Liberation struggle stalwart and labour activist, Dr Tlou Theophilus Cholo is one of the comrades who played a critical role in the achievement of freedom.
Liberation struggle stalwart and labour activist, Dr Tlou Theophilus Cholo is one of the comrades who played a critical role in the achievement of freedom.

’Corruption makes us angry as honest citizens’ – Dr TT Cholo

By Staff Reporter Time of article published May 2, 2021

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Shalate Davhana and Malesela Maubane

This is the last of the three-part series where the authors – Shalate Davhana and Malesela Maubane attempt to chronicle the life of Dr Cholo – a recipient of the Order of Luthuli in Silver and the Tshwane University of Technology (TUT) honorary doctorate and as someone who represents the voices of other selfless icons who might not have proximity to communication platforms.

In this final instalment, the authors tap into the nonagenarian’s wisdom on land, agriculture, skills development, the economy and corruption.

Struggle stalwart and labour activist, Dr Tlou Cholo acknowledges that the transition from a liberation movement to a ruling party was not a walk in the park since the leadership had no prior experience of governing a country.

Considering those circumstances, he believes that they did a sterling job during the initial stages from 1994 as South Africa ushered in a democratic government dispensation.

As one reflects on the exchange of power in 1994, Ntate Cholo laments that the new administration had to start with a clean slate, almost with no money, as the Nationalist government seemingly transferred funds offshore before relinquishing power.

The Ga-Matlala ‘a thaba born liberation struggle icon speaks sternly about the scourge of corruption, which he says overshadows any development efforts and is fuelling a negative narrative about the government whilst undermining the country’s socio-economic development efforts.

The advent of freedom and democracy brought with it the hope for equal access to land and economic opportunities for the majority of the population. As we take stock, the question remains: how far we have come in the past twenty-seven years as a country in this regard?

While there is vast land in South Africa, Dr TT Cholo states that the majority of the population, especially in rural areas, lack the farming expertise required to produce at a large scale.

The jury is still out on Cholo’s utterances that the ruling party missed the boat by not providing the much-needed training for farming and his belief that had the government developed an intense nationwide training, things would have turned out differently.

According to the Land Audit Report of 2017 compiled by the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform (DRLR) and as one zooms into farms and agricultural holdings ownership by race, Whites own 72%, Coloureds 15%, Indians at 5%, Africans at 4% while co-owners and other races own 1% and 3% respectively.

The above statistics are an anomaly in a country with demographics like ours and the nonagenarian laments that the agricultural sector seems to be struggling because of a lack of expertise, as to this day, the majority of the population relies on a handful of mostly white farmers. Another fact worth noting is that the United Nations (UN) records that “Globally, women are just 13% of agricultural land holders.”

A further look in terms of land tenure, the occupation rights of land in rural areas is given through Permission to Occupy (PTO), which is not a title deed while the land is mostly under the custodianship of traditional leadership. Besides dwelling, land in these rural areas is often used for agricultural purposes including livestock and crops subsistence farming.

Apparently, it is the agricultural land purpose that saw the family of the uMkhonto we Sizwe cadre, TT Cholo, settling in Mmakala, a sub-village of Ga-Matlala ‘a thaba in Limpopo, because of its appropriateness for livestock grazing and cultivation of crops among others.

Significantly, the Matlala area was around late 1940 to early 1950s once under the custodianship of the late acting regent Chieftainess, Mme Makwena Matlala, a stern advocate against land dispossession, who was often on a collision course with the apartheid government on the development direction of the land under her authority.

About 300km in Walmansthal, in the 1960s, Ntate Cholo and other African residents were forcibly removed, where after they settled in the current Soshanguve.

The struggle icon resides in the northern Pretoria township to this day. In relation to the Walmansthal land claim, Cholo is apparently one of those whose claims were successful but it would seem the struggle continues on finalising the matter and acquisition of relevant title deeds.

His late wife, Mme Mmaphuti Alinah Cholo, had continued the fight to get the land back between 1972 and 1988 while the Ga-Matlala born veteran was incarcerated on Robben Island without victory.

Certainly, Cholo and many of us do not in any way claim to have ‘monopoly over wisdom’. However, his statement that wealth obtained from agriculture would enable South Africa to assist its youth with education and training in various expertise is worth pondering.

He reminisces about former days when Mpumalanga, Limpopo and the Northern Natal were the country’s agricultural hubs, with goods trains and ‘lorries’ transporting bulk of fresh produce to densely populated areas like Gauteng.

It is recorded in several literatures that education is the backbone for the development of every nation. According to Cholo, South Africa needed a ‘quick catch-up’ to enable learners to acquire mathematics and science skills, even if they had to take some abroad to well-developed Communist countries.

It is from a developmental viewpoint that the nonagenarian believes that education should be free to every individual as that would be beneficial towards the improvement of the lives of poor families.

In terms of poverty alleviation in rural areas, folks there have always engaged in ‘Letšema’ or ‘Ujamaa’, meaning ‘familyhood’ in Swahili and a concept coined by the late Julius Nyerere, a Pan-African and founding President of Tanzania.

The first Prime Minister of a democratic Tangayika (1961) and one of the founding fathers of Organisation of African Unity (OAU), the forerunner to the African Union (AU) once said “If real development is to take place, the people have to be involved.”

After all, one of the AU 2063 agenda’s seven aspirations is an Africa whose development is people-driven, relying on the potential offered by the African people, especially its women and youth, and caring for children.

In relation to target 8.2, which is under the UN Sustainable Development Goal 8, Decent Work and Economic Growth and especially towards achieving optimum levels of economic productivity in a South African context, Cholo alludes to the need to focus on specialised skills while he decries the fact that South Africa had only about 28 black engineers on his return from exile in 1988.

Dr TT Cholo expressed his unhappiness with the pace of economic development and laments that society has regressed as compared to 1994 because of crime among others.

On this, Cholo advises that the governing party should consider strengthening the judiciary system in a way that it deals harshly with corrupt officials. He is of the opinion that such punishment will serve as an example to potential thieves while he thinks the law is lenient towards criminals.

Perhaps we can borrow English singer, songwriter, co-lead vocalist and bassist for the Beatles, Paul McCartney’s words: “We live in hope of deliverance from the darkness that surrounds us.”

* Davhana is a Tshwane University of Technology (TUT) alumna and staff member whilst Maubane is a TUT alumnus and the director of Oo Mokgatla Media. They write in their personal capacities.

** The views expressed herein are not necessarily those of Independent Media.

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