MEC Nontobeko Vilakazi speech at honour ceremony for exceptional progress: 2 February2023


Ladies and gentlemen

I want to start of by firstly greeting our very special guest and simultaneously introduce you to the future of South Africa.

We have come here to celebrate not only two exemplary students, but also to pay tribute to 2 fighters, inspirations and as I said introduce you to our future.

Ladies and gentlemen, let us rise as I present to you the inspirational Ms Realeboga Jinniffer Difolokwe and Ms Motshidisi Granny Moriri who despite suffering immense trauma perservered and can today stand with us as being top achievers of the class of 2022.  Remember the names because you will hear of them in the future.

These remarkable and brave young ladies stand here today I want to believe not as  victims, but as  survivors.

Ladies and gentlemen, taking survivors’ needs into account is crucial to supporting them mentally and emotionally. Research shows that survivors need to be validated, regain agency, and have their confidentiality respected. Empowerment is important in supporting survivors who often feel unsure about the situation and ask questions like: “Why me?” “Was it something I did?”
And that is why we are here today to assure you that it was not your fault and that we are here for you and all the other girls and women who had to endure this horrendous ordeal.
I cannot fathom what it all must feel like to bear the brunt of such enmity and violence. The chronic pain it all manufactures must be more than your heart can handle, the rage it generates within you, immeasurable.
I imagine it all causes you to silently relive the nightmares over and over again—and I wanted you to know that I’m so very sorry.

I’m sorry for the first time you had your story so terribly altered by another human being—and equally sorry for the countless times others have knowingly or unknowingly perpetuated that moment after the fact; for the way we have further preserved your pain and prolonged your grief.

I know that you alone have specific proximity to this pain. I know there isn’t anything I or anyone can do from a distance to step into that pain and sit there alongside you in it—though I so wish I could.

Survivors may not report their attack to the police because that can be a process of re-traumatization. Being questioned about the event and having to re-live it, again and again, is terrifying. Not reporting also occurs for historical reasons, which make individuals uncomfortable interacting with a hospital or the police. I do however encourage everyone who has suffered this trauma to report it. We will as far as we can give our all in ensuring that justice is done and that victims receive support and comfort.
Research indicates that environmental factors, such as having a prior relationship with the assailant, are the main reasons for not reporting assaults. Also, survivors are less willing to report due to issues that may arise from coming forward. These issues include others not believing their story, the stigma surrounding the use of alcohol or drugs, and fear of disrupting family dynamics upon disclosure of a relative as the offender. I cannot express this enough, but irrespective how close you are to someone- no one has the right to violate you. No one has the power to take from you that which you are not willing to share. And no one should be so entitled that they do as they please and get away with it. No one.
I know there’s little I or anyone can say to fully lift the weight from your shoulders; to replace the things you’ve lost, to rewrite the sickening plot twist you’ve had to live through—but I hope these words lighten the load enough today for you to keep going.

I hope they send a sliver of light to you there in the darkness of sadness
or silence, and that it makes a difference.

I hope you find in these words, something that feels like love—and that you rest in it.

I want to assure you that what you say has power. Your words can be a tombstone or a stepping stone, they can bury you or lift you. And by going back to school determined to finish is a clear demonstration that you have made that choice not to be buried, but to lift yourselves and serve as living testimony that you will not be broken, beaten are be damned.
You present hope to others and your defiance to being victims is empowering and present. You serve as testimony that when you set you mind to it, when you dream it, you most certainly can achieve it.  And I want to put this challenge to every young person out there who is in the presence of my voice and beyond. What stops you from being the best version of yourself?
We have become so complacent and too comfortable presenting excuses for failures or less than satisfactory performance or achievements. Poverty is something that we can overcome with quality education and a positive attitude. Drugs is something we got ourselves into and we can get ourselves out of it. You are not alone. We are here. We are here to serve because we care. Loadshedding, Covid and all other factors presented as motivation for underperformance are but mere excuses. Here present stand two young women who defied all the odds and made it to the top. And they will continue to rise because they do not suffer from victim syndrome. They are visionaries, survivors and the future we need.
In closing I want the young ladies we came to honour, and all others to reach deep inside you and say with the firm believe that "I can be changed by what happens to me, but I refuse to be reduced by it. "I am not what happened to me. I am what I choose to become."
I want to leave you with the assurance that something will grow from all you are going through. And it will be you.

Thank you


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