The Regional Chairperson's address to the COSAS Sedibeng Regional Congress held at Vereeniging City Hall on Saturday the 14th November 2015

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Councillor Mahole Simon MofokengProgram Director, Provincial and National Leadership of COSAS, here present, The Regional Leadership and the membership of COSAS in Sedibeng region, Comrades, friends, ladies and gentlemen

Introduction and Historic Background

Comrade Program Director, allow me to greet and thank you and the leadership collective at various levels present here this afternoon, and the entire membership of COSAS in Sedibeng region for inviting me to this your important Regional Congress to speak of behalf of the African National Congress Regional Executive Committee and thousands of our members.

Similar to the student organization founded by Chairman Mao then, the May Fourth Movement of 1919, which was to a considerable extent the fountainhead of all of the changes that were to take place in China in the ensuing half century, COSAS equally and rightfully claim a stake and share in contributing and at times being on the forefront of the struggle for the attainment of freedom in our beautiful country, South Africa.

Under the leadership of the student leader to be later referred to as Chairman Mao Tse Tung, the May Fourth Movement of 1919 realized that they themselves were the main actors in shaping the political landscape of the mother land China. Chairman Mao the Student leader then was quoted saying:
The world is ours, the nation is ours, society is ours. If we do not speak, who will speak? If we do not act, who will act?

On the same score comrades, the Congress of South African Students (COSAS) earned its proud reputation in the jungle of struggle. Since its formation in 1979; COSAS has been at the forefront of demanding and fighting for a better and quality education for the African child in particular and all South African children in general.

I was highly impressed and inspired to read from your letter as COSAS Sedibeng Region that you are sharing a common vision with all our people in the region here of building our region Towards the Vaal Metropolitan Municipality.

To me this is an important Regional Congress of the students’ movement that has made its name and impact to be known nationally and internationally by the role it has played in the struggle of our people in this region during the Vaal Uprising of 1984.

Comrade Program Director, whilst the key issue that ignited the Vaal Uprising was about the living conditions, poor service delivery and the increase on rental muted on our people by the illegitimate councilors, COSAS found itself in the forefront of that struggle with the understanding that they are members of community before they are students.

Comrade Program Director, having said the above it remind me of the saying that the nation without knowledge of its history and origin is like a tree without roots, therefore making it necessary for me to talk about various events that this region hosted or the role it played in different epochs of the struggle. I would like to mention them chronologically:

  • The Peace Treaty of Vereeniging of 1902 ending the three year old South African War which was popularly known as the Anglo-Boer War then. This where the decision was taken to form the Union Government, which only came into existence with the adoption of the Union Constitution of 1910, forming a government that was constituted by the white Afrikaneers and English, excluding the African majority.
  • It is for this reason that the African people came with the alternative, forming the parliament of all the people of South Africa, the African National Congress on the 8th January 1912. We can claim without fear of contradiction therefore that this our region of Vaal have a link in one way or the other with the formation of the ANC with its form and objectives.
  • The Sharpeville shooting of the 21st March 1960, brought about a second wave of altering the political land scape of the South African politics in that all the political organisations were banned in April 1960, Nelson Mandela, Sobukwe and other leaders were imprisoned and sentenced to life at Robben Island charged for treason.
  • We can therefore claim without fear of favour again that the formation of Umkhontowesizwe on the 10th December 1961 and other armed forces other liberation movements was as the results of the Sharpeville shooting.
  • The other important historic event that is linked to the Shooting was the declaration of the March 21st as the International Day for the Elimination of Racism by the United Nations General Assembly in April 1964.
  • The South Africa was expelled from the Commonwealth in 1961 due to the killing of the people in Sharpeville on 21st March 1960.
  • The other event that altered the political landscape of our country hosted by the Vaal region was the elections of the first apartheid councillors in 1983 leading to the rejection of the of the same councillors leading to the Vaal Uprising of the 3rd of September 1984. Since then the politics of South Africa were never the same such that ten years later on the 27th April 1994, all South Africans went to the first democratic elections to vote for the government of their choice.

This Regional Congress also takes place during the November month just after October month. There are also some important historic events that took place in October and November nationally and internationally.

  • November 1, 1848 - The first medical school for women opened in Boston. The Boston Female Medical School was founded by Samuel Gregory with just twelve students. In 1874, the school merged with the Boston University School of Medicine, becoming one of the first co-ed medical schools.
  • In Apr., 1917, Lenin and other revolutionaries returned to Russia after having been permitted by the German government to cross Germany. The Germans hoped that the Bolsheviks would undermine the Russian war effort. Lenin galvanized the small and theretofore cautious Bolshevik party into action. The courses he advocated were simplified into the powerful slogans "end the war,""all land to the peasants," and "all power to the soviets."
  • November 7, 1917 - Russian Bolsheviks overthrew the provisional government of Alexander Kerensky in Petrograd. The Council of People's Commissars was then established as the new government of Russia, with Nikolai Lenin as chairman, Leon Trotsky as foreign commissar and Josef Stalin as commissar of nationalities. This event was celebrated each year in the former USSR with parades, massive military displays and public appearances by top Soviet leaders.
  • November 17, 1993 - The United Nations opened its first war crimes tribunal since the Nuremberg and Tokyo trials following World War II. Judges from 11 nations were sworn in to examine recent mass murders in Yugoslavia characterized as ethnic cleansing.

On the student’s Movement and COSAS

The right to education is enshrined in the constitution of this country.

The custodians of this sacred right are leaders and members of the Congress of South African Students.

This means COSAS should always be at the epicenter of any agenda that seeks to advance the education of our youth.

When this movement was established in June 1979 as a national organization to represent the interests of black school students in the wake of the Soweto uprising, it made it objectives categorically clear.
Although it was primarily education focused, COSAS identified the relationship between educational and social transformation in its statement of beliefs:

Students must be organized through democratically elected SRCs.

Students must serve the community for they are members of society before they are students and thereby show that students can play a progressive role in the broad democratic alliance.

When the apartheid government banned COSAS in 1977, the engineers of the worst period of our time thought they had silenced the voices of students across the length and breadth of this country, and yet, more than three decades later, this student movement remains more relevant than ever.
I think we can all agree that the #FeesMustFall movement proved to us all that the future of this country is in hallways and lecture rooms of institutions of higher learning.

These student protests have pushed South Africa into a new reality.

The pallbearers of this reality who should continuously engage government on finding solutions to the funding shortfalls facing higher education are leaders and members of COSAS.

I’m aware the leadership of COSAS has said it can no longer postpone the call for free education – and it is for the reason that I support your call for the end to the privatization and commodification of education.

Like we have always done in the past, the ANC-led government and COSAS should engage each other in finding a lasting solution to challenges facing higher education and the education system as whole.

Comrades, if COSAS and its leaders don’t take up the struggles of learners and students in this country, then this opportunity will be hijacked by opportunists who seek to undermine the ANC and the people it governs.

We must not allow this to happen for yours is a movement of movement which helped freedom fighters to establish other special movements of our time including the United Democratic Front, the South African Youth Congress and it was members of COSAS who in October 1990 helped reactivate the ANC Youth League through the Provisional National Youth Committee.

For those who don’t know, the ANC and COSAS have always enjoyed a common vision that said, “The ANC is the authentic liberation movement of South Africa.”

This was a guiding principle of COSAS.

COSAS’ first president, Ephraim Mogale was actually a clandestine member of the African national Congress (ANC) and was later to be convicted of furthering the aims of the ANC.

At the time of the formation of COSAS, the ANC was banned along with other liberation movements under the Unlawful Organizations Act.
In its first two years COSAS took up two commemorative campaigns that authorities saw as ANC-supporting; the 1979 hanging of uMkhonto weSizwe (MK) guerrilla Solomon Mahlangu and the centenary of the Zulu victory over British troops at Isandhlwana.

COSAS long held the view that a democratic education system could only be achieved in a democratic society based on the will of all the people.

It recognized that Bantu Education was aimed at controlling and indoctrinating youth and that this could only be changed by transforming the country’s entire political system.

One of the leaders of COSAS, Tlhabane Mogashoa once said: “We will prove in action that Bantu education is evil. We will revolt against it until it has been utterly scrapped, dumped on the junk-bin of history and buried once and for all.”
Now that this has been achieved, COSAS must now re-energize its efforts in advocating for the rights of all learners and students in all spheres of education.

COSAS must therefore continue to strive for and remain committed to achieve dynamic, free, fair, quality and compulsory education for all.
Each one, teach one.


Our Vision: A developmental municipality that continuously improves the quality of life of its residents. Emfuleni Local Municipality (previously Lekoa) is one of three Local Municipalities comprising the Sedibeng District Municipality situated in Vanderbijlpark, Gauteng, South Africa.

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