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South Africa : Public Protector Thuli Madonsela on Neil Aggetts legacy.

Public Protector Adv. Thuli Madonsela has called upon learners and all people of South Africa to honour the memory of Dr Neil Aggett, the first white person to die in detention without trial, by playing their part in advancing social justice and accelerating the achievement of the broader South African dream that inspired Neil Aggett and others to stand up against injustice.

Delivering the Annual Neil Aggett Memorial Lecture at Kingswood College in Grahamstown, where Neil Aggett Matriculated, Advocate Thuli Madonsela told a packed gathering of learners, teachers, parents, community members and the media that we must never forget that it is through the ubuntu efforts and related sacrifices of anti-apartheid activists like Neil Aggett that the democracy we take for granted today was achieved.

Adv. Madonsela applauded Kingswood College for keeping alive as part of our national heritage, the memory of Neil Aggett, who died in detention in February 1982 at the age of 29.

She said keeping the memory of Aggett and others who sacrificed their lives for justice was important firstly to remind us that the democracy we take for granted was earned through selfless sacrifices by people who believed in the dream of a South Africa for all where everyones potential is freed and life improved.

Keeping Neil Aggetts memory alive also reminds us that apartheid injustice was fought by black and white men and women who rejected the oppression of humanity based on race, gender and other irrational expressions of bigotry, she added.

They fought against the apartheid system of legalised injustice. They did not fight against a particular racial group she said, going on to reminisce about how when she was growing up the struggle conversation was about fighting the system.

She applauded Neil Aggett for standing up against injustice in a manner that transcends what she referred to as a just us paradigm which is said was characterised by people only standing up against injustice when it affects them and people close to them. She said it is okay to stand up against injustice against you and your group but more noble to use your position of privilege to highlight and fight against injustice unleashed on the oppressed.

Adv. Madonsela said Neil Aggett was a doctor who, discovered while working in segregated black townships in Cape Town and Gauteng, including the Baragwanath Hospital, that many of the ills afflicting the people he treated were socio-economic in nature and could not be addressed through medicine. He took up a full time position as a union organiser while working part-time in a hospital casualty ward to fund his union activities while also subsidising his union colleagues.

She mentioned that that her life was somehow touched by Neil Aggett's death as the person who recruited her to the struggle, Teddy Mpesi, met her friend at Neil Aggett's funeral and subsequently came to recruit at her house in Dlamini Soweto.

She stated that the struggle brought non-racial democracy founded on a progressive Constitution, which promises a freed potential and improved quality of life to all. However, she added that the Constitution is a bridge and not a final destination to the South Africa we committed ourselves to and that like all bridges getting to where we need to be requires crossing.

In this regard she said today is better than yesterday but there are many that are left behind with regard to enjoying social justice. She said the best way we can pay the debt of gratitude we owe to Neill Aggett and other struggle heroes is to earnestly play our part in ensuring that no one is left behind regarding experiencing the fruits of democracy.

Adv. Madonsela decried continuing and deepening poverty for many exacerbated by a widening gap between the rich and poor. Despite the constitutional promise regarding the achievement of equality and human dignity. In this regard she spoke about university students sleeping in library toilets, having no food for days, no books and no data to access information relating to assignments as universities increasingly use digitalised communicating. She also mentioned the poverty of outsourced workers whose children cannot study for free at universities.

There is no dignity in poverty explaining why many people, particularly young people are angry she said in Zulu we also have a saying that: Indlala ibanga ulaka, she said.

She advised that before judging those who are poor and angry we need to find out what is their story as Neil Aggett did, going further to learn Zulu to communicate better with his patients. She asked all to do something no matter how little to advance social justice, explaining that such contribution could be a small donation towards crowd funding to assist needing students or standing up against injustice such as racism, sexism, xenophobia and bigotry towards, people with disabilities, the LGBTI community and other disadvantaged groups.

Adv. Madonsela said one way of taking a stand against injustice is to work with the Public Protector and other Chapter 9 constitutional institutions to report maladministration, corruption, unethical conduct and other forms of improper conduct adding that these derail service delivery thus contributing to enduring apartheid racial, gender and other disparities.

Government is bound to drop the ball but that cant be persistent or with impunity, she said.

She exhorted all to emulate Neil Aggett by standing up against injustice and playing their part in reducing enduring racial, gender and other disparities, reminding all that as long as there is injustice somewhere there cant be sustainable peace anywhere.

She concluded by calling on young minds to apply their minds to conceive philosophical solutions to the socio-political and legal ills that confront South Africa and the world today with a view to promoting peaceful coexistence.

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Publication:Mena Report
Geographic Code:6SOUT
Date:Sep 24, 2016
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