18 November 2018


Onkgopotse Tiro Memorial Lecture shares valuable lessons

by: Brian Setswambung and Nonofo Lobelo   date: 22 july 2018

A highly regarded intellectual and international researcher, Advocate Sipho Mantula, has called on government and South African citizens to ensure that the history of this country and its anti-apartheid struggle icons is properly documented.

Advocate Mantula said this when he delivered the 7th Onkgopotse Tiro Annual Memorial Lecture at the Onkgopotse Tiro Comprehensive School outside Mahikeng on Friday last week.

His lecture was mesmerizing and filled with hope and sought to heed and advocate for the “Thuma Mina/Send Me” calling.

He offered a heartfelt concern and disregard for leaders who perpetuate corruption, greed and fraud in a society faced with the triple challenges of unemployment, inequality and poverty. 

“Corruption is at the heart of ruining our much beloved country and this is what gives birth to an impoverished citizenry," he said.

Mantula expressed concern that while there were images and texts on Onkgopotse Tiro, there were no visuals and audio on him.

Abram Onkgopotse Ramothibi Tiro was a student activist and black consciousness anti-apartheid militant born in Dinokana village near Zeerust. He was killed by the apartheid government. This lecture came at a suitable time during Youth Month, when young people reflect on their role in society and what needs to be done to improve their lives. 

Mantula said honouring Tiro should not only be confined to Onkgopotse Tiro Comprehensive School, saying he saw the late struggle activist as a giant that needed to be honoured and appreciated by the entire country due to his selfless contribution to freedom. 

“Education needs to be decolonized. Our young people deserve that. This is what stalwarts were all about. True leadership is not about receiving accolades or honorary awards all the time. One must be prepared to serve. In this day and age we are in deficit of true visionary leaders," said Adv Mantula.

In his closing remarks, Mantula said Africa needs to ask the right questions, read the right prescribed books and provide informative answers. He went on to mention the likes of Nelson Mandela, Mama Albertina Sisulu, Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, JB Marks and Robert Sobukwe, among others, as exemplary leaders who need their contribution 

The occasion was graced by MEC for Public Works and Roads, Mmule Maluleke, who commended the school for ensuring that the legacy of Onkgopotse Tiro continued to live on. She also had high praise for an electrifying performance of Tiro’s life by the school’s learners. 

In his message of support, Treasurer General of the South African Students Congress (SASCO), Field Marshall Mohlomi, decried the increasing challenges of sex, power and unquantifiable consumption of alcohol as factors young people were exposed to in this day and era, “much to the dismay of our leaders and their predecessors who have fought so hard, through blood, for our much sought after emancipation of the mind”.

Provincial Chairperson of South African Democratic Teachers Union (SADTU), Mxolisi Bomvana, also delivered a message of support in which he expressed his organisation’s appreciation of the Ministerial Task Team report on the need to make History a compulsory subject in schools. 

Bomvana called upon the Department of Education and Sport Development to provide the necessary support to the school to ensure performance improvement. He echoed Mantula’s sentiments that a truly decolonized education would be the one offered in indigenous languages. This, he said, was possible as there were plenty of working examples across the globe.

School principal, Teach Kgonothi, said when he was recruited to the Onkgopotse Tiro Comprehensive School, the Grade 12 pass rate stood at 23 percent and had improved steadily over the years until the school obtained a 100 percent matric pass rate.

Mantula's lecture was part sermon, part political speech and part mediation (better to listen in full than be read), which began with the life of Tiro, A SASO member who was murdered by the apartheid government through a parcel bomb that exploded on his face while he was in exile in Botswana in 1974. While he was initially buried in Botswana in 1974 because the apartheid regime would not allow his body back home, his remains were brought back to South Africa and he was reburied in Dinokana in 1998. 

In 2016, Lawrence Mphafe, confessed to having carried the parcel bomb that took Tiro’s life. The school had invited Mphafe and he honoured the invitation and addressed the 5th Onkgopotse Tiro Annual Memorial Lecture. 

Tiego Shametja annually directs a play that portrays Tiro’s life as part of celebrating Tiro’s life. Participants in this play are learners at Onkgopotse Tiro Comprehensive School. The performance captivated the attention of the audience and left them in awe.