Speech by Mr DaliI Tambo during the Long March to Freedom exhibition
19 October 2023
Honourable Speaker and Deputy Speaker
Honourable Chief Whip of the Governing Party
Ministers and Deputy Ministers
Chairperson of the ANC Caucus
Chairpersons of Parliamentary Portfolio Committees
Members of Parliament
Parliament Support Staff
Members of the media
Ladies and Gentlemen
All protocols observed.
I stand before you today with a deep sense of honour and gratitude as we gather at the historic Long March to Freedom site. This remarkable place encapsulates the spirit of resilience, courage, and sacrifice that defined the struggle for the liberation of South Africa. Today, we come together not only to celebrate the legacy of our heroes but also to underscore the importance of preserving and promoting the Long March to Freedom as a leading South African liberation heritage monument.
It is my great pleasure today to announce that the National Heritage Project Non-Profit Company, the owners and operators of the Long March to Freedom, have been fortunate enough to receive funding support from First Rand Foundation which allows us to bring 14 000 school children to the Long March to Freedom over the next two years. We would like to take this opportunity to thank the Chair of the Board of Trustees, Ms Nolulamo (Lulu) Gwagwa and the Trustees for their generous support which is much appreciated.
We are also extremely grateful to the Department of Sports, Arts and Culture, particularly the Minister Mr Zizi Kodwa the Deputy Minister, Ms Nocawe Mafu, who were both instrumental in assisting us and giving us some emergency funding to see us through until February 2024. Without their belief and support the exhibition would be wrapped up in a warehouse today.
I would like to thank our Landlords, Rabie and Century City whose generous understanding and support allows us to be here at this location. I would like to thank the staff on site, our Site Tour Guides,: Walter, Pam and Lunga, as well as the support staff, Zanele and Lordwick.
Their hard work, loyalty and dedication to Long March to Freedom is noted and appreciated. The site tour guides are trained, knowledgeable and professional, and delight our visitors.
The heart and soul of the Long March to Freedom, the engine that drives it, and the people who have sustained it against all odds have been Sarah Haines, Nina Jones and Kim Hulett. Their dedication and brilliant efforts, often without pay, year after year, at great personal sacrifice is deserving of our heartfelt thanks. As parliamentarians, you are descendants of South Africa’s greatest freedom fighters and a long generational line of continuous leadership across the span of 400 years. These icons have handed the baton over to you, and you are continuing their quest for a better life for our people. We all know the Long March to Freedom should be a place of National Pilgrimage and National Identity.
A site sanctioned and given prominence by today’s leadership for today’s and tomorrow’s generations through footfall, visitation and state occasions. A site of national pride. It’s already unique globally as the largest and best bronze sculptural liberation heritage monument anywhere in the world. But it must grow, fulfil its destiny. As many foreign visitors have commented – were it in their country about their struggle and history it would be treated and funded as a National Treasure, a vital national liberation monument, a vital, national building tool for true social cohesion, a national tourism attraction par excellence and a compulsory historical and cultural part of the education of our youth. We strongly believe it will one day form the epicentre of our tourist and cultural economy.
None of the 101 icons depicted in the LMTF asked for, nor expected any reward for their sacrifices and their commitment to freedom. They gave their brilliance, bravery and their best for us as a people.
How should we reward them? One way would be to complete their sacred mission of economic and land liberation through their sacred movement, the African National Congress, and the alliance.
The other powerful way to reward them is to remember them.
Renowned author, Viet Tan Nguyen said, “Memory is a battlefield and monuments are build on this contested ground. They are fronts in political theatres of war; sites where vying factions negotiate history, a society’s identity, and consequently its political future.”
South Africa’s heritage landscape is congested with monuments and built heritage related to the white historical cultures, and socio-political experience which was used vigorously by the colonial and apartheid regimes to reinforce their ideologies of white supremacy.
We need to unapologetically tell our side of the story, the story of liberation and that is the purpose and goal of the Long March to Freedom; by creating audacious new heritage, to transform and bring balance to our heritage tourism landscape, we give it depth and infuse in public memory statues of liberty honouring those who so tirelessly fought against colonialism and apartheid.
The Long March to Freedom is special, out of all the heritage tourism sites, we are special.
Will the Long March to Freedom ultimately be the greatest anti-racist, liberation heritage tourism venue in the world?
Will it speak, to what it was, the greatest international solidarity movement of the 20th Century?
200 or 300 years from now will generations of South Africans and the World learn of our days of glory through this noble display?
Will future generations of South African’s hold their heads up high in the knowledge that in their ancestry, they spring from genealogy of revolutionary giants who fought tooth and nail for them, and who loved them more than they loved themselves. Who new that they would not see freedom but through their efforts ensured that one day we would.
We call them “Legion” for they are many. We only have 101 across 400 years of struggle.
Help us my dear comrades to give them their due support, the recognition, and remembrance of our forebears, their values, high morals, and exemplary example of humanity and love.
We are not run of the mill, ten to a penny, around every corner. We deserve to be taken seriously, to enjoy our leadership, our Movement’s and societies support because our story is your story – collectively and personally, our story is your story! If we do not enjoy that, then quite honestly we will close this monument. We can not endure another four years without funding, maintenance, facilities and salaries for our dedicated staff.
We call upon our leadership to decide—will we get political, social and economic support going forward, or will we be forced to our shame to shut it down? I would like to extend my heartfelt gratitude to the Chief Whip of the ruling party, the Honourable Pemmy Majodina, and the other members of Parliament who have graced us with their presence today. Your commitment to the cause of preserving our history and honoring those who fought for our freedom is a beacon of hope and a testament to the values that bind us as a nation.
The Long March to Freedom is not merely a collection of statues; it is a living testament to the struggles and triumphs of our people. Each figure stands as a silent guardian, reminding us of the sacrifices made by countless individuals who dared to dream of a free and just South Africa. It is a visual narrative that speaks to the hearts and minds of generations, a powerful symbol of our collective journey towards liberation.
As we gather here, we must recognize the urgent need for government support to ensure the continued preservation and enhancement of the Long March to Freedom. It is our responsibility to ensure that the stories of those who fought for freedom are 5 not lost to time but rather serve as a source of inspiration for future leaders and citizens.
I appeal to the esteemed members of Parliament, led by Honourable Pemmy Majodina, to champion the cause of the Long March to Freedom. Let us work together to secure the necessary resources and support to maintain and expand this site, ensuring that it remains a symbol of our shared history and a testament to the resilience of the South African spirit.
By supporting and preserving this heritage treasure, we will ensure that their legacy lives on, inspiring generations to come.