ANC president Cyril Ramaphosa has paid tribute to the party’s first secretary-general, struggle icon Sol Plaatje, as the party celebrates 108 years on Wednesday.
The party is in the Northern Cape, where it will hold a cake-cutting ceremony later in the day to mark the event. A rally is expected to be held in Kimberley on Saturday.
“Here lies our DNA as a movement, the DNA of the Sol Plaatje family,” the president said during an early morning address at the struggle hero’s grave at West End Cemetery.
Ramaphosa said the day presented an opportunity for the governing party to take a trip down memory lane and pay its respects to its first secretary-general.
Plaatje, a former journalist, was renowned for some of his intellectual contributions, some of which Ramaphosa quoted. He referred to the opening line of his book Native Life in South Africa.
“There will forever be one phrase he used which was quite emotive but also politically packed with a lot of meaning, which [he] said after the 1913 land act was passed, where he wrote: ‘Awakening on Friday morning, June 20, 1913, the South African native found himself, not actually a slave, but a pariah in the land of his birth.’
“It was published in 1916, the most telling emotive phrase about the pain that black South Africans felt at the time and continue to feel up to this day, about the dispossession of land,” he said.
The president added that the ANC took a revolutionary resolution at its 54th national conference on the expropriation of land which, he said, in many parts, was inspired by Plaatje. He said the ANC would resolve the matter because it was a historical mission.
Ramaphosa added that the ANC’s bid to renew itself was in honour of those who came before them, assuring guests, which included some of Plaatje’s relatives, that the ANC would continue to exist beyond its 108 years of existence.
The tension among Plaatje’s family members was also addressed at the event. Obakeng Plaatje said they wanted to apologise to the country and to the ANC for the behaviour some of them displayed.
On Sunday, some who claimed to be Plaatje’s true descendants removed a mesh fence which the province erected.
“We apologise to South Africa for what has happened, but we are in the process of correcting what is happening but of correcting it is through a reunion where we will have the organisation to assist us,” he said.
Northern Cape premier and ANC chairperson Zamani Saul said every time the province wanted to honour the liberation hero, it became embarrassing because of the feud in the family.
He said this was the case when the Northern Cape wanted to rename Kimberley the Sol Plaatje municipality, and when an institution of higher learning was built in the province and named after him.
Saul said he hoped there would no longer be such incidents.