Wednesday, December 17, 2008

A significant date

16 December - Let us never forget!

Since 1838 the date 16 DECEMBER has inexplicably signified a major turning point in the history of South Africa and its people.

Afrikaners traditionally celebrated 16 December as the “The Day of the Covenant” or “The Day of the Vow’ (Gelofte Dag). Its universal common name prior to the April 1994 elections, however, was “Dingaan’s Day”. In the new South Africa it became a “Day of Reconciliation”, a day to focus on overcoming the conflicts of the past and building a new nation, --- but sadly after nearly 14 years rule under a Marxist ANC government, South Africa has deteriorated into a state of chaotic disgrace. So much so that even Breyten Breytenbach, the poet, writer and anti-apartheid activist, has issued a damning attack on the South African political order for failing the country's citizens. In a subsequent radio interview, Breytenbach charged: "Critical institutions have practically imploded under our national health system, to some extent our educational system, certainly our security system. It is claimed that even under apartheid more houses were built for the poor than has been built by the new government."

Then suddenly, out of the blue yonder, a new vibrant party called Congress of the People (COPE) decided to utilize 16 December 2008 as their official date of birth. I wonder what numerologists will read in the significance of all this? For those readers who are not acquainted with South African history, I have taken the liberty of providing a very concise synopsis of South Africa’s historical events associated with 16 December:

16 December 1838 - Battle of Blood River

Boer Voortrekkers led by Andries Pretorius defeated Dingane’s Zulu army. Prior to the battle of Blood River Andries Pretorius took a vow before God for deliverance that should they be granted victory that day (16 December 1838) would forever be celebrated in His honour. The Zulu army suffered an estimated loss of 3,500 warriors, while miraculously only 3 Voortrekkers were slightly wounded. Since then 16 December was always celebrated as “The Day of the Covenant”, mostly by Afrikaans speaking South Africans.

16 December 1961 – First acts of sabotage by the armed wing of the ANC, Umkhonto we Sizwe (MK)

The 16 December acts of sabotage came in the form of an attack on post office buildings and other government offices in Johannesburg, Port Elizabeth and Durban. One MK member was killed by his own bomb and another lost an arm. Though the attacks caused minimal damage, it advertised the start of the ANC’s military campaign as posters were put up in the major centres. Leaflets containing the MK manifesto were also distributed on this date. 16 December 1961 is seen as the date of formation because Umkhonto we Sizwe (Spear of the Nation) performed its first acts of violence on this date. The decision to officially form the armed wing was made seven months earlier in June 1961 during a secret meeting of the African National Congress National Executive (ANC).

The MK, led by Nelson Mandela, was to follow a policy of selective sabotage, by which the leaders hoped to bring about a collapse of public order (and White supremacy) without endangering human lives. Though the ANC did not abandon its policy of non-violence, the decision was taken not to discipline its members who did resort to violence.

16 December 1995 – Day of Reconciliation

In April 1994, however, South Africa elected its first non-racial and democratic government. In the spirit of promoting reconciliation and national unity, and after the passing of the Public Holidays Act of 1994, this special day was given a new meaning and was renamed the "Day of Reconciliation".

16 December 2008 – The official founding of a new political party called Congress of the People (COPE)

This new party was by former members of the African National Congress (ANC) soon after the resignation of President Thabo Mbeki from the ruling ANC party in September 2008, followed by Mosiuoa Lekota and ten other ministers who also submitted their resignations. The party is headed by Mosiuoa Lekota, Mbhazima Shilowa and Mluleki George, all ex-members of the ANC, and will contest the 2009 general election. The party was announced following a national convention held in Sandton on 1 November 2008, and was officially founded at a congress on 16 December 2008. The name echoes the 1955 Congress of the People at which the Freedom Charter was adopted by the ANC and other parties.

In his closing address the new president of the party, Mosiuoa Lekota, raised at least three issues which represent a departure from the approach taken by the ANC. Lekota told congress, to loud cheers from delegates, that COPE would "professionalise the public service and discontinue the political deployment system." He also stated that COPE would pursue a more non-racial approach to affirmative action. "We intend to sustain the economic empowerment and affirmative action. This will not be done on the basis of race; and I repeat, this will not be done on race."

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