Modern, Growing, Successful Province

Debate of the naming of the University of the Northern Cape

Address by the Honourable Acting Premier and ANCWL Chairperson in the Northern Cape, Ms Grizelda Cjiekella on the occasion of the Debate of the naming of the University of the Northern Cape in Honour of Solomon Thekisho Plaatje
11 October 2012

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It is a great honour for me to stand here on this special day in the history of our province to be part of the important deliberations which are aimed at paving the way for the eventual christening of our long awaited and indeed long overdue university.

I must say this historic year, 2012 has indeed signalled and ushered in the beginning of greater things to come in our province as well as in our country on a number of critical fronts, and not least of those, the announcement by our Honourable President of the establishment of our own university in the Northern Cape; good news – greater news, if you throw the massive SKA project into the mix.

One can only but marvel at the golden gate period that one of our founding fathers, Pixley Ka Seme hallowed about many centuries ago.

Indeed Colleagues and Comrades I am glad to say that, you are the pacesetters – the change makers in the history of our province and country, and by the time I end this speech, you will truly agree with me, that the change you so desire has begun with you, and you have all that it takes to make it happen – now!.

I am proud to stand here and say that I loved and still love my movement and our founding fathers.

Like all of us, little did I know that I will one day be standing here today to deliver this speech; I had not even the faintest idea of how my life was going to turn out, but like all of you, I had one thing, I had dream!

A dream bigger than myself; a dream the same as yours; and that was to live to see the establishment of an institution of learning of the highest order, that would enable our young people today and for generations yet to come, to be the best that they can be through the optimal development of their intellectual capabilities and help our people live happier and more fulfilling lives.

Like all you, I certainly am enjoying this journey; like all of you, I messed up so many times; was knocked down but not knocked out.

Together we are still going to face so many battles; we will win some and we together, will lose some; but either way, we will keep fighting for our dreams.

Together we will push through the stormy weather, go through dark valleys and climb steep mountains, but together we will never give up because we share this dream, and we are passionate about it.

One thing that will keep us going at all times is the passion for this dream of ours.

Colleagues, life is an art and every one of us here today is an artist or can be an artist; and today we are all presented with the same colours to paint the portrait of our young peoples’ lives and our province’s.

The wisdom and the ability to mix and match these colours will cause us to succeed in creating new frontiers, better communities and making our province, our country and our continent a destination of choice.

Remember this – five or ten years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you did not do than by the ones you did do!

One key vehicle to avoid that is to act decisively now, and attach to this- soon- to- be- the greatest attraction in the southern hemisphere, our university, the name of Solomon Thekisho Plaatje University!

Comrades, an outstanding personality who needs no introduction, Solomon Plaatje proudly takes his place as a leading figure in South Africa's liberation history.

An extraordinary thinker, he spent much of his life mobilising for the liberation of african people.

We are forever grateful that two national monuments in Kimberley and, a museum in Mahikeng are named after him as testament to the legacy Solomon Tshekisho Plaatje; an early liberation thinker; a literary guru and founder of the African National Congress.

Realising that we can never do enough for this giant of our struggle, the Kimberley Municipality in our province is also named after him.

In 1998, with several of his descendants present, an honorary doctorate was posthumously conferred on Sol Plaatje by the North West University.

Ladies and gentlemen, it is clear that even with the little formal education that he had, Solomon Plaatje’s incredible acumen and drive ensured that he became a literary and political icon in South Africa.

Appropriately and thankfully so, his status as a leader, activist, writer, journalist and visionary is documented in the Sol Plaatje Museum and Library in our Diamond City, at 32 Angel Street for those of us who may not know.

Indeed he lived here for many years and remains buried here.

His life story heralds that Solomon Thekisho Plaatje was born on a farm in Boshof in the Free State and he was part of the group of mission-educated black South Africans who founded the South African Native National Congress (SANNC) in 1912, becoming our own African National Congress in 1926.

It is my considered belief that seated here as we are, we all acknowledge and appreciate the role that Sol Plaatje and many others played in travelling this road to establish a truly democratic state of ours.

It means that we keep alive the memories of the events that shaped our history and honour the names and the legacies of the men and women who made the supreme sacrifices in a struggle to ensure a democratic, united, non racial and non-sexist South Africa.

Accordingly Comrades, our people would like to make a contribution to our collective memory by honouring the name of one of the greatest architects of our democracy.

The naming of our university after Sol Plaatje, Ladies and Gentlemen, would be but a small gesture of appreciation to his family, the community and the country at large.

One thing we all agree on is that we owe him an immense debt of gratitude.

This year, the centenary year of our movement the ANC, marks 80 years of the death of legendary journalist, political activist, author and linguist, Solomon Thekisho Plaatje.

He would have turned 133 years old on Tuesday, the 9 of October, on the day when we accompanied our President to yet another landmark achievement of our province, the visit to the SKA.

Among his treasured achievements is the fact that self taught literary giant had established and edited three bilingual newspapers: Koranta ea Bechuana (Mahikeng 1902), Tsala ea Bechuana (Kimberley 1910) and Tsala ea batho in Kimberley in 1912.

Even more astonishing for a man who had only accomplished standard 3 formally, Plaatje went on to translate some of Shakespeare works into Setswana.

In his activist role he had among other contributions addressed around 600 gatherings and also wrote political pamphlets on the plight of indigenous South Africans since the coming into effect of the Natives Land Act, in 1913.

Proof that this wonderful leader’s intellectual and literary roots were anchored in our province is that he died a week after he had left Kimberley to meet with potential publishers of his works in Johannesburg.

An interesting coincidence is that he passed on to higher service after being under the watchful care of yet another of our founding fathers, Dr AB Xuma.

In would in the light of the above, indeed be quite sad that a man of so many talents, who gave up a lot for the advancement of his people and who reportedly died without much material benefits could at least not be honoured in the way he would most certainly have preferred, to serve as an inspiration to our country and continent’s young people by having one of the finest educational institutions named after him.

Indeed colleagues, this is the appropriate time to reflect on what this man of letters did throughout his lifetime for black scholarship, early media initiatives, political thought and literary excellence.

It is my sincere hope that we will collectively continue to pursue the ideals he promoted, and like Solomon Plaatje , continue believing that great things are possible and do-able.

Let us honour his life of “exemplifying our values of service and the promotion of transparent, participatory, and effective governance.

This debate today, I believe, should not only be about naming the greatly envisaged university after Solomon Thekisho Plaatje; it should not be about the name; but more than that, I believe, it should be about how his name will continue to inspire each and every one of us… to be genuine servants of the people, by the people, for the people.

Our university is worthy of his name and legacy.

If there is one thing that I am sure of now, it is the fact that Solomon Plaatje will feel extremely proud that we have lend our honourable voices to the clarion call and we have decided to name our university in his honour.

Equally important, the family of Solomon Plaatje would undoubtedly be deeply honoured and grateful that in enshrining his name to our university, he is given the honour that we all unanimously agree he deserves, and the respect we believe his life was worth.

The time is now to excuse our excuses, and be committed to the task at hand.

You have what it takes; rise up and make it happen, for the sake of our children, our future; so that, to paraphrase the man himself –‘ they are not pariahs in the land of their birth’ – the Solomon Thekisho Plaatje University!

Thank you


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