There are those who live to be successful and make a lot of money, and there are those who spend their lives fighting for social justice.
The ambassador of the Western Sahara, Radhi Sghaiar Bachir, was one of the revolutionaries who lived for his cause, and it was with great sorrow that the diplomatic corps members bade him farewell on Monday after he died last week having suffered a brief illness.
“We tend to forget the good causes. We tend to forget those who suffer under oppression. Bachir made sure we didn’t forget,” the minister for International Relations Naledi Pandor told mourners at the memorial service at the Department of International Relations and Co-operation.
Pandor recounted how Bachir had alerted her recently to the fact that the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR) was not being invited to meetings that the rest of the continent were being invited to. She made it clear to the hosts of a recent conference that if SADR was not invited then South Africa would not attend. As a result, she ensured SADR received an invitation to attend a meeting in Yokohama, Japan.
Pandor lamented the fact that Bachir spent his last days with his family in the Tindouf camps in the desert, calling it an indictment on all of us that a nation was living in camps.
“We must stand firm with SADR at a time when solidarity is waning on the continent. We need to act on UN resolutions as this occupation is illegal and the people must exercise their right to self-determination,” she said.
“The AU must determine a date for the referendum as Western Sahara is the last territory on the continent under colonial rule.
“The status quo cannot be allowed to continue. As Africans, we reject colonialism and we need to act to make sure it doesn’t continue.”
Advocate Jose Nasciemento praised Bachir for having chosen the struggle over materialistic success.
“He was a great man who lived his cause. Despite being a university graduate in mathematics who spoke many languages fluently, Bachir chose the struggle, and did so with such humility,” Nasciemento said.
Bachir was one of the founding members of the Sahrawi Liberation Movement, and was deployed as a diplomat representing his people in numerous capitals including Paris, New York, Washington and Berlin.
Long-time friend and Frelimo leader, Yvette Ilias, remembered how Bachir took part in meetings at the UN in New York in the 1970s on the liberation of the continent.
Retired General Keith Mokoape, who is the Convenor of Friends of Western Sahara, recalled how he had accompanied Oliver Tambo with five other MK commanders to the Tindouf camps during the Struggle.
Deployed alongside the Polisario Front fighters, they captured Moroccan soldiers and their weapons, which were marked “Made in South Africa”.
Despite the fact that a UN resolution in 1983 had declared apartheid a crime against humanity, and an arms embargo was imposed on South Africa, Morocco continued to import weapons from apartheid South Africa.
PW Botha was also welcomed more than twice to the Kingdom of Morocco. The Polisario Front donated the weapons it captured to Swapo and the ANC.