Speech by Inxuba Yethemba Mayor Nyameka Goniwe on 21 January 2014
It is an honour and a pleasure to be addressing a gathering of such magnitude whose primary theme and focus is one of celebration and joy. We are gathered here because Cradock is 200 years old this year. It is a historical milestone that prompts us to pause and reflect back on who we are and what we are made of as the people of this town.
Cradock is a town that has stood the test of time – a town that is steeped in history. Its rich history spans and straddles the colonial and apartheid era, we experienced firsthand the horrors of the South African and the two World Wars – we acknowledge the bitter conflict and pain of the wars of attrition, dispossession, disfranchisement, and oppression.
It is a history that we need to embrace and own because it defines who we are whether we like it or not. Although this history forms part of a distant past its memories are still alive within us and many of us are still overburdened by its psychological scars. Pertaining to history we are forever being reminded that “anyone who closes his eyes to the past is blind to the present”.
We are also great grandsons and daughters of farmers and farm labourers who settled along the banks of the Great Fish River who worked very hard in search of opportunities, prosperity and a source of livelihood. In different ways big and small, we have contributed towards building Cradock into the iconic town it is today.
Each one of these fit in like a piece of the jigsaw puzzle and removing any one of its elements you would have wrenched its soul. We therefore in a symbiotic way share a common history and are united by the fact that Cradock is our home. The challenge that we all need to face is how to transcend this volatile and painful past and view it as our strength instead of a weakness, how to transform it from it being a paralyzing force and transmute it into a spirit of triumph, possibility and prosperity.
Cradock is fortunate to be celebrating its bicentennial birthday with the 20 years of our democracy. With the passing on of the most memorable leader that South Africa has ever had, Nelson Mandela, we need to learn from this giant of our democracy the values he espoused – values of courage, humanity, forgiveness and reconciliation. We owe it to him to spread the language and the spirit of reconciliation so that it can touch the hearts of all our people.
We have been blessed in Cradock to have produced many visionaries – people of high calibre whose thinking and ideas put them well ahead of their time. Some of those include the legendary Olive Schreiner, a writer who was sensitive to the injustices of the time especially against those who were disenfranchised.
She predicted in her writings published in 1900 that: “ The South African nation will be an absolutely a new thing under the sun, owing to its mixture of races, possessing that strange vitality and originality which appears to rise so often from the mixture of human varieties, ranking higher than other societies more simply constructed.” How true and relevant this is today – something that we still need to comprehend and be awoken to.
Canon James Calata, Matthew Goniwe and his colleagues who are known as the Cradock Four – all advocates of political and social justice whose messages were misunderstood at the time. Cradock is the only town in SA with 6 recipients of national orders, being Olive Schreiner, the Cradock 4 and Dr Neville Alexander.
We have produced sons and daughters who have excelled in all spheres. Their achievements are notable in the fields of education, literary works, performing arts, music and sports. We are ever grateful for them for flying our flag so high and applaud their efforts. We need to unearth more stories of achievement, determination and triumph from people of all walks of life which could be used to inspire us and our children to achieve more. I want to commission a Cradock Hall of Fame, where we can honour our proudest moments for all to see and enjoy.
Besides 2014 being the bicentennial of the establishment of Cradock it also marks the anniversary of a number of significant historic happenings for Cradock which include:
- A hundred and forty years ago in 1874 there was a major flood in the Great Fish River.
- Our Municipal buildings will be 150 years old this year
- Our local Standard Cricket Club, being one of the oldest in the Province, will also be 150 years old this year.
- The Cradock Landbougenootskap is 150 years old.
- It is 40 years since the flood of 1974, being the largest flood in living memory in Cradock.
- Also in 1974, the Orange-Fish River Tunnel was completed, bringing the life-giving waters of the Gariep Dam to Cradock, and providing the backbone for our flourishing agricultural economy.
- 20 years ago – the ushering of our first democratic elections in 1994. The Cradock Town Hall served as a main polling station.
I urge you all here today to participate in all the festivities throughout the year. Invite all your friends, family and colleagues to step up to the plate and make this the best year of our lives.