The Claremont Main Road Masjid (CMRM) joins our fellow compatriots in South Africa and social justice activists in many other parts of the world in mourning the death of Dr. Neville Alexander. We extend our sincere condolences to his family and friends.
Neville Alexander passed away in Cape Town on Monday 27 August, 2012 at the age of 75. Neville was an icon of the anti-apartheid struggle, an activist, teacher and an organic intellectual who never flinched nor tired from the struggle to transform South Africa’s political economy from a system of exploitation and racism to that of compassionate sharing, solidarity and non-racialism.
CMRM expresses its gratitude for the remarkable contribution of Neville Alexander to the struggles of the oppressed and exploited masses for a life of dignity and equality. He believed, as we too testify and bear witness, that there is only ONE race and that is the Human Race. He was an exemplary role model for us all and his legacy and revolutionary spirit will live on through the many lives he has touched.
Neville’s revolutionary ideas inspired many of us at the Claremont Main Road Masjid. Some of our congregants will forever be grateful to Neville for having contributed to their early educational development at Livingstone High School in the early sixties. Others were inspired by the robust intellectual debates he convened at the South African Committee for Higher Education (SACHED) in the late seventies and early eighties and still others from his mentorship at Khanya College in the mid-to-late eighties and at the Project for the Study of Alternative Education in South Africa (PRAESA), at the University of Cape Town in the nineties.
Some of Neville’s insightful critiques found their way into the sermons delivered at CMRM. For example, in response to the endemic problem of crime and lack of social responsibility in our society, we quoted Neville’s view on the contribution of illiteracy to these social ills: “…even though the elites behave as though we are living in a highly literate society, most of our people do not read. This is a lamentable but stubborn fact of contemporary South African life. As a result, they are not informed and, therefore, are unable to perform their duties as citizens of a democratic polity.”
On a more sobering note, Neville’s ominous warning in an article he published in The Cape Argus of May 26, 2008 was quoted in a CMRM sermon on Xenophobia. Neville warned that the xenophobic attacks we were witnessing against foreign nationals from neighbouring African countries “can easily be directed against people of Indian origin, so-called "coloured" people, "white" people and ultimately- against people labelled Zulu, Xhosa, Tswana, Sotho, etc. Things can fall apart very quickly. Our entire socio-historical fabric can unravel within a few weeks: it took less than 100 days in Rwanda!” To avert such a depressing scenario Neville made a passionate call on all South Africans to “inspan every single resource at our disposal, material, intellectual and cultural, in order to ensure that a genocidal culture does not become established on South African soil.”
CMRM is privileged to have recently become involved in one of the pioneering projects that Neville initiated at PRAESA, namely, the Vulindlela Reading Club in Langa. The reading clubs embody Neville’s vision of social transformation through reading and community literacy. CMRM hopes to continue our collaboration with PRAESA by training some of our congregants to become community literacy facilitators.
In looking to the future, CMRM endeavours to continue to engage with one of the most incisive challenges that Neville has put to all socially responsible citizens and social justice activists, which is to:…find our way back to the passion and the values of freedom, equality and solidarity that drove us to struggle against the apartheid system. We have to get back to the modesty and the generosity of spirit that inspired most of us then. We have to rebuild our neighbourhoods on the basis of mutual trust and mutual aid, sharing our resources and our skills, by gradually establishing cooperative forms of production, distribution and exchange until these reach all levels of the economy. (South Africa Today - The Moral Responsibility of Intellectuals, Lecture at 10th Anniversary of Foundation for Human Rights, November 2006).
From God We Come and to God is our Return.
Hamba Kahle Neville Alexander!