Zuma spells out role of progressive professionals

“Intellectuals and professionals should help take forward the struggle to free the continent from mental slavery and self-doubt.
The late Chinua Achebe said about the imperialists and particularly their scribes that “The picture of Africa and Africans which they carried in their minds did not grow there adventitiously, but was planted and watered by careful social, mental and educational husbandry.”

The Speech

The President of the Progressive Professionals Forum (PPF), Mr Jimmy Manyi,

Esteemed Members of the PPF,

Ladies and gentlemen

I am humbled by the honour to share a few thoughts and sentiments with you tonight, on this important occasion of the launch of the Progressive Professionals Forum.

It is an important occasion indeed to launch such a forum of professionals who are proud of their country, and proud of their continent.

In just a few months we will be marking 20 years of freedom. The establishment of this Forum at this crucial time will enable the widening of the platform of discussion and ideas around transformation and the meaningful reconstruction of our country.

South Africa has come a long way from a past of exclusion and discrimination on the basis of race, colour and creed.

We may have challenges like all developing countries, but we certainly have done very well in only 19 years, since we turned our backs on institutionalised racism and hatred.

We are now at a phase of consolidating our gains and to reflect on the next 20 years; and the kind of South Africa we want to have in 2034.

The National Development Plan (NDP) is our future roadmap.

The plan outlines the type of society we are striving for in 2030, where no one is hungry, where everyone is able to go to school and further their studies if they wish, where work is available and where everyone is making a contribution because each person has been provided with what they need to live their full potential.

However, government alone cannot build such a society. The involvement of all South Africans is critical to ensuring the successful implementation of the NDP. Leadership throughout society from communities, schools, businesses and across the three spheres of government must drive the change to realise Vision 2030.

It is therefore heartwarming that progressive professionals in our country have decided not to be spectators in building South Africa.
The establishment of the Progressive Professionals Forum helps to diversify the intellectual space and intellectual engagement in our country.

We expect you to play a very meaningful role in giving clearer form and content to the developmental state that we are building as a country, with the ultimate intent of improving the social conditions of our people by promoting growth and productivity.

We want to hear your voice in all major developments and processes. We want to hear your interventions on the economic transformation of our country. We want to hear you on political developments.

We also want to hear your views on many other topics from education to health to the protection of rhino and the country’s fauna and flora in general.

As government we are not looking for praise singers. We are looking for patriots who will tell us where we have done well, but also where we should do better, all in the interest of building our country to become a winning nation. You cannot build a nation through being negative, bitter and angry.

We do not believe in the notion held by some within the intelligentsia, that the primary vocation of intellectuals is to assume an antagonistic posture against government, that intellectuals earn their mettle when they criticise government.

This unfortunate notion is born among others from the lack of appreciation of the intellectual depth, breadth and universality upon which the organisation leading this government, the ANC, is founded.

The ANC was founded on the roots of very profound intellectualism, framed by strong universal principles and commitments.

From its very foundation, the ANC  was led by illustrious leaders who always distinguished themselves in thought and action. These intellectuals laid the fundamental principles of the democracy we enjoy today.

It is our consistency in these enduring universal views and values that has made the ANC to survive many trials and tribulations and to remain strong and rooted in the hearts of our people.

The ANC has continuously promoted a culture of open debate in South African society.

There are very few countries in the world that are as open as South African society with regards to public engagement.

The democratic forces have unfortunately taken a back seat in the public discourse.

It is for this reason that in Mangaung we said that the democratic forces need to assert hegemony, propagate and popularise our ideas of transforming South Africa into a non-racial, non-sexist and democratic society.

This robust engagement that must be led by the mass democratic movement is informed by our history and the role of leaders such as Pixley ka Isaka Seme, Oliver Tambo, Nelson Mandela, Anton Lembede, Duma Nokwe, Moses Kotane and ZK Mathews to name a few, who made intellectual discourse a hallmark of their engagement with society.

These are leaders who invested their education and intellectualism in serving their people in the most important project of liberation and the fight for human dignity.

The ideals they espoused have proved to be unassailable with the passage of time, which is why they are still our lodestar even post-independence, in our quest to improve the material conditions of our people.

And this is the same commitment   that drove many revolutionaries such as Augustino Neto, Frantz Fanon, Che Guevara, Eduardo Mondlane, Patrice Lumumba, Amilcar Cabral to sacrifice for the freedom of their people from colonial bondage.

This is in line with the fact that struggle for freedom in the oppressed world, whether in Africa, Latin America, or in the East, has always been imbued with a very strong ideological and revolutionary content.

It is the same sense of responsibility that drew many intellectuals, such as Prof Ismail Mohamed, whom we laid to rest a few weeks ago, and many comrades, out of the academia and other professions into the political struggle, to fight for  change in this country.

You are thus on the right track as progressive professionals.

You are doing what professionals should do in a post-colonial context.

Professionals must first help to purge the residual effects of colonialism from the national psyche as Ngugi wa Thiongo advocated, and reinforce the identity and image of a free and self-reliant continent with strong-willed people capable of taking charge of their destiny.

Intellectuals and professionals should help take forward the struggle to free the continent from mental slavery and self-doubt.

The late Chinua Achebe said about the imperialists and particularly their scribes that “The picture of Africa and Africans which they carried in their minds did not grow there adventitiously, but was planted and watered by careful social, mental and educational husbandry.”

Thus you must help to root out all the vestiges of imperialism and colonialism which may still be lingering in various forms in our society.

We will rely on you to harness your collective energies, knowledge and skills to help us lift our people out of the debilitating morass of poverty and inequality.

I look forward to working with you to advance our mandate of improving the lives of our people.

I trust you will debate amongst yourselves robustly on how you are going to help this country to advance democracy and take transformation forward?

How can you help us to interpret the Constitution in transformative ways?

How can you help us interpret South African society so that we understand where we are in the process of building a National Democratic Society?

There is a lot of work on your plate and we look forward to ongoing engagement.

I wish you all the best.

I Thank you!

news@ujuh.co.za

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