Address by President Jacob Zuma at the event to mark, the Centenary of Alexandra Township
22 September 2012
The Premier of Gauteng,
Ms Nomvula Mokonyane;
Ministers and Deputy Ministers
Members of Parliament and Provincial Legislatures;
Executive Mayor of the City of Johannesburg, Councilor Parks Tau and all Mayors and Councilors;
Members of the Alexandra Centenary Committee;
Representatives and families of struggle veterans;
Representatives of faith based organizations;
Representatives of business and civil society formations;
Ladies and Gentlemen;
Today is a special day for the people of Alexandra, the people of Johannesburg, Gauteng and indeed the whole of the Republic of South Africa.
It is a special day because we are celebrating the anniversary of a community and a township that epitomizes the resilient spirit of the people of South Africa, and our tireless quest for freedom and for a better life.
It is a special day as well because we recall that this anniversary of Alex coincides with the celebration of 100 years of the ANC this year.
It means therefore the year 1912 is a special one in our country. We must not take this year for granted. It must be a year of renewal for society in general. I will come back to this point later.
This is befitting in the light of the fact that September is the heritage month in our country,
which means it provides an opportunity to celebrate everything that is good and inspirational in the history of Alex, and in our country’s history.
Also significant for this centenary is the fact that this year we celebrate heritage month under the theme;
"Celebrating the Heroes and Heroines of the Liberation Struggle in South Africa."
This consolidates on the broader theme of the ANC Centenary that we are celebrating this year.
This year we have dedicated our time to celebrating the leaders who shaped the South Africa we live in today.
We have celebrated the lives of all ANC Presidents and also other leaders such as Charlotte Maxeke, Oscar Mpetha, Steve Tshwete and many more.
Alexandra produced many of our selfless leaders and today we pay homage to them too.
We recall many heroic acts by fearless freedom fighters such as Vincent Tshabalala who faced his brutal death while in combat with the security forces.
Many of our leaders such as Nelson Mandela, Moses Kotane, Alfred Nzo, Joe Modise, Thomas Nkobi, Joe Nhlanhla, Mendi Msimang, Florence Mophosho, Adolphus Mvemve, Martin Ramokgadi , Gaur Radebe, Maruping Seperepere, Onica Mashigo, Flora Motsepe, Isaac Tlale, Xhoma, Thoko Mngoma and many others stayed in Alex.
Deputy President Kgalema Mothlanthe and Dr Wally Serote from our Freedom Park are amongst those who also have a strong association with Alexandra.
Alex was also a thriving hub of popular culture and sporting activity, a place where social trends were set.
Legendary performers such as Simon "Mahlathini" Nkabinde, Ntemi Piliso, the Mahotela Queens and the Dark City Sisters are associated with Alex.
Many legends and pioneers in the sports field are also proud to have called Alex their home.
We refer here to Dr. Leepile Taunyane, Abednigo "Shaka" Ngcobo and Dr. Irvin Khoza.
This tells us that Alex is indeed a microcosm of society. We are proud of the contribution made by these South Africans to the advancement of our society in their respective fields.
One cannot exhaust all aspects of the vibrant, captivating and inspiring history of Alex in a short presentation, but allow me to reflect on some few aspects.
Alexandra was first proclaimed as a township for white workers who were removed from Johannesburg city centre in 1905.
These white workers however did not stay in this area, as the discriminatory spatial settlement patterns were beginning to take shape, with richer whites settling more towards the north of Johannesburg and the white working class moving southwards.
The plots in Alexandra were sold to Africans and Coloured people in 1912 with freehold rights and that is when the place became a Native township, in the language of those days, and among the few with freehold rights.
The population grew exponentially, to 50 000 by 1939 and exceeded 100 000 in the war years.
Despite the fact that Alex oozes pride of resilience and survival, it also represents an undeniably ugly face of the legacy of racial segregation and oppression in this country.
Its history is on the one hand a sad story of deprivation, where there was no electricity, no proper roads, water and sanitation facilities and also a lack of various other amenities to provide dignified living.
And then across the road, it had its richest neighbours in Sandton and surroundings.
Abantu base-Alexandra bazitshela ukuthi noma becindezelwe, behlala endaweni engathandeki engenazingqala sizinda, abazukuvuma ukuhlupheka kubacindezele umqondo kuvimbe nenqubekela phambili yabo.
Yingakho yakwazi ukukhiqiza abaholi bezepolitiki, abaculi abadlali bebhola abavelele.
Curently government is rebuilding non-racial settlements. We will take lessons from the Alex of old.
This is the place where integrated communities lived, where people across the racial and ethnic divide co-existed peacefully during its early years. Alex is the archetype of the society that our struggle sought to achieve over all these years.
As far as local governance was concerned, Alexandra was administered by the Health Committee, which was usually underfunded, just one of those cosmetic structures to create semblance of authority.
In the interwar years in the 1940s, as white suburbs were spreading and extending towards Alex, the white middle class formed the North Eastern District Protection League to campaign for the removal of the township, which they considered lawless and a barrier to their expansion.
Its residents warned the authorities against this move, which remained pending over the years.
Alexandra, like many townships, became a hotbed of mass civil and political activism, arising from the conditions of deprivation.
Various popular organizations such as the Alexandra Workers Union, the Alexandra Women’s Brigade, as well as the Communist Party of South Africa, which is now the SACP were very active in the area in the early 1940s.
It was here in Alexandra where the first massive bus boycotts were organized in the 1950s and which spread to areas such as Evaton, Atteridgeville, Eersterust and Riverside in Pretoria.
The rallying call of the Bus Boycott; "Azikhwelwa!" was used to mobilize the people of Alex in all other subsequent bus boycotts.
These boycotts forced the government at the time to pass a law requiring employers to subsidize the transportation of their workers to and from work.
Number 2 Square became a popular place for mass meetings and organization.
Although the ANC did not have an active branch in Alex in the early 1940s, some of its prominent members like R.G Baloyi, its national treasurer, CS Ramohanoe, Transvaal Secretary and future Transvaal president, Alfred Nzo, Florence Mophosho, Thomas Nkobi and Gaur Radebe stayed and did political work in this area.
This is also where ANC President-General, Alfred Xuma, was a medical officer for many years and where he always highlighted the plight of the people.
Alex was therefore a place of struggle and resilience throughout the 20th century, and is now a key symbol of our struggle heritage.
The people of Alex successfully fought off attempts to reverse the freehold rights under the 1913 Land Act, the forced removals under the notorious Group Areas Act and various other forms of oppression.
The people of Alex also fought relentlessly against Bantu education, and incurred casualties as well during the 1976 uprising.
In the 1960s and 70s, through the "Save Alex Campaign", led by among others Reverend Sam Buti, this community fought attempts at their forced removal, when the place was regarded as a black spot.
Alex registered a final victory against removals in 1979; a victory that took our struggle for a non-racial future a step forward.
It was also in Alex where early organs of people’s power were conceived and put into action.
A number of these organs of mass and popular participation, such as civic organizations; street, block, and yard committees and people’s courts took root and were effective.
Equally, Alex is also the place where youth formations and student movements were very visible and active at the height of apartheid rule.
Many epic battles against the apartheid security forces such as the "Six Days War" were fought in this township.
Sigubha umlando womphakathi owazimisela ukuthi awusoze wakuvumela ukucindezelwa. Umphakathi owathi awusoze ususwe la, ngoba kuthiwa akufanele ube seduze kangaka nedolobha iGoli nezindawo zabelungu.
Sigubha umlando womphakathi owawugcwele umfutho, impilo, nokuzimisela okuyisimanga kokulwela inkululeko nempilo engcono.
Lena indawo futhi eyayigcwele abantu abazithandayo kakhulu, nezinsizwa ezazingoswenka!
Given the history of neglect of Alex by colonial and apartheid regimes, the democratic government had to give this area considerable attention in our fight against the triple challenges of poverty, unemployment and inequality.
Ten years ago our government mounted the Alexandra Renewal Project of an initial amount of 1.3 billion rand, which was increased to 2.2 billion rand last year.
This was part of our country’s Urban Renewal Programme.
Twelve years on, we are proud of the strategic interventions that this project has made, as well as the collaboration of various departments in the development of this township.
Without going much into detail about each and every development, there is also ongoing expansion and improvement of basic services, electricity, water, roads and housing.
We can count the 34 000 new electricity connections and 14 000 new housing opportunities of mixed tenure in Diepsloot, Bram Fischerville and Greater Alexandra.
Major multi-million projects are also scheduled for completion in 2013 and 2014, which will give this place a new look.
Government has also revamped 18 schools. We are also encouraged by the dramatic improvement of the matric pass rate, an example being the increase from 17% in 2001 to 69% in 2006. This indicates that we are succeeding in improving education outcomes in Alexandra.
We are also encouraged by the declining crime rate in Alex. One of the contributory factors, other than community support, is establishment of a police station in 2001.
Through Alex Business Place, which offers support for entrepreneurs, we will, as time goes on, make a major dent in unemployment in this area.
These developments will also spread to Old Alexandra, as soon as land disputes are settled, as we will not allow the apartheid discrepancies in our new socio-economic landscape we are building.
Sizoqhubeka nomkhankaso wokuthuthukisa i-Alex nezinye izindawo ngoba sizimisele ukwakha impilo engcono.
Ngesinye isikhathi kubonakala sengathi izinto zihamba kancane, kodwa indlela ebheke phambili icacile, siyazi lapho siya khona. Sifuna impilo engcono ngoba abantu bakithi bahlupheka kakhulu ngesikhathi sobandlululo negcindezelo.
I said earlier, the Alex centenary reminds us of the critical subject of the need to renew the social and moral fibre of our society, as we celebrate the heritage of such a historical landmark as Alex.
We appear to be going astray with regards to some basic values and principles that bind any society together.
Core amongst these, are ubuntu and respect.
We believe all human beings are equal and important, and that they must be respected by virtue of their humanity.
We were also taught that younger persons, including children, must respect adults as that is the foundation of sound and cohesive families and communities.
Once we lose respect for one another and ubuntu, what type of society do we hope to be?
Siyacela impela ukuba kubuye inhlonipho nobuntu kubantu.
Uma singavumelani ngemibono, asikwazise lokho ngenhlonipho hayi ngokuba izixhwanguxhwangu. Lokho akulakhi izwe.
South Africans are not hooligans. We are a nation of very proud, respectful people, who stand up for their rights, but do so without losing their dignity and ubuntu.
We must promote this national trait as we do not want the world to develop a wrong impression about the South African people.
A most important point that we must not shy away from, is to reflect on what has gone wrong with society in general.
We have heard of shocking and painful incidents of men raping little girls and boys and grandmothers.
We praise our policemen and women as they catch these perpetrators faster than before.
The task then remains with us to reflect on the causes of this brutality and how we can stop it, as these perpetrators come from families we know. It is a painful reality for any society to have to deal with, but we have to confront it and deal with this beyond law enforcement.
The police will continue to catch the culprits. However, as society there must be something we can do to rebuild our families and communities so that we do not breed people who find it normal to rape children and grandmothers, and those who abuse and rape women in general.
Asingavumeli ukuba izwe lidume ngokuba ikhaya lezinswelaboya. Izenzo ezethusayo ezingafuneki neze emiphakathini yethu. Njengomphakathi ake siyixoxe lendaba ezindaweni esihlala kuzo sibuyise ubuntu, inhlonipho, nozinzo emphakathini.
We must have these discussions about the renewal of the social fibre in our communities without delay.
We have a proud historical and political heritage as a people and we must guard it jealously. We must never allow anger to make us reverse the gains we have made through decades of struggle.
Therefore, in addition to respect and ubuntu, we must bring back the culture of peaceful protest and of upholding the right to life and property.
The new culture of violent protests which threaten lives and property have no place in a democratic society where people have a government that they can talk to through various structures.
We cannot destroy that which we have built ourselves, and we cannot continue organizing protests in which people die. This calls for serious reflection about the way in which we do things.
The last point that should really worry us as we celebrate, is what is the future of the working class in our country.
The workers of Alex and anywhere in our country, should not think that what happened in Marikana is the way to go, where workers chase away their trade unions and negotiate their own deal with employers.
In the 100 years of selfless struggle, one of the struggles we participated in was the rights of workers to form and belong to trade unions so that their interests and rights can be well-represented on the shop floor.
This is a Constitutional right that was won through the blood, sweat and tears of the workers of South Africa.
We urge workers not to reverse the gains they have scored over decades of struggle, and be misled to take short-cuts that will in the long run, not assist them and protect them in the workplace.
The strength of workers is organisation. Organisation also brings stability and peace in the workplace and also ensures sustainable gains for workers in our country.
This celebration of 100 years of Alex is an important milestone in our country.
We must use this milestone to celebrate, unite and also to begin working in earnest for the renewal of what binds us together as a nation.
We must use this milestone to dedicate ourselves more than ever before to build a united and prosperous South Africa, built on the foundations of ubuntu and dignity, as well as respect for one another.
Whatever challenges we face, we will overcome them, working together as we always do.
Mphakathi wase-Alexandra, siyanihalalisela ngalolusuku olumnandi kangaka lokugubha ikhulu leminyaka!
Sicela nihlangane kakhulu kunakuqala, nakhe i-Alex ikhule idlondlobale ngoba siyaziqhenya sonke ngomlando wayo.
I thank you.