I have just seen a video of a tribute concert to Desmond Tutu that took place in Cape Town a few years ago. It was magnificent. Sibongile Khumalo sang “Amazing Grace”. There was a beautiful rendition of “You’ll Never Walk Alone” by Suzanne Murphy. That song is special to anyone who was at the Mandela Concert in 1990 because the crowd started to sing it as he walked on the stage and Ben E. King sang “Stand by me”. But the moment that was really special for me was when Joe Mogotsi came on the stage to sing “Shosholoza”. Joe Mogotsi, I should explain, was one of the singers with the celebrated Manhattan Brothers, who brought the joy of their music with them wherever they went.
In April 1994, Joe and I were sitting in the plane next to each other flying to South Africa as part of the ANC team to assist in the election. The two of us knew that we were going to take part in an historic election, and that the task of teaching people to vote was going to be enormous. We knew that this election would give back their dignity to those who had been disenfranchised and treated as inferior in every way by the apartheid state.
What we did not know was how dangerous it was going to be. Johannesburg was an armed camp. There was barbed wire everywhere. Armed police were on the streets in force. This did not instil confidence. Some police had swastikas on their helmets. But we all got on with our tasks. I went to the ANC Office, and handed over the money order that I had hidden inside my sock. It was for a considerable amount, and I had no intention of letting immigration officials take it off me. I was then assigned to the ANC Regional Office in Jeppe Street, on the grounds that it was less likely to be a target and I would be safer.
On the Sunday morning before the election, as people were heading to church, a car bomb exploded outside the office. Nine people were killed, including Susan Keane who was decapitated by a falling sheet of plate glass. It is often forgotten now that those were the conditions in which we were working, and that people were risking their lives by turning out to vote.
On the plane, Joe and I were excited. We knew that the ANC would win the vote. That, however, was only the first task. The second was to deliver a better life for all. 20 years later, much has been achieved, but there is still much to be done International solidarity, as ever, is one of the keys to delivering that change. That is our task. That is the task of ACTSA, to work for the delivery of a better life for all in South Africa.