Struggle icon, Moses Kotane honoured at inaugural memorial lecture

Who was Moses Kotane? And why do we refer to him as the Chief Architect of the Struggle? These were the questions posed by Dr Bonginkosi ‘Blade’ Nzimande, South Africa’s Minister of Transport and current General Secretary of the South African Communist Party (SACP) on Thursday, 31 May 2018.

Speaking at the inaugural Moses Kotane memorial lecture at the University of Johannesburg’s (UJ), Dr Nzimande pointed out that Kotane dedicated his life to the struggle for South African freedom, and, ultimately, with the struggle for working-class power and socialism.

“Kotane was not the ONLY architect, there were several, but Moses Kotane, more than any other individual, was the one who put the struggle on the course through which apartheid was eventually to be defeated. To understand what he accomplished, we must understand the history of our movement before he came on to the scene because what he did cannot be seen in isolation from earlier events and the accomplishments of the earlier leadership of our struggle and members of our liberation movement,” said Dr Nzimande.

Prof Tshilidzi Marwala, the Vice-Chancellor and Principal, UJ pointed out in his welcoming remarks that the University is proud to host the first Moses Kotane lecture as the institution aims to foster intra-African and global conversation by bringing African insights, questions and values into meaningful conversation. “The University is embarking on a project to write biographies for our African leaders, and our African perspectives must be reflected”, said Prof Marwala. WATCH Prof Marwala’s opening remarks below.

One of Kotane’s enduring legacies was not only that of cementing the alliance and relationship between the ANC and SACP but also that of firmly embedding the SACP’s theory, strategy and tactics within the broader liberation struggle and movement. Kotane played a key role in the establishment of the practice of dual membership between the ANC and the SACP and in keeping the ANC as a broad movement, explained Dr Nzimande.

“Kotane’s contribution to the growing theorisation of the relationship between national liberation and socialism added significantly to the indigenisation of Marxism in South African conditions leading to the adoption for example of the concept of ‘Colonialism of a Special Type’ in 1962. A pertinent question in this regard is how this conception of the South African struggle contributed to shaping the trajectory of the liberation struggle in our country.

“The systemic problems that Kotane dedicated his life to end remain stubborn. These include the problem of persisting high levels of class inequality, which require a dedicated research agenda. This problem of inequality was articulated under colonial and apartheid capitalist social relations of production along the lines of both race and gender. It also found its profound expression in uneven development and distribution of resources between urban and rural areas. Within urban areas, it was engineered into the dual structure of underdeveloped townships, informal settlements and peri-urban areas on the one hand and developed suburbs on the other hand,” added Dr Nzimande. He said the other problems that Kotane would, if he were alive, not be happy about, like all of us, are the persisting high levels of unemployment, poverty and social insecurity. The root of all these and other structural problems is the system of capitalist exploitation and its worldwide regime of imperialism.

Dr Nzimande concluded: “In memory of Kotane, we should all focus not only on the symptoms but also on the root cause of the problems. We must make greater progress in dismantling the legacy of colonialism and apartheid and radically reducing exploitation towards dealing it a decisive and final blow. However, we should not wait until our ultimate goals have been achieved. We should all do our best in deepening the struggle to enforce the momentary interests and achieve the immediate aims of the formerly oppressed and the mass of the continuously exploited.”

  • Mr Moses Kotanes’ family, distinguished dignitaries; the University’s Executive Leadership Group, members of Council and students were some those who have attended the inaugural Moses Kotane Memorial Lecture.
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