13 March 2018, Eastern London City Hall, Eastern Cape Province
Kusapho lwakwaLoliwe, izihlobo nezalamane naye wonke umntu olapha oze kukhunga, siyabulisa ngale mini. Silapha namhlanje ukuza kuthi akuhlanga lungehlanga, lalani ngenxeba. UFezi wayebalulekile kuthina sonke silusapho lakwaSADTU, sikhala kunye nani, silahlekelwe singum'butho wothishala.
A dark cloud has descendent upon our community of teachers and has left us in a tearful and sorrowful state of mind… We are gathered here today in our multitudes, from all corners of our beautiful country to remember and pay our last tribute to our fallen colleague, comrade and friend.
Now the almighty has demonstrated his power and strength to control our lives and terminate our lives when He so wishes and at any moment he loves. Most of us cried upon receiving the sad news on that fateful Monday afternoon and continue to do so. We are right to cry because this the only way God heals us from this devastating pain.
Her soul has departed from this physical world and gone to join the spirit of her forefathers and fallen revolutionary heroes and heroines of our struggle against the barbaric and despotic system of apartheid. We must say to our departed comrade, rest easy from the strain of life. Dennis Brutus, a south African poet echoed the following words. " Had you lived today, we would be celebrating the day of our birth, but you are gone."
A gathering of this sort is by its very nature a sad occasion, sidibene apha in memory of one of us. Today let's let us take time to reflect on the positive memories that she is leaving us for that is our gift from her, that is our inheritance from this great soul. I want to steal some words from a poem whose author is unknown, you see as teachers, we teach our learners to reference and I certainly would have done that had I known the author, so you will pardon me if you are the author and sitting here with us, we none the less want to acknowledge your presence (on a lighter note).
When tomorrow starts without me,
and I'm not there to see,
and find your eyes,
all filled with tears for me,
I wish so much you wouldn't cry,
the way you did today,
While thinking of the mant things we didn't get to say.
I know how much you love me
as much as I love you,
And each time that you think of ,
I know you'll miss too
- Author Unknown
We were privileged and honoured to have known cde Fezi as the leadership and membership of our Union. The first thing I wish to share with you is how she will comfort us when we were in difficult situation. Last year in the conference of the ANC I would say to her, I am going to see my dad in hospital and she will say " Hayi Bhuti, xelela loyomntu angasigezeli makaphile." She will say the same to our DGS who was also going through a difficult time having his mom and uncle ill.
Fezi served as the deputy secretary of the province and later elected Provincial Secretary after comrade Dimaza was deployed in the legislature. She demonstrated her political vision and assertiveness when we approached the 2010 National Congress. She led at the time when business Unionism was crippling Unions where leaders would flash numbers to divide the union. She abhorred numerical arrogance because she was a cadre. She marshaled her forces to cement the unity we enjoy today. This was despite populists and demagogues who were united by the love of money. The love of money to auction the Union to service providers in return of kick backs. That's the cancer of Business Unionism. She did this with humility. Yes with humility because she knew as a communist that service to the people is non negotiable.
When the national office needed a leader with impeccable credentials to lead the repositioning of our Sports, Arts and Culture at the center of curriculum development provinces agreed that she was one the fit to take the assignment. This was after the province had declared her expired. This is what happens in politics comrades. Your service is never gonna be evaluated when that expiry date is decided. In politics this is what others call a democratic process. After this democratic process we experienced serious upheavals in our Union. The revolution was devouring its children one by one through this democratic process.
Because she didn't have this inflated opinion of herself despite being intellectually gifted she answered when she called to serve at national level. She didn't suffer from the desire to look good - and feed off other people's validation. She was herself. Soft spoken and assertive. Respectful and awesomely direct with her facts. This leader differs from others who acutely recognize their insecurities and attempt to camouflage these insecurities by forcing a false persona - one of competence and confidence - in a desperate attempt to conceal their real state of mind. A person of humility doesn't need validation because her deeds and conduct say it all. In the midst of dramatization by those who regarded themselves as ideologues whilst damaging the standing of the union, Fezi stood opposite of those who had an insatiable desire to make themselves appear important to impress others. As such she was always on the opposite side of those who will, often exaggerate and dramatically overstate various aspects of their life. This was the Fezi we all knew.
It is important and befitting that as we celebrate the life and history of our departed comrade Fezi today, that we do so dedicating this memory to her long tireless, constant and principled record as a fighter for the right of the teachers as well as learners to receive quality public education which carries emancipatory knowledge that assist them to develop critical thinking and analytical skills.
We remember her endurance and determination to work for unity of Union and the entire MDM structures, progressive activism and empowerment of our society through the implementation of quality public education which is transformative, liberating, and providing skills and knowledge which are necessarily required to contribute to the economic development of our country and create a better life for all.
We remember her as person who worked unceasingly to encourage teachers to be a national voice and conscience on matters of education and the ideals of unionism which are the central justification of SADTU's existence. She believed in the spirit of collectivism as a strategic tool for bargaining and winning important battles that are waged to suffocate and suppress the aspiration of teachers and make their union to forfeit their right to exist or to be a blunt instrument that can easily be subjected to manipulation and distortion.
Fezi taught us that as a union we must not allow meekness to grip in or speak in riddles. One the lessons we have learned is that we must not sink in profound reverie but remain steadfast, unruffled and exercise our inalienable right to voice the demands of our members.
Fezi as a leader displayed some of the rare characteristics:
She was like a pin. Straight, sharp, level-headed and clean. She knew how to separate oneself from what she wants to achieve for her people, belongs to people, advances people's cause without posturing for oneself. As a leader she did not engage into conflict with her constituency.
She knew that a leader belongs to the people. In her memory let us honestly engage and harness each others competencies in order to create a synergy to unleash our potential. In her memory let us live honestly and be custodians of good morals.
Fezi has displayed the highest integrity as the hallmark of true leadership. In her honour we should truly jettison gerrymandering and grandstanding for self gratification and ingratiation. If we all can embrace and uphold these values as Fezi did, some rewards will flow as a naturalia of our good deeds.
Dear comrades the celebration of Fezi's life implores on us a duty to embark on a mission to lure and cajole all sons and daughters of the organisation who are in the periphery as a result of discontent, disillusion and those that are lost to the real course of our revolution to come home to the great institution, the real home of politics. To be part of the collective in the sacred home, the big university and institution as we escalate our campaign to defend collective bargaining and quality public education, the revolution in furtherance of the just war, to liberate and empower the downtrodden children of the soil.
Let us all commit to the course, harness our competencies in defence of our organisation. Defend our organisation from corruption because our children deserve the best. This we must do in honour of Simphiwe Mnguni, Ruth Oliphant, Don Pasquallie, Vara and many departed cadres of our mighty Union.
As we dedicate this time and moment to the memory of our departed comrade, we must constantly remind ourselves that she was a
dedicated trade union revolutionary, who championed the right of workers.
She stood at the head of our union and was among the most respected front-line leaders of SADTU. She had a firm grasp of knowledge of Marxist theory of the political and economic evolutionary development of society as well as the impact of the capitalist divisive and exploitative tendencies. She understood that the historical division of society into antagonistic classes brought the development of the division of labour to the point where manual and mental activities became increasingly and sharply segregated from one another.
That only the slaves worked with their hands, nobles exercised their mind. Education in this respect is used to reinforce this kind of thinking in society and perpetuate social stratification and income differences. It is also used in this respect to create the maintenance of social division and cultural alienation in society.
Furthermore, this kind of a theoretical thinking and idealism creates a false sense of reality in which exploitation and class division are part of divine and timeless order which nothing can change. In the context of Apartheid South Africa, education was to play a major role in socializing the oppressed masses into accepting the legitimacy of the Apartheid rulers partly by impressing on them the right of the oppressor to govern because of their assumed cultural and even intellectual superiority.
The British colonial governors expected education they introduced to learners of the colonized to see them as people that are only being attached to their country by birth and relation and to England by their education, being in a situation in which they will be respected and without envy they would become the most effectual preservers of contentment, tranquility and morality among their country men and a means of connection between them and the colonial empire. It was not an education to foster the spirit of patriotism and national consciousness, and education to remove the shackles of colonial and Apartheid oppressive and dominant mentality. It was education for mental enslavement that enhanced the dominant ideological hegemony of the oppressor.
The Apartheid government policy of racial segregation was profoundly influenced by the ancient Greek Idealist called Plato. His idealism of the nature of society was based on the premise that people have been made differently. He likened them to different metals like brass, iron and gold - and these to him have differences which there is nothing that can be done to change this situation. According to him men of gold, which he termed philosophical elites were naturally intended to rule over the cruder multitudes of brass and iron - the unfortunate many. Plato's idealism has often found a sympathetic hearing among apartheid's supporters. His ideas formed the basis upon which Bantu Education, the whole system of racial segregation and fragmentation of the country along ethnic and tribal lines was premised.
Fezi understood that to get out of this type of ideological and educational trappings, first there was a need to attain total liberation of the oppressed masses in South Africa so that the people's power for the people's liberation must be attained.
During the period of struggle and the campaign to defend collective bargaining and quality public education, she never stood on the sidelines cheering the masses so called voting with their feet when some outpaced by the incisive march of events abandoned the masses and when the first bullet from the enemy was discharged, some disappeared and immediately turned reactionary and joined the enemy. Like many in the revolutionary front, she knew very well that illusions must not be allowed to rear its ugly heads. They must be disparaged and expunged. It was clear that no one could smash the South African status quo by heroism however unstinting nor with mere share of dedication, commitment and a few assortments of missiles, stones and sticks. Other more potent weapons were needed and they were to be forged. The weapons that come from revolutionism as a science and related to conditions that obtained in the country. Such weapons were not to come from old, moth-ridden ruts. Weapons of struggle must be definite, sharp and pointed. That is why the search for them like that of the truth is so painful and brutal. In this struggle she was among those who acquitted themselves creditably.
Due to her strong understanding of dialectical materialism which asserts that people are the product of their material circumstances, their human nature, their outlook and general psychology reflect the conditions under which they live and work.
To change people, you must change their circumstances. People draw knowledge and develop character from the practical experience of the material world that every one is able to learn from life and play a part in running the affairs of society.
By changing the material conditions which people are subjected to, the society could be rid of poverty, unemployment, crime, exploitation, inequality and all the other evils which conservatives blame on human nature. Understood concretely and applied creatively, dialectical materialism has a crucial role to play in helping revolutionaries formulate their strategy and tactics in such a way that they reflect the needs of the situation and take all the relevant factors into account.
The reality in South Africa today is basically to get the education system right. What are the objectives and the content of our educational curriculum. A transformative curriculum is the one that addresses the needs of the learner, the needs of society and the need of knowledge because knowledge is complex, multi-dimensional, active, dynamic and meaningful and should be studied in context. The question confronting us today is about the systematic and multifaceted problems our education is facing. The DA stands in platforms and claim that Sadtu is sabotaging the working class child.
There are so many questions that Fezi must ask those who have formed the branch of Sadtu in heaven when she arrives, such Simphiwe Mnguni, Don Pasquallie, Mathew Goniwe and many others.
Are the teachers getting the necessary support to tackle the challenges in education? By the way the teacher is a barometer of social change that determine the future and the destiny of the country. He/she is the one who determine the quality of product that are produced out of our school system. He determines the number of carpenters, engineers, builders, architects, and all other expertise and skills the country requires.
The teacher can also sabotage the nation by producing people with insufficient knowledge and skills. The teacher actually yields enormous power and influence. The late Mwalimu Julius Nyerere, the former president of Tanzania, confirmed the above assertion when he said, the assumptions that teachers do not hold power is the biggest fallacies of society. He argued that teachers as a group have power of a man with a gun. It is not the power that can be made the fool, but it is the power to decide whether service or self shall be " our dominant motive in the Tanzania of 1990 and thereafter.."
Once we begin to recognise the importance of critical emancipatory knowledge to our work, then we would be in position to ask such questions as to "how could we increase the sensitivity or consciousness of our students and other teachers to the importance of the political and other constraining factors so that they can become more aware of them in their role as educational planners, curriculum developers". And how as educators can we help to break down or reduce the influence of these barriers which interfere with the emancipatory possibilities of education.
Comrade Fezi leaves the responsibility to us all to build revolutionary Alliance and to revive its core values of Unity, Selfless, Sacrifice, Collective leadership, Humility, Honesty, Discipline, Hard work, internal debates, constructive criticism as well as mutual respect.
We must say to our departed comrade,:
Rest easy from the strain of life. Dennis Brutus, a South African poet, echoed the following poetic words:
Had you lived today, we would be celebrating the day of our birth. But you are gone. Can we believe that your thought lives on through those you taught and your will to serve the nation in those who act and enriched by what you thought. Now that you are gone, we must pay you eternal tribute. But it is for the living you died for and we must continue ourselves in saying it is for our course you died for and inwardly know for what cause you died for. To you our comrade, we will continue our just war against corruption and indecisiveness, we will transform education and contribute towards the attainment of socialism.
I ask you to think for a moment.
To think of pain
To think of people who are not free
To think of death
Stop thinking of other things
Think only of this
Of people dying
Dying of by the gun
By the knife
Think of them
The people who are not free
Who will give their lives to be free.
Stop now, think now
And lift your fist
And shout your anger
And your resolution
Three times now