Tribute from Snuki Zikalala, President of the ANC Veteran’s League on the occasiono of the 96th Birthday of Cde Mike Dingake

I am honoured to be here today paying tribute to one of the oldest living veterans of our movement.  A fighter, an organiser, a communicator, a politician, a scholar, a writer and an Africanist who was awarded the Grand Companion of the Order of the Companions of OR Tambo in 2007.

We are celebrating the life of a comrade who grew up in Botswana, schooled in Limpopo and Johannesburg and joined the ANC in 1952 at the height of the Defiance Campaign.  He has been active in the different arms of the ANC and the mass democratic movement during his entire life – in the country, in the underground, in prison and in exile.  After being cruelly arrested in 1965 in the then Rhodesia, he spent 15 years on Robben Island before being repatriated to Botswana. There he did not rest but formed and became the president of the Botswana Congress Party until 2001.

Cde Mike, you have been an indomitable man.  On behalf of the Veteran’s League, I salute you and your contribution to the struggle.  You are an inspiration to us and your sacrifices remind us of what it has taken to achieve our democratic rights in a free South Africa.

In today’s world, these rights should not be taken for granted. They can be reversed.  This is one of the threats that we face if the ANC does not win a decisive majority in the coming elections. Populist parties on the left and the reactionary parties on the right may seek to remove some of the hard gains we have fought for, including freedom of association, the rights of women to control their bodies and the rights of those who have come to our country fleeing oppressive and undemocratic regimes or failing economies. 

We are also seeing the rise of opportunistic parties – who have no real interest in serving the people but setting up political parties as a way to defend or advance their own personal interests. Unfortunately, our former President Zuma now fits into this category.  We can’t afford the coalition chaos we see in Johannesburg, where a party with only three seats holds the Mayorship.

For the ANC to win back the confidence of the people, it needs to renew itself. The Veteran’s League since our Conference in July 2023 and even before has unrelentingly called for the renewal of the ANC. 

For the ANC to renew itself, it must get rid of those members who have allegations of corruption or unethical behaviour against them.    We are working to ensure that those implicated by the Zondo, VBS and other commissions do not appear on election lists unless they have satisfactorily cleared their names. 

Secondly, the ANC must once again be a party of the people with responsive branches and branch leadership that respects their members and members of the community. As the Veteran’s League sets up its branches, we have been interacting with ANC branches encouraging door-to-door work and holding leadership to account. 

Thirdly, renewing the ANC means rebuilding a progressive and forward-thinking cadreship. We are working on a political education programme to be rolled out first in four provinces of the country. 

These steps, together with a message of hope and a realistic manifesto will give us the best opportunity to win back the confidence of society to give us another chance to govern on its behalf.

Cde Dingake, your 96th birthday coincides with the 30th anniversary of our democracy. Something we must celebrate – and we hope that you will be with us on the 27th of April to celebrate this anniversary and hopefully around about the same time, a further election victory for the ANC.



Issue by ANC Veterans League