The legacy of Dulcie September

The Dulcie September Memorial Lecture at the Centre for Humanities Research at the University of the Western Cape. The author reveals there were fears for the safety of ANC representatives in Europe during the 1980s. Picture Ayanda Ndamane

A few days ago, on 28 March, we commemorated the 31st anniversary of the death of one of the Stalwarts of the Anti- Apartheid Struggle, Dulcie September. Comrade Dulcie was born in Athlone on the Cape Flats in 1935.  She cut her teeth as a political activist in the 1950s in the student and youth structures. She spent five years on Robben Island during the 1960’s and suffered for another five years under an apartheid  banning order. In 1973 she went into exile where she later joined the ANC and helped build the Anti-Apartheid international solidarity movement in London. She also worked for the International Defense and Aid Fund and the ANCs Women Section. 

In 1983 she was appointed ANC Chief representative in France, Switzerland and Luxembourg, continuing to fly the flag of International Solidarity against the Apartheid Government. Five years later, on the morning of 28 March 1988, Dulcie September was brutally assassinated. At the time she was investigating a covert sanctions busting arms deal between France and South Africa, which allegedly included nuclear material. We have no doubt that her brutal death was at the hands of the Apartheid regime in cahoots with those countries supporting them to prevent her from exposing the illegal arms deal. 

As we contemplate the legacy of Dulcie September, we remember her as an international solidarity stalwart and hero in the fight against colonialism, apartheid and injustice not only in South Africa but elsewhere across the world. Thus, as we prepare to celebrate our 25th Anniversary of the fall of apartheid and the dawn of our democracy, how best can we pay tribute to her legacy and ensure that her death was not in vain?  

As a country we must continue to remain committed to the principles and ideals expressed in the Freedom Charter. This support of the struggles of the poor and oppressed should not just be at home but also  includes providing international  solidarity to all the oppressed peoples of this world. We should not forget that our struggle would not have been successful, and the fruits of freedom we enjoy today would not have happened, had it not been for the support of the international solidarity movement across the world working in synergy with the ANC underground, the armed struggle, and the internal mass democratic mobilisation by the Mass Democratic Movement. 

To this end, Comrade Dulcie would be proud of South Africa’s support for the right to self determination of the peoples of Western Sahara and Palestine, and their fight against Moroccan & Israeli colonialism. Whilst not much is known about the Western Sahara struggle here in South Africa, it is equally important to that of the Palestinian struggle against apartheid and their right to self-determination.  Since the dawn of democracy, South Africa has provided support to both the Polisario Front, which is the political movement that represents the people of Western Sahara, as well as the Palestinians. We have with dogged determination consistently supported them in all multilateral fora including the UN, AU & SADC. We have continued as government in partnership with civil society to provide aid and run campaigns in support of both these struggles.  

We unsuccessfully but proudly opposed Morocco’s entry into the AU last year, but continue to apply pressure on them now in the AU. Just prior to Comrade Dulcie’s commemoration we hosted the SADC Heads of States International Solidarity Conference in support of the Peoples of Western Sahara’s right to self-determination on 24-25 March. Despite, Morocco’s attempts to sabotage the conference by running their own conference at the same time and inviting and paying for SADC members to attend, the SADC conference was an overwhelming success.  SADC as a collective has re-committed their support for the peoples of Western Sahara’s right to self-determination. SADC has also committed to ensure that this issue becomes a standing agenda item at the AU where they will continue to apply pressure on Morocco to allow for the UN Referendum on the right to self-determination which has been outstanding since 1991. The extensive publicity that this conference received also helped to educate South Africans about this struggle. 

This week from 1-7 April it is International Israeli Apartheid Week. It is also the one year anniversary of the Right of Return march in which hundreds of innocent Palestinians ( including women, children and medics) were killed, and thousands more seriously injured and imprisoned for peacefully protesting for their right to return.  Thus, we can also pay tribute to the life and legacy of Comrade Dulcie by supporting the thousands of peaceful Palestinian solidarity activities across the globe this week. Furthermore, as citizens we must ensure that our government continues to apply the  necessary pressure on the UN to hold Israel accountable for the violation of numerous UN resolutions  over the past five decades. 

We must build a momentum in partnership with our government to ensure that Israel appears before, and is held accountable for human rights violations before the International Criminal Court. We must put pressure on our government to implement all the ANC 2017 policy resolutions as it relates to international solidarity with Palestine. Finally, with less than 40 days left to the 2019 National and Provincial Elections, we must expose those political parties and leaders such as the DA and its leader Mmusi Maimane for their support and close working relationship with the Israeli Government and visa-versa. This clarion call to action in the spirit of international solidarity will allow Comrade Dulcie to rest in peace knowing that she did not die in vain.

Faiez Jacobs is the Provincial Secretary of the ANC in the Western Cape and Rihaz-Juvale is an independent political analyst from the Western Cape. They write in their personal capacities.