A page with ntate Walter Sisulu


Stepehn Mncube & Ntate Walter Sisulu

Dr. Stephen Mncube and Ntate Walter Sisulu

The most humbling experience in my life came when Nate Walter Sisulu requested me to prepare a speech that was to be delivered at the Vaal Reef Memorial Service in 1998.  Many thoughts ran through my mind as I prepared the speech.  But, I must say the most dominant influence came from the words once uttered by J. J.R Jolobe when he said:

Apho igazi lenu lithe lathontsela khona,

Kolimila intyatyambo evumba limnandi, eliya

Kuthwala ngamaphiko empepho, zithi zonki

Izizwe zilirogele.”

(Wherever your blood has dropped, will

Blossom a flower of exceeding sweetness,

Whose scent will be carried on the wings

Of the air, and all the nations will inhale it).

To follow is the speech that Ntate Walter Sisulu presented on the momentous occasion.

Distinguished guests ladies and gentlemen,

Allow me on behalf of the workers in our country and the trust fund to join hands with my fellow countrymen Mr Helen Suzman, John Motlatsi and Bobby Godsell in expressing our deep felt respect and honour to the brave workers who are being commemorated today in this Baal Reef Memorial service.  Only the rainbow knows the depth and sorrow felt by the entire nation, when 104 relentless men died in the bowels of the earth and left their loved ones, singing songs of lament and sorrow, to mark this dreadful incident in our minds, to be memories that will always beckon for future in the history, that documents the trials and tribulations of our nation.

It is in response to this human tragedy that people of goodwill in our country decided to establish a trust fund , for the close relatives of the 104 brave workers who are buried by the edge of our land and hope the heavens have opened for all their souls.

From its inception in 1994, the trust has already raised a total of 12,6 million rand and we are informed this amount has accrued interest that puts the total amount to 14 million rand.  We salute the level of effort put forth by the trust fund in raising money for the noble cause to provide educational support to the widows and children of our beloved ones.  In its short duration, the trust fund has already provided significant support to the widows and children of the 104 men who died.  Allocations from the fund thus far include: payment of school frees and uniforms for 195 children, secondary education for four widows and training of 11 widows in computer of sewing skills.

There is wisdom in the trust fund to make education the main orchestration of its function.  Why? Because education in whatever form it takes, remains the key for the development of an individual in this changing world with changing needs.  Education enables us to cultivate human excellence in utilizing the wealth and achievement of our country.

Education reduces in great measure hunger, malnutrition, disease and other physical impediments that curtail the growth and development of an individual.  Education is the best weapon to eliminate ignorance, hostility and aggression to each other, while maximizing human understanding and peaceful coexistence in the newly found rainbow nation of ours.

Let us rally our support to the aims and aspiration of the Vaal reef’s Disaster Trust Fund , and extend its mission not only to provide assistance to the widows and children of the 104 men who died, but to generate more money that can also render assistance to historically disadvantaged universities, that are presently operating at on a shoe- string budget.  These universities are custodians of our future philosophers, scientists and poets, whose fame and glory will one day broaden the horizon of knowledge to the universe itself.

We hope the lesson learnt form the level of effort by the trust fund to raise money will be duplicated by others in the mining industry that had disasters of this scope and magnitude.  Allow me to close my remarks by borrowing the words of Don Matera, who wrote these lines:

Let us halt this quibbling

Of reform and racial preservation

Saying who belongs to which nation

And let the children decide

 It is their world.

Let us burn our uniforms

Of old scare and grievances

and call back our spent dreams

And the relics of crass tradition

That hand on our malignant hears

And let the children decide

For it is their world….


I thank you for your attention and always remember the old Afro- American saying that “A mind is indeed a terrible thing to waste”.


So please donate kindly to the trust fund.