THE burning of a photographic collage of struggle hero and former Progressive Federal Party public representative Molly Blackburn at UCT (The Herald, February 22) is symptomatic of a new racial fascism that is sweeping through our society.
In this new order, people view life through a polarising, racial prism where there are no grey areas. It is either a simplistic black or white. As a former colleague of the late Molly Blackburn, I cannot let this event simply pass me by without a response, especially since December was the 30th anniversary of her tragic death.
Molly Blackburn is one of the greatest citizens that this metro has known. Her place in history needs to be honoured and not trashed. In the early 1980s until her death in 1985 I was privileged to work closely with her. She was a brave and courageous woman who was fearless in exposing the brutality of the apartheid system. When she entered stadiums, crowds of 50 000 would rise to welcome her. She was a bridge builder and a great force for reconciliation in our society at the time.
Victims of oppression and injustice contacted her on a daily basis for help. I can vividly remember, among hundreds of others, Matthew Goniwe contacting our office sometime before his death looking for her.
In 1985, at the funeral of the Cradock Four which we attended, she mediated between the angry crowd of some 70 000 and the security police who were trying to prevent people attending.
At Nelson Mandela’s first “welcome home” rally in Motherwell, Port Elizabeth, in 1990, which was attended by 500 000 people, he devoted the first part of his speech to pay tribute to the work and life of Molly Blackburn. This illustrates the extent of the national and international esteem in which she was held.
There are numerous institutions that have honoured her memory, including the Eastern Cape Provincial Legislature, which has a committee room named after her.
Molly Blackburn and everything she stood for has been a great inspiration in my life. Just as she had the courage to speak out and take a strong stand against the injustices of the day, so we need a new generation to speak out with the same boldness and determination and to lead our society along the pathways of reconciliation, justice and non-racialism.
Nelson Mandela once famously said “South Africa belongs to all who live in it, both black and white”. Let us all work together to redress the legacy and hurts of the past and build a united South Africa that Molly Blackburn would be proud of. Blessed are the peacemakers. — Bobby Stevenson, MPL, Port Elizabeth