Harry Gwala Memorial Lecture
30 June 2010,
Buti Manamela, National Secretary, YCLSA.
The Context, Harry Gwala the Man 1. This is the commemoration of the 20th Anniversary of “The Lion of the Midlands”. A communist, an educator, a warrior, Isithwalandwe, a Young Communist, a freedom fighter and a Robben Islander. This is a man whose history we should never take for granted. 2. As to why it took 20 solid years and four heads of state to ultimately bestow upon him the highest orders in the country, we may never know, but what we know is that Gwala would have cared less whether there are honours and praises heaped upon him. There are many cadres who died in exile, who languished in jail, who were killed in the country whose names remain unknown and their role simply forgotten. Yes, let us celebrate Nelson Mandela, but the struggle not only lied on his shoulders but in those of many combatants who pursued a collective struggle. Let us, in the quest of celebrating this freedom, remember not some but all those who died for this freedom 3. Gwala was Labelled a “warlord” by the international media and the IFP, hated by some within the Alliance for his frankness and readiness to speak truth to power, suspended for six months from the SACP Central Committee on disciplinary issues, dubbed a populist when all he sought to do was communicate to the people the basic truths around violence by the IFP and the third-force, or what the prospects of negotiations between the NLM and the apartheid government were, or any other issue he deemed of interest to the liberation of our people; he was adored by many for his command of the youth in the Midlands and KZN in their own defence. This is a man whose history we should never take for granted. 4. let us celebrate our history and the man and women who made not for nostalgic purposes, but merely so that we do not repeat the mistakes they committed and learn from the victories they attained. Harry Gwala was part of that history, and we will continuously, especially as part of the legacy of those who revived the YCLSA in the 1940, claim him as one of our own… a communist and fighter who was separated from this mission by ill-health or stroke, but by death. II. Leadership Lessons from Harry Gwala 5. Through my engagements with numerous comrades who lived with and from his writing, I believe as the youth we have a lot to learn from the political leadership Comrade Harry Gwala displayed. Some of the stories, of course, as is the case with many of our revolutionaries, may just be legends, but some are from what he said or wrote in person and I believe this is the political largesse he has left for us. 6. The first lesson is that the role of our political education should be to emphasise the culture of “Each One Teach One”; “Learn, Learn and Learn”. It should be to build an all round cadre not only gifted in quoting voluminous writing of Marx or Lenin without putting these into action; and a cadre who is disciplined and succumbs to organisational democracy, puts the working class struggles first and tirelessly work towards building socialism. As the YCL we are more challenged to ensure that our political education is relevant for our membership, and a guide to action. In this era, where youth politics seems to have taken the slant of sloganeering and is devoid of a strong theoretical basis, it becomes more urgent for the YCL to intensify our political education especially amongst the youth. For a distinction to be made between what is revolutionary and what is reactionary and for the youth to decide what is populist and what is a genuine political programme for the working class; the weapon of theory can never be overemphasised. If comrade Harry Gwala could teach Marxism through the Bible, it also tells us that there is more we can learn even from books declared anti-communist. For us to crush the capitalist system, we have to study and understand how it operates, that was one of the things Karl Marx dedicated himself to, and so should we. 7. Secondly, we learn from Comrade Harry Gwala that once you are convinced about an idea, a theoretical conception, and has proved its worth in action, defend it to life, no matter how unpopular.