Lord Peter Hain to SA: Find your inner Neil Aggett – Rise Up and say enough is enough

Peter Hain has joined a growing list of struggle icons to urge South Africans to ‘Rise Up’ against the culture of corruption and misgovernance. The SA-born British Peer, a career politician who served in a Labour Party cabinet, made the call during his memorial lecture at Kingswood School for its old boy Neil Aggett, murdered by the Apartheid police in 1982. Hain says South Africans must realise the only way to stop the country’s slide to disaster is by saying ‘No’ to everyday corruption, exercising the hard-fought right to vote, and calling ‘enough’. He spoke to Alec Hogg of BizNews.

Timestamps below:

  • 01:58 – Peter Hain on Apartheid activist Neil Agget
  • 03:40 – On his visit to Kingswood College
  • 06:01 – On his lecture titled Rise Up! And the meaning behind the message
  • 10:01 – On the governance and lack of voting in the country
  • 12:47 – On the importance of voting
  • 15:05 – On reclaiming the values of the Mandela’s and Sisulu’s
  • 17:57 – On dealing with corruption

Some extracts from the interview:

Peter Hain on Neil Evans 

Neil, as many people will recall, was murdered by the police in 1982. He was an active trade unionist, volunteer organiser for the Workers Union, and he was a qualified doctor working only in very under-resourced and poor black hospitals. So, he was a role model for the school. He did very well and got all sorts of certificates and awards at Kingswood College, which has got pretty high achievers. Then he basically gave off his skills to everybody else, did not work for himself, but worked for others in trade union movements, and then as a doctor. It was his work as a trade union organiser that attracted the ire of the apartheid security police. They detained him in John Vorster Square – which was notorious for torturing and killing quarters of the security services – and he was killed in 1982. The official explanation by the police was he hung himself on his scarf. You will remember those kinds of spurious, specious, mendacious excuses for murder by the police, of those in detention at the time; falling downstairs, falling out of windows, falling in showers, all these kinds of explanations given by the police where, in fact, he was the only white of 70 activists murdered by the police in detention. 

Read more: Lord Peter Hain: Time for South Africans to rise up and demand change

Reflecting on the lecture at Kingswood School

It has been co-educational now for quite a while. Of course, it’s very mixed racially, too. I am being asked the most interesting questions by very bright students. I gave the lecture in the chapel to a really full house, including the entire school, senior school. Then I’ve been meeting sets of students after the lecture, talking to them and taking their questions. The questions have been fascinating, such as what it is like to be in the House of Lords, a bit about my background, and they’ve been reading my memoir, Pretoria Boy, published two years ago. There is a very lively interest and questions on everything from what’s going on in British politics over Brexit to the debate on gender recognition in Britain and what’s happening to British politics. One of the things I found and I mentioned this in the lecture, is that when I come to South Africa like this, there’s a lot of despair about the state of politics and the state of the country, the collapse of water and more important, electricity and almost all functioning services. There is a lot of despair, but yet I see so much talent here, so much energy and so much leadership waiting to be released.  

Saying ‘No’ to everyday corruption  

There are too many crooks, leadership from national to provincial to global level in services have collapsed. I have been reflecting on this and my message to the average citizen, of all colours, ages and backgrounds, is that there are things you can do. You can refuse to pay bribes to police officers to stop you on some spurious pretext. You can refuse as a business to pay a backhander to get a contract from a public authority or some small organ of government. You can refuse all sorts of attempts to give backhanders to acquire permits and licences and the different things you need to do to conduct your life. It is easy for me to say this, but I seriously feel that unless there is a popular uprising to shake the core of all the political establishment and for people to say, no, we’re not going to pay these bribes in our daily lives, whether as businesses or individuals. I’m speaking at the University of Cape Town with a similar message directed at the business community. There is too much bribery, and acceptance of backhanders going on currently. It was institutionalised under Zuma, but it’s still happening. Unless anybody says no, then my message to the Kingswood College audience was don’t complain then. If you are going along with this and if you’re not doing anything, it’s your fault just as much as it is anybody else’s. 

Read more: Blacklist Bain, at least stop it making more profits in SA says Lord Hain

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