Reawak­en­ing to hon­our Madiba

The Star Early Edition - - LETTERS - Balt Ver­ha­gen

HOW mean­ing­fully to spend my 67 min­utes for Madiba? There is a guide­line in Onkgopotse Tabane’s ar­ti­cle “How to Build on Mixed Le­ga­cies?” (The Star, July 17): Get into a more robust mode of in­ter­ro­ga­tion of what lead­ers such as Thabo Mbeki and Nel­son Man­dela be­queathed us.

When Madiba was elected first demo­cratic pres­i­dent at the age of 78 af­ter 27 years of in­car­cer­a­tion, he had to re­unite a griev­ously di­vided na­tion into build­ing a pros­per­ous coun­try for all its peo­ple, by all its peo­ple, re­quir­ing strict non-racial­ism.

The Re­con­struc­tion and Devel­op­ment Pro­gramme (RDP) was ham­mered out in Codesa over a tur­bu­lent four years. The ne­go­ti­a­tion skills of his close aide Cyril Ramaphosa, the trade union leader steeped in real­i­ties, im­pressed. The el­derly leader re­lied on him as his fu­ture deputy.

Thabo Mbeki, re­turned from ex­ile grown up out­side the coun­try’s com­plex­i­ties and as a self-styled in­tel­lec­tual worked among fel­low-re­turnees and the busi­ness world, nei­ther of which favoured an aus­tere pe­riod of hard work for all un­der the RDP.

Mbeki was forced on Tata Madiba who must have re­alised the demise of his plans, set­tling for the role of the be­nign, rec­on­cil­ing world icon, if in­evitably with a bro­ken heart.

Mbeki quickly rera­cialised the na­tional dis­course with his “I am an African” and “two-na­tion” speeches.

Gear non-ne­go­tiably su­per­seded the RDP, plac­ing neo-lib­eral busi­ness in ef­fec­tive lead­er­ship of the econ­omy rather than as re­con­struc­tion part­ner – the very sys­tem that had sus­tained apartheid. Ex­iles found scope to “eat” and neo-cor­rup­tion be­came in­creas­ingly ev­i­dent.

Mbeki jus­ti­fies Gear by the need to re­pay the huge 1993 loan. World opin­ion had been sym­pa­thetic in 1994 and a Man­dela-Ramaphosa team could have ne­go­ti­ated a rollover dur­ing im­ple­men­tion of the RDP.

Since then, Mbeki’s idio­syn­cra­sies con­tin­ued be­ing de­struc­tive. He de­nied just about ev­ery im­por­tant na­tional is­sue.

He jus­ti­fies his Aids de­nial­ism against suc­cess­ful an­tiretro­vi­ral im­ple­men­ta­tion in neigh­bour­ing states at the time, declar­ing them “toxic”.

Se­nior med­i­cal of­fi­cers who con­tin­ued to pre­scribe ARVs were sacked. Statis­tics showed at least a third of a mil­lion deaths.

His elec­tri­cal power de­nial­ism ig­nored years of Eskom warnings, load shed­ding in 2008 herald­ing an on­go­ing power cri­sis dam­ag­ing the econ­omy.

By then ram­pant cor­rup­tion made the Zuma coup a pushover lead­ing to Zupta state cap­ture, only the lat­est and most bla­tant cap­ture since the first in 1997 un­der Gear.

How about the two pres­i­den­tial le­ga­cies? Now Mbeki jok­ingly bur­nishes his, while we do good deeds for Man­dela’s. Laud­able, but I un­der­took the sug­gested more robust at­tempt.

Many of Mbeki’s fail­ings are now as­cribed to Madiba’s pres­i­dency while those first cru­cial post-1994 years have been air­brushed away.

Man­dela’s legacy stands un­tar­nished, his de­signs for our fu­ture are still rel­e­vant.

Twenty-three years later, their im­ple­men­ta­tion will be harder, but the peo­ples’ reawak­en­ing and the po­lit­i­cal sur­vival of the key per­son of 1994 to lead it, await our col­lec­tive will. Bram­ley

THE PEO­PLE AT HEART: Nel­son Man­dela at the Man­dela Foun­da­tion in Joburg. SA’s first black pres­i­dent in 1994, died in De­cem­ber 2013.

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