Matthew Goniwe - The Man
Matthew Goniwe was born in Lingelihle Township which lies on the outskirts of the town of Cradock in the Eastern Cape. He came from a large family of eight children of whom he was the youngest. He attended the St James School and Cradock Bantu Secondary School, passing his Junior Certificate examination in 1963. As a boy, Goniwe played rugby and took part in boxing for a club in the township. As well as being an active person, he also had a softer, musical side. This love of music led him to join, at an early age, the Cradock Male Voices under the leadership of his brother, Jacques (Bahman, 2003).
Goniwe decided to become a teacher and registered at the University of Fort Hare. His majors were mathematics and science. It was whilst studying at Fort Hare that Matthew became involved in student politics. Upon his graduation in 1967, he became a teacher at Sam Xhallie Junior Secondary School. Goniwe showed his commitment to education by establishing a school, Holomisa Secondary, in a church hall in the village of Mqanduli which lay about an half hour’s drive from Umtata. In 1975, Matthew Goniwe joined a political study group and was arrested in 1976, under the suppression of communism act (Bahman, 2003).
He was sentenced to four years imprisonment in Umtata. His time in jail was profitably used, by studying for a B.A. degree, majoring in political science and education. A short while after his release, Goniwe obtained a post as acting principal of a high school in Graaf-Reinet. He subsequently became principal of Sam Xhallie Junior Secondary School. He was known as a strict disciplinarian, being a stickler for punctuality. Together with a colleague, Fort Calata, he worked at restoring discipline in the school. Absenteeism too, became a thing of the past. Within a short time, order had been created within the school (Bahman, 2003).
A humanist at heart, Goniwe strove to improve the general living conditions of the surrounding community. Dismayed by the alcohol and dagga abuse that he saw going on all around him, he set about trying to put things right. Goniwe felt strongly that educators ought to stand up for what was right. They could do this by striving to instill a set of values into the future generations by being a good example (Bahman, 2003).
In 1983, the Cradock Youth Association was launched with Goniwe being elected as its first chairperson and longtime colleague Fort Calata, taking up position as its secretary. One of the first tasks that they embarked upon, concerned taking a stand against the unfair rental system being proposed by the East Cape Administration Board. A need arose for the formation of a civic association in Lingelihle to deal with the crisis. The association formed was named the Cradock Residents Association. Once again, Goniwe, because of his strong leadership abilities, was elected to the position of chairperson. Realizing that Matthew Goniwe was a strong opponent and champion of the residents, the Department of Education (DET) wishing to remove his influence from Cradock, arranged for Goniwe’s transfer to a school in Graaf-Reinet as principal. Goniwe refused the appointment. He applied to become an ordinary teacher at a school in Cradock, but this was turned down. Thereupon, Goniwe resigned from the DET (Bahman, 2003).
The committee structures that Matthew Goniwe helped to set up, were copied by other townships. In his new position of rural organiser of the UDF, he established street committees in Adelaide, Kirkwood, Noupoort and Kenton-on-Sea.All this time, Goniwe had remained politically active. He was part of the ‘Cradock Four’ together with Fort Calata, Sparrow Mkonto and Sicelo Mhlauli. The ‘Cradock Four’ were assassinated by security forces on 27June, 1985. The funeral, held in Cradock, was attended by people from all over the country. ANC, UDF, SACP, youth and civic organizations flags all flew prominently. On this same day, the State President, P.W. Botha, declared a state of emergency in the country (Bahman, 2003).
In 2003, Matthew Goniwe was post-humously awarded the Order of Luthuli in Silver.
The Matthew Goniwe School of Leadership and Governance is tasked with living up to the high ideals, civic values and strength of character, which were embodied in Matthew Goniwe – the person, the teacher, the leader.
Reference List 1.Bahman, D. (2003). Matthew Goniwe Exhibition based in the MGSLG resource centre.
Link to Nyameka Goniwe website
Link to The Cradock Four Website
Link to the South African History Archive