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Khulumani Remembers and Honours Duma Kumalo, a Sharpeville Six Survivor

Duma Kumalo Booklet covers Duma Kumalo Booklet covers

REPORT: DUMA KUMALO MEMORIAL LECTURE AND COLLOQUIUM, VAAL UNIVERSITY OF TECHNOLOGY, 29 August 2016, DESMOND TUTU GREAT HALL

The Duma Kumalo Memorial Lecture brought together a wide range of people for powerful sharing about the life and contributions of ‘Sharpeville Six’ member and founder staff member of Khulumani Support Group, Duma Joshua Kumalo on Monday 29 August 2016 in the Desmond Tutu Great Hall. 

Participants included representatives of Khulumani member groups in Sedibeng District Municipality and in Zamdela township in Sasolburg, in the Greater Metsimaholo District Municipality. Officials of the Sedibeng East and Sedibeng West District Education Offices organized for Grade 10 and 11 learners to attend the memorial lecture. They were joined by staff from the Social Justice and Transformation Unit at VUT and by family and friends of Duma Kumalo, including Mr Reid Mokoena, one of the Sharpeville Six, Duma’s co-accused on “death row.”

Duma’s former colleague, the well-known actor Mr Kenneth Nkosi (KK), facilitated the programme. He explained that the inaugural commemoration of Mr Duma Kumalo was an experience from which young people have much to learn towards keeping a proud history alive. Mr Nkosi ensured there was a lot of interaction with the audience including a singing performance by a trio; the performance of spoke poetry and the Beverley Hills High jazz band’s music. The event was not just a lecture but a real commemoration of a deeply appreciated human life.

The Vice Chancellor and Principal of Vaal University of Technology thanked Khulumani Support Group for proposing and organizing this event. He acknowledged the role that Khulumani is playing in the country. He expressed the importance of knowing the country’s sad history and the freedom that came at the cost of much blood and pain.

The official welcome was followed by speeches from Duma’s longtime friend, the former Deputy Director of Khulumani Support Group, Mr Tlhoki Mofokeng. Tlhoki explained how he came to meet and to work with Duma. He explained that Duma had served Khulumani proudly; that his is life had been one of service to victims; and that he had rejected various offers of jobs in order to be able to continue to serve Khulumani Support Group and its members.

The social worker, Dr Theresa (Terry) Sacco spoke of Duma as a person who was funny, witty and had a zest for life. She said Duma was a deep-thinking man who struggled on death row and afterwards with reconciliation. She expressed delight that so many young people were attending the event. She spoke of Duma’s capacity to live a life of meaning in which he had learned to lean into the wounds of the past and of how he had worked tirelessly for others. She spoke of Duma’s dedication to helping women left behind when their loved ones were hanged. She asked the young people to live their lives with meaning and to find themselves because in doing so, they would be honoring Duma and modelling what he represented of working with love and ethical commitments.

Mr Robert McBride spoke of his and Duma’s shared experiences of being on “death row’ and the unceasing harassment of the prisoners by the warders. He spoke at length about the conditions on “death row”; the hardships that prisoners on “death row” endured; the 30 minutes of exercise allowed per day; the dreaded slamming of doors when the identities of those to be hanged within 7 days were announced; and the efforts of friends and families of people on death row to stop the hangings. He spoke about the capacity to persevere, to endure and to resist ‘fighting back’ that he learned from his friend Duma. He spoke about the oppressors and their brutalization of every person on “death row”. He explained the resistance to the educational system amongst the youth and how they became soldiers of Umkhonto we Sizwe (MK). He explained what daily life was like on “death row” and what the procedures were. He spoke about the deadly silence of life on “death row”, of being stripped of one’s humanity and of one’s dignity; and how as former death row prisoners, they had committed to taking forward real reconciliation towards promoting a better life.

Guest speaker, Honourable Professor Hlengiwe Mkhize thanked everyone for attending the event. She mentioned how she had gone through the journey that Mr McBride had reflected upon and how hard it must have been to share these experiences. She thanked Mr McBride for supporting this memorial lecture. She apologized for not having been able to meet the family prior to the lecture. She spoke of the resilience within Khulumani’s membership and of their capacity to persevere in seeking solutions to the failures of justice after the TRC. She explained the battles and the suffering of people and the pain with which people had paid so dearly for freedom. She called for this moment to be one of reflection on what had happened; how Duma’s passing had affected us all; and the unfinished tasks he had left for us to take forward. She reflected on the apartheid policies and ideologies based on race and how these had affected black people. She spoke of the deprivation, poverty and ill health that black people suffered and which had often destroyed people’s lives. She validated Duma and the work that he had done. She stated that Khulumani has a long road to travel and she expressed appreciation that its members continued to stand up against violations. She said that the pain has affected the whole nation.

Duma’s oldest brother then spoke lovingly about his youngest brother, Duma Joshua Kumalo; the fears of the family for their son and their belief that there would ultimately be a purpose for the whole experience. Duma’s brother spoke about the passion he had seen in his brother and how determined Duma had been to live a meaningful life. He explained that he had shared very intimate moments with his brother in the darkest of times and how Duma had never given up the determination to go on in life. He spoke of Duma as a strong man. He said that while he personally was still broken about the past, he was trying hard to embrace transformation in our country. The speech touched many people in the audience. He stopped when it he became very emotional. He had painted a wonderful picture of Duma, the man, the brother.

Khulumani National Director, Dr Marjorie Jobson then shared memories of being a visitor to prisoners on death row and the campaign waged to end the death penalty with the assistance of attorney, Mr Shakes Sefanyetso. Dr Jobson spoke fondly of Duma and how he brought much change amongst those he worked with and how his spirit had shone right through him. She explained that Khulumani really appreciated Duma and misses him a lot. He was hardworking and willing to help those traumatized by apartheid. She shared how Duma had felt betrayed by the government and had persisted in serving Khulumani because of his commitment to struggles in communities to bring change as opposed to the empty-handed justice that had been dealt to survivors by the TRC.

This was followed by a tribute from Professor Brandon Hamber, who was visiting the country from Ireland. Brandon explained that he had come back to South Africa to say farewell to his father. He explained his experience of Duma, the person; how they had met and how Duma had always made him laugh. He asserted that Duma would be remembered for who he was and what he had contributed to the lives of all the people he met. Duma’s son, Jojwayo, proposed the vote of thanks before dissolving the assembly for lunch.

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