy since the liberation of South Africa in 1994. We must maintain that legacy.
It is thanks to him that there is a Ministry responsible for youth matters at the highest office in the land, in the Presidency.
The youth function now resides in the Ministry for Performance Monitoring and Evaluation, to which the National Youth Development Agency reports.
The Ministry has to coordinate and ensure that youth development does not leave the mainstream of government policy and implementation.
There is a lot of work to be done still. In particular our NYDA is in the process of developing an Integrated Youth Development Plan and Strategy.
I am happy that the Youth League takes particular interest in the work of the NYDA. It has begun implementing programmes relating to information provision, skills development and transfer, as well as entrepreneurship. We will rely on the Agency to initiate, design, co-ordinate, evaluate and monitor all programmes aimed at integrating the youth into the economy and society in general.
We therefore expect the Agency to initiate programmes directed at poverty alleviation, urban and rural development and the combating of crime, substance abuse and social decay amongst youth. In fact, the NYDA has begun working with various government departments that are involved in these areas, to improve the quality of life of our young people.
We are undertaking all these measures because we are convinced that this is the legacy that Comrade Peter Mokaba would have desired for our youth.
On the particular issue of economic participation, we know that the learnerships, internships and the Expanded Public Works Programme have made some significant contributions to economic empowerment and skills transfer to our youth.
But more still needs to be done. Working together with various other departments and the private sector, the Youth League should explore how best to broaden opportunities for the youth.
As long as the memory of Comrade Peter Mokaba lives with us, the ANC must never abdicate the responsibility to create an environment where our young people can extricate themselves from poverty and build successful lives.
I would like to end this lecture by recalling the words of Comrade Peter Mokaba as he emphasized the importance of education in the life of an ANC cadre:
As I complained that all I needed was a gun, Cde Mzwai Piliso convinced me that politics was primary in the ANC. He taught me that it was not the gun but the man behind the gun who wins the war."
Later on in Robben Island, Peter Mokaba was to further remark that: There were those among us who could neither read nor write. These too were put through classes. For me this was an opportunity to keep my promise to OR Tambo and to follow Nelson Mandela`s career. So I registered for B. Proc degree. Except when in solitary confinement, there has never been a year when I was not studying, registered with one or the other institution."
Therefore, comrades, were he still among us today, I have no doubt that Comrade Peter Mokaba would insist that education be at the centre of our efforts not only to promote good citizenship but also to prepare our young people for the needs of a modern economy and a democratic South Africa.
We Remember Comrade Peter Mokaba!
Long Live the Spirit of Peter Mokaba!
Long Live the ANC Youth League!