KwaZulu-Natal Premier Sihle Zikalala. Picture: Motshwari Mofokeng/African News Agency (ANA) Archives
KwaZulu-Natal Premier Sihle Zikalala. Picture: Motshwari Mofokeng/African News Agency (ANA) Archives

Unions can honour Harry Gwala by preventing job losses, says KZN Premier

By Bongani Hans Time of article published Jul 24, 2020

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Durban - Labour unions should prevent job losses and protect the gains of democracy in honour of late struggle icon and SACP leader Harry Gwala, said KwaZulu-Natal Premier Sihle Zikalala.

Zikalala, who is also the ANC provincial chairperson, on Thursday participated in a centenary debate on Gwala, who was better known as the Lion of the Midlands (KwaZulu-Natal Midlands).

The virtual debate was streamlined on Zikalala’s Facebook page.

“Today as our country faces a job bloodbath and a weakening economy, we look to the labour movement to rise to defend the historical gains of the working class and fight for the protection of jobs,” said Zikalala.

According to Zikalala, parties that also took part in the debate were EFF, African Transformation Movement (ATM) and Minority Front, but Independent Media did not have access to their participation.

Zikalala described Gwala as a man who was honest, frank and a man who introduced many young people to the socialism ideology.

He said Gwala, who was militant despite having disabled arms, had greatly contributed in the building of the country’s labour movement and laying the foundation for the drafting of the “progressive” Labour Relations’s Act.

The former school teacher, who succumbed to illness in June 1995, would have turned 100 years old on July 30.

According to historical archives, after graduating from Adams College in Durban as a teacher, Gwala taught among others late SACP general-secretary Moses Mabhida.

Gwala was in 1964 imprisoned on Robben Island for eight years before he was restricted to his home-city of Pietermaritzburg.

“In the centenary year of his birth, we must strengthen the unity of the oppressed masses of our land, but also we must unite the working class, which carries much of the disproportion suffering that has been visited upon with the numerous challenges created by apartheid and the current challenges of Covid-19,” said Zikalala.

Zikalala further said through Gwala, the country was a much better place today than it was before 1994 as he “genuinely believed in the ideas of united, non-racial, non-sexist, equal and prosperous society”. He said Gwala believed in the ANC.

“He thought that while the philosophy of a Black Consciousness Movement had succeeded in philosophical liberation and restoration of black pride, it was still incapable to bring about a non-racial, equal and just dispensation,” said Zikalala.

He said it was a duty of the society to oppose attempts to erase the memory of the likes of Gwala from history.

He said the process of renaming of Edendale Hospital in Pietermaritzburg after the stalwart was part of reserving the memories of the struggle.

“The provincial government is in full support of declaration of his gravesite as a national heritage site,” he said.

He also raised concerns that there were not enough books written about struggle heroes such as Gwala.

“Comrade Harry Gwala did many interviews and wrote many articles, but all these archives with his fingerprints and voices are not in one source like a book.

“I hope that the Harry Gwala Foundation (which is chaired by Gauteng education MEC Panyaza Lesufi), will prioritise the writing of a book,” said Zikalala.

He also said Gwala advocated for peace in KwaZulu-Natal during the height of black-on-black political violence.

“Today we also pay tribute to the fallen spear of the nation for his great contribution to the ending of violence and forging of peace in our province and our country.

“In his honour and the multitudes who died in KwaZulu-Natal during the so-called black-on-black violence we must remain united and deepen peace, tolerance and development,” he said.

Political Bureau

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