UKZN’s School of Education and the School of Religion, Philosophy and Classics (SRPC), in collaboration with the University Language Planning and Development Office and the JL Dube Institute recently hosted the annual John Dube Memorial Lecture at the New Conference Centre, Edgewood Campus.
The lecture titled: Violence on and through the Land, Violence on Women’s Bodies: Evoking John Langalibalele Dube’s Voice in Contemporary Debates was delivered by Dr Maureen Tong, the CEO of Coach Companion South Africa.
John Dube was the first president of the African National Congress (ANC) and a Nobel Peace Prize laureate.
In her lecture, Tong began with a historical account of land dispossession while looking at the various acts and bills passed in this regard. She addressed land dispossession in relation to women; the continuing legacies of colonisation and apartheid; the slow progress towards change and what needs to be done to accelerate programmes targeting access to land, particularly for poor rural women.
She also identified the importance of the role of researchers in writing and investigating the history of women as she feels the system of patriarchy tends to minimise and often ignore the role of women in shaping society. ‘When history is written, it often ignores the role of women or only refers to them as supporters of the male characters being written about,’ said Tong.
She asserts that those working in memory and legacy projects should dedicate time and energy to accurately record the role of women as leaders in their own rights or as shapers of significant milestones in history and human development. ‘In patriarchal society, historians who are often men, tend to look at history through a sexist lens that makes women invisible in the story,’ added Tong.
She noted that the history of John and Nokutela Dube is intertwined with the history of land dispossession in South Africa, an issue that she feels is yet to be adequately addressed by the post-apartheid government.
‘The post-1994 government had set itself a target of delivering 30% of commercial agricultural land by 2014 and settling all land claims by 2015. Both targets have not been met, less than 10% of land has been delivered as of 31 March 2017, many complicated rural land claims remain unresolved.
‘The work of Cherif Keita has highlighted the need for researchers and archivists to be more probing to ensure that the contribution of women to significant historical events and milestones does not remain invisible,’ stated Tong.
John Dube’s grandson, Zenzele, who attended the lecture, also believes that teaching history is important particularly for primary school learners as ‘it creates an understanding and appreciation of those that changed the course of history for the betterment of people. Our history should be proudly and accurately told by us.’