Reawakening to honour Madiba
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Gear non-negotiably superseded the RDP, placing neo-liberal business in effective leadership of the economy rather than as reconstruction partner – the very system that had sustained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.