Mr. Chancellor, Mr. Vice Chancellor, ladies and gentlemen, allow me to start off by borrowing language from our former Prime Minister, Mr. Vorster. Addressing an Afrikaner Student Bond (A.S.B) Congress in June last year, Mr. Vorster said: “No Black man has landed in trouble for fighting for what is legally his”. Although I don’t know how far true this is, I make this statement my launch pad.

R.D. Briensmead, an American lay preacher says “he who withholds the truth or debars men from motives of its expediency, is either a coward, a criminal or both”. Therefore Mr. Chancellor, I will try as much as possible to say nothing else but the truth. And to me “truth” means “practical reality”.

The Advisory Council is said to be representing our parents. How can it represent them when they have not elected it? These people must of necessity please the man who appointed them. This council consists of chiefs who have never been to University. How can they know the needs of students when they have not been subjected to the same conditions? Those who have been to University have never studied under Bantu Education. What authentic opinion can they express when they don’t know how painful it is to study under a repugnant system of education? I wonder if this Advisory Council knows that a Black man has been most unceremoniously kicked out of the bookshop. Apparently, this is reserved for whites. According to policy, Van Schaiks has no right to run a bookshop here. A white member of the administration has been given the meat contract to supply the University – a Black University.Those who amorphously support the policy may say that there are no black people to supply it. My answer to them is: why are they not able to supply the University? What is the cause? Is it not conveniently done that they are not in a position to supply these commodities?

White students are given vacation jobs at this university when there are students who could not get their results due to outstanding fees.Why does the administration not give these jobs to these students? These white students have eleven universities where they can get vacation jobs. Does the Administration expect me to get a vacation job at the University of Pretoria? Right now, our parents have come all the way from their homes only to be locked outside. We are told that the hall is full. I do not accept the argument that there is no accommodation for them. In 1970, when the Administration wanted everybody, a tent was put-up and a close circuit television was installed. Front seats are given to people who cannot even cheer us. My father is seated there at the back. My dear people, shall we ever get a fair deal in this land…the land of our fathers!

The system is failing. It is failing because even those who recommended it strongly, as the only solution to racial problems in South Africa, fail to adhere to the letter and the spirit of the policy. According to the policy we expected Dr Eiselen to decline Chancellorship in favour of a Black man. My dear parents, these are the injustices no normal student can tolerate – no matter who he is and where he comes from.

In the light of what has been said above, the challenge to every Black graduate in this country lies in the fact that the guilt of all wrongful actions in South Africa, restriction without trial, repugnant legislation, expulsions from schools, rests on all those who do not actively dissociate themselves from and work for the eradication of the system breeding such evils. To those who whole heartedly support the policy of apartheid I say: do you think that the white minority can willingly commit political suicide by creating numerous states which might turn out to be hostile in future?

We Black graduates, by virtue of our age and academic standing, are being called upon to bear greater responsibilities in the liberation of our people. Our so-called leaders have become the bolts of the same machine which is crushing us as a nation. We have to go back to them and educate them. Times are changing and we should change with them. The magic story of human achievement gives irrefutable proof that as soon as nationalism is awakened among the intelligentsia, it becomes the vanguard in the struggle against alien rule. Of what use will be your education if you can’t help your country in her hour of need? If your education is not linked with the entire continent of Africa it is meaningless.

Remember what Mrs. Suzman said “there is one thing which the Minister cannot do; he cannot ban ideas from men’s minds”.

In conclusion Mr. Chancellor I say let the Lord be praised, for the day shall come, when all shall be free to breathe the air of freedom which is theirs to breathe and when that day shall have come, no man, no matter how many tanks he has, will reverse the course of events.

God bless you all!

By Onkgopotse Tiro

(Tiro made this liberating speech at the University of the North on 29th April 1972 at the height of Apartheid aggression. Long Live the Spirit of Tiro Long Live!)


  1. I listened to the radio and watched tv none of them except Motsweding FM’s Mphatlhalatsane talk show programme hosted by Ms Mokopi Molebatsi talked about the anniversary of Onkgopotse Tiro The same is true with mainstream newspaper although I sent an article about Tiro to Sowetan a week before the 1st of February. When is Hani’s anniversary all these tendentious media outlets never miss to report about it and some of them even carry a big photo of Hani. Motsweding FM’s current affairs programme called Boresetse did a piece on the anniversary of Slovo but today didn’t do anything on Tiro. They can commemorate the anniversary of a white man who came to this country with his parents from Lithuania in 1936 at the age of 10 but they can’t commemorate the death of a son of the soil who died for us. This tendentious attitude is reflected in Nelson Mandela’s book Long Walk to Freedom in which he wrote that he was saddened by the death by a parcel bomb of Ruth First, Slovo’s wife but said absolutely nothing about Tiro. Yet Tiro was killed long before First. After I criticised Mandela in a book review in January 1995 before Tiro was exhumed he went to Tiro’s grave in Gaborone in 1996 to assuage his conscience. In that book Mandela talks ill of the Black Consciousness Movement and the Pan Africanist Congress. The same is true with the late Oliver Tambo in his book Preparing for Power: Oliver Tambo Speaks.. Quotes Tiro saidwith which to remember him are: “It is better to die for an idea that will live than to live for an idea that will die”. “No struggle can come to an end without casualties”. “Our political leaders have become the bolts of the same machine that is grinding us as a nation”. The student leaders who led the June 16, 1976 uprising like Tsietsi Mashinini, Khotsf Seatlholo and Hastings Ndlovu, the first victim of the 1976 uprising, were proteges of Tiro. He taught at Morris Isaacson High School in Soweto.

  2. It’s unfortunate that when it comes to the history of the liberation of Azania, the ruling party and all its liberal institutions have chosen to have selective memory wherein they remember only those who they wish to regardless of struggle contribution. And where they have failed to silence the memory of the people, as we see in the case of Steve Biko they have colonized his legacy and now he is presented as if he was a member of the ANC(A party he disagree with all his life, ideologically and otherwise). As it is today, freedom in Azania seems to have been achieved through the effort of one man, who was in prison for 27 years(implying that the millions of Africans out of prison where helpless)and his party(as if there where no other liberation movements).
    This problem is further entrenched in society because the so called Mandela generation of 1990 has been fed a highly re-engineered history as part of their school curriculum. So it remains the responsibility of all conscious Africans to preserve the memory of the liberation of Azania, lest we forget.

  3. We remember comrade Tiro and thank you all for keeping his memory alive.

    It’s always ever so interesting and humbling yet challenging to learn about the comrades who laid down their lives for our freedom.

    I just recently learnt about Gert sibande and the Potatoe strike via Mbongeni Ngema’s LION OF THE EAST.

    We trust that the older generation by that I mean those born before 1980, will continue educating us about our unsung heroes so that we may salute them and keep their memories alive.

    My vision for Africa right now is for us to truly unite in our deeds and speeches.
    The division amongst us is growing wider and wider, politically and socially.

    Norma Shabane

  4. It is silly to ascribe the liberation of our people to only one man when he was not there when Africans kings waged wars of resistance. He was not even born when the ANC was formed. He couldn’t surpass Anton Lembede, Robert Sobukwe, Zeph Mothopeng and AP Mda with intelligence and analyses. I don’t want this to degenerate to polemics but the owners of the mainstream media must be told where to get off or to go and tell it to the birds that only one man liberated us. There are even far greater freedom fighters like Dedan Kimathi of the Mau Mau in Kenya whom young men and women should learn about. February is also celebrated as Black History month in the US, Canada, Britain and where there are people of African origin. It is the month in which three other heroes died which we shall about in due cause. Men who changed the course of history – Cheikh Anta Diop (7 February 1986), Malcolm X (21 February 1965( and Robert Mangaliso Sobukwe (27 February 1978). WEB Dubois was born on 23 February 1868 and died in Ghana on 27 August 1963. Marcus Garvey was born on 17 August 1887 and died on 10 June 1940. Sol Plaatjie died on 19 June 1932 and was born in 1875. You will probably be taught about this in this country.

  5. I phoned Tim Modise’s After Eight radio today and raised two points viz, that the SABC didn’t report about Tiro. They had youth reps of the ruling party, the DA, and a white young man from the IFP or one these white parties. My second point was that since the parent organisations of PAYCO (PAC) and Azayo (AZAPO) youth formations participated in our struggle for liberation, they should have included them in the national debates concerning the liberation struggle. I directed my criticism at the producess and not Tim Modise. These SABC producers and managers do not understand that the SABC is a public broadcaster. It is not the property of the ANC.

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