Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng challenged the audience at the 14th annual Victoria and Griffiths Mxenge Memorial Lecture at UKZN ‘not to betray the sacrifices of those who have gone before us.’
‘Do we act like we have arrived?’ asked Mogoeng. ‘Do we think it’s all over now that we can vote? Or do we really appreciate the reality that so much more needs to be done if what Griffiths and Victoria Mxenge lived and died for in South Africa is to become a reality?’
Mogoeng’s address was titled: "We Dare Not Betray Their Sacrifice". The annual lecture pays homage to anti-apartheid activists and lawyers Victoria and Griffiths Mxenge, who were assassinated for the role they played in the country’s liberation struggle.
Mogoeng, who holds an LLB from the then University of Natal (UND), paid tribute to Griffiths, a qualified attorney who had also studied for an LLB at UND. ‘He chose deliberately to use his profession, to use his skills, and to use his position of rare privilege at the time, not to pursue self-interests, not to amass wealth, but to make a difference in the lives of those, who unlike him, were not privileged,’ said Mogoeng.
He said Griffiths was committed to the liberation struggle and ‘was consumed for the love that he had for fellow South Africans, Black and White,’ even though he knew he could be assassinated.
Griffiths was killed by a team led by Vlakplaas police hit squad commander, Dirk Coetzee, ‘one of us, a fellow South African, who because of the evil system did not recognise the fundamental right to life,’ said Mogoeng.
He said Victoria knew that what had happened to her husband was likely to happen to her. ‘That is why, when she addressed a crowd of 50 000 at the funeral service of the Craddock Four, believing that the Four could hear her, she said: “Tell your grandfathers that we are coming because we are prepared to die for Africa”.’
Victoria continued to practice law and focused on the anti-apartheid struggle before she was assassinated in front of her three young children in Umlazi. ‘It was not fashionable to be a human rights lawyer, it was even more dangerous to be a political activist at the time,’ said Mogoeng.
‘Now we have a democratic South Africa born out of the blood of Griffiths and Victoria Mxenge.
‘We can vote. I am the Chief Justice of the Republic because the Mxenges, and others like them, chose not to enjoy life … they knew that there was something bigger than the pursuit of self-advancement,’ he said.
The event, at which outstanding students from the School of Law received awards, was attended by a wide variety of members of the legal fraternity, including Justice Raymond Zondo of the Constitutional Court, KZN’s Judge President, Mr Justice Achmat Jappie; Madam Justice Dhaya Pillay, and emeritus judge of the Constitutional Court, Mr Justice Zac Yacoob.