By Rofhiwa Madzena and Lameez Omarjee
The exploitation of the working class by “white monopolists” is the reason why South Africans will not fully enjoy the benefits of the Freedom Charter, said keynote speaker, Irvin Jim, at the Ruth First Memorial lecture in the Great Hall tonight.
Jim, the National Union of Mineworkers of South Africa General Secretary, spoke about the life and work of Ruth First, arguing that she sacrificed her life for a just and equal society.
He said: “We live in a safer, less threatened environment … For Ruth First, racial and gender oppression and national domination was not acceptable.”
Jim explained that the current socio-economic climate in South Africa contradicted the Freedom Charter which was developed in 1955 by the ANC ( African National Congress’). “… We are apathetic about the sufferings of millions of South Africans,” he said.
Jim said: “Ruth First was killed for our Freedom Charter. It is not irrelevant. She paid the highest price. We must feel her suffering, fear, the terror she faced throughout her adult life.”
Ebrahim Fakir, the 2014 Ruth First Fellow,also presented his research findings on political protest and political participation at the lecture.
He spoke about “democracy, delivery and discontent”. He said there are close to 300 protests a year in South Africa, which indicates the remaining inequalities in our democracy.
Fakir based his research on the conditions in the Bekkersdal municipality, South-West Gauteng. “Bekkersdal, is a microcosm of what is happening in townships across South Africa,” he said. “I found a disaster and dystopia in Bekkersdal”.
Academics, students from Ruth First’s former high school (Jeppe High School for Girls) and others came together in honour of Ruth First at the annuam lecture hosted by the Wits University Journalism Department at the Great Hall.
To read Ebrahim Fakir’s full address, FinalRuthFirstLecture2014.EF
To read Irvin Jim’s full address, Irvin_Jim