‘I grew up a slave’ – Justice Dikgang Moseneke inspires with his life story at the launch of My Own Liberator
Former Deputy Chief Justice of South Africa Dikgang Moseneke was recently at Atteridgeville Community Hall in Pretoria to launch his new memoir: My Own Liberator.
I grew up a slave. I grew up oppressed.
This was the main reason he wrote the book, Moseneke told the audience, which included a few prominent politicians such as former President Thabo Mbeki and newly appointed mayors of Pretoria and Johannesburg, respectively, Solly Msimanga and Herman Mashaba.
Moseneke was arrested and sent to Robben Island at the age of 15 for activities against apartheid, and he brushed off the suggestion that he was young or immature at that age. In response, he said it was often the young who saw the cracks in an unjust system.
“At 15, I didn’t think I was young. I thought I was equal to the task,” he said.
Moseneke said his generation and comrades took the side of people who said “inkululeko ngexesha lethu – freedom in our lifetime”.
Moseneke spoke of his childhood friends and recounted the bullying he faced as a child. To win over the bullies, he sometimes shared fishcakes and cheesecakes his grandfather, a self-taught chef, brought home from work. When Moseneke had become successful, with a safe career and a comfortable life, he often wondered what his friends and erstwhile bullies had become in terms of their careers.
Moseneke relived the harsh, cruel experiences of prisoners at Robben Island – prisoners being chained in pairs and sometimes taking a fall when the other prisoner fell. But instead of being broken by these experiences, Moseneke used the time to study and better his life.
When an audience member asked the former chief justice to speak on the contentious land issue dominating headlines in South Africa at the moment, Moseneke said “restitution has been slow”. He believes that if everyone had land, there would be nobody living in shacks. For the land issue to be solved, however, he said the government itself may have to consider giving away land it occupied yet didn’t own.
Mbeki, who wrote the book’s foreword and the one to appoint Moseneke as Deputy Chief Justice during his tenure as president, said My Own liberator was the kind of story that “needed to be told in these directionless times”.
When the country needed skilled judges for the transformation of the judiciary, people like Moseneke had been more than willing to put their hands up, Mbeki said. Mbeki also took the opportunity to thank Moseneke for the service he had rendered to the country as a judge.
Lungile Sojini (@success_mail) tweeted live from the event:
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