James Randolph Vigne was a man who gave up his comfort to help those who lacked comfort in their lives. It has been said that great achievement is usually born of great sacrifice, and is never the result of selfishness. Because of his unwavering sense of justice and his commitment towards safeguarding the dignity of his fellow human beings, James Randolph Vigne accomplished a great achievement through great sacrifice. A man such as him, coming from a good upbringing and having a stellar educational background, could have easily succumbed to selfishness and ignored the plight of others. However, due to his brave and unselfish character, he has immortalized himself as one of the gallant heroes of the struggle against the Apartheid Regime.
Though he faced vilification from those who believed in white supremacy, James Randolph Vigne never buckled under the onslaught of hatred. He stuck to his egalitarian principles, founding the African Resistance Movement (ARM), an organisation which aimed to sabotage the apartheid government. This was a bold move, because in being part of such a movement, he was putting himself and his family at risk. This was a sacrifice he was prepared to make for the sake of justice and the freedom of others. As members of SWAPO, we share very fond memories of James, who visited our offices and camps in Tanzania, Zambia and Angola. Those were dark days, fraught with great peril but the character of the man and his dedication to the cause of freedom was palpable to all of us.
His is a story that parallels the story of our own lives as former freedom fighters. Like many of us, he was forced to flee his country of birth, escaping arrest in 1964, spending 30 years abroad, campaigning against the apartheid regime in South Africa and the occupation of Namibia where he also chaired the Namibia Support Committee and became a member of the Anti-Apartheid Movement.
James Randolph Vigne’s life can be summed up by these moving words by Martin Luther King who said, “Human progress is neither automatic nor inevitable… Every step toward the goal of justice requires sacrifice, suffering, and struggle; the tireless exertions and passionate concern of dedicated individuals.”
Humanity is grateful for James Randolph Vigne, a man whose dedication and passionate concern for those who were oppressed drove him towards a life of sacrifice, suffering and struggle. His undeniable heroism has helped contribute to human progress in Namibia, South Africa and the African continent as a whole.
May the soul of this great man, this gallant son of Africa, rest in eternal peace.
This was President Hage Geingob’s message delivered recently on his behalf at the memorial service of James Randolph Vigne in London.