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Work starts on revamping struggle icon’s law office

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The law office was declared a heritage site in 2005 but has been continuously vandalised over the years

REVAMP: To celebrate Human Rights Day, the MEC for Sport, Arts and Culture, Bongiwe Mbinqo-Gigaba, launched the revamping of Robert Sobukwes former law office at the Mayibuye Precinct in Galeshewe yesterday. Picture: Soraya Crowie

THE FIRST phase of the renovations to the former law office of the late struggle stalwart Robert Sobukwe, at the Mayibuye Precinct in Galeshewe, was unveiled during a Human Rights Day commemoration in Kimberley yesterday.

The law office was declared a heritage site in 2005 but has been continuously vandalised over the years.

The Northern Cape Department of Sport, Arts and Culture indicated that the entire building will be restored and will also have security on site.

The MEC for Sport, Arts and Culture, Bongiwe Mbinqo-Gigaba, said that the dilapidated state of the building called for an intervention from local government.

“During the inaugural memorial lecture of Robert Sobukwe on February 27, 2018, I indicated that, as government, we were disappointed at the state of the office. We are here to restore and rectify our embarrassment and honour Robert Mangaliso Sobukwe with the dignity he deserves,” she said.

Mbinqo-Gigaba added that Human Rights Day is commemorated to honour and pay tribute to those who were killed during the Sharpeville massacre on March 21, 1960.

“The massacres in Sharpeville continue to serve as a historical reminder to all of us to make efforts towards protecting human rights and human dignity. Human Rights Day seeks to educate all South Africans about their human rights and obligations and make citizens aware of government services and programmes which will give effect to ensuring that their human rights become a lived reality,” she said.

Mbinqo-Gigaba said that Sobukwe played a vital role in the fight for basic human rights during the apartheid era.

“This year also marks the 40th anniversary since the passing of a giant and defender of human rights. Robert Sobukwe was imprisoned at Robben Island, where he was subjected to solitary confinement and inhumane treatment. He was later banished to Kimberley in 1969 by the apartheid government. He opened law offices in Galeshewe where he played an integral part in defending the rights of many oppressed South Africans. His office space has deteriorated since his passing, while his house is occupied by a family that moved in shortly after his death.”

She said that another way that Kimberley will keep Sobukwe’s legacy alive is by renaming the city’s hospital.

“In her State of the Province address, Premier Sylvia Lucas indicated that this year Kimberley Hospital will be renamed after Robert Mangaliso Sobukwe.”

Mbinqo-Gigaba further urged residents to put a stop to the vandalisation of Sobukwe’s former office.

“Let us ensure that we retain the structure in the pristine condition which we envisage working towards, so that we can enjoy the collective benefits of the legacy of Robert Sobukwe. The office belongs to all of us. It is therefore our joint and collective responsibility to ensure it remains protected and far divorced from vandalism and theft.

“There is no obvious political explanation to vandalise this building other than as an expression of anxious masculinity and wanting to prove a point to your peers.

“The office is part of our heritage and our heritage is everything that we inherit from families and our society. It is our very heritage that gives us our sense of identity and belonging. We must stand up for what is ours and report any damages to the local authorities.”

The MEC of Agriculture, Norman Shushu, called on the community to take ownership and spread awareness about the offices.

“These offices and precinct must be a living place. It must not just be a mere heritage site. This area must be brought to life the same way that Vilakazi Street in Soweto is alive. There must be activities around the precinct. It must reflect the struggle and resistance against apartheid.

“The people need to bring it to life and take ownership of the offices,” said Shushu.