100 years and be­yond: the legacy lives on…

As we cel­e­brate the cen­te­nary of our beloved Madiba’s birth, we re­call the words he ut­tered in 1994: “Our def­i­ni­tion of the free­dom of the in­di­vid­ual must be in­structed by the fun­da­men­tal ob­jec­tive to re­store the hu­man dig­nity of each and every South Afri

Destiny Man - - COVER FEATURE -

These were the words of Nel­son Man­dela in his first State of the Na­tion ad­dress fol­low­ing his in­au­gu­ra­tion as SA’s first demo­crat­i­cally elected Pres­i­dent. It’s prob­a­bly the most apt and suc­cinct sum­ma­tion of the ideals for which he lived and, as he fa­mously de­clared at his trial, for which he was pre­pared to die. The cen­te­nary of his birth is an ideal op­por­tu­nity to re­flect on his legacy and the road we’ve trav­elled in achiev­ing his ideals. The oc­ca­sion calls for na­tional in­tro­spec­tion and stock-tak­ing.

One of those charged with pre­serv­ing Madiba’s legacy is Pres­i­dent Cyril Ramaphosa, who was not only Madiba’s com­rade, but also en­joyed a sig­nif­i­cant per­sonal re­la­tion­ship with him.

“Madiba was a colos­sus, one of the most gi­gan­tic fig­ures in mod­ern his­tory. He had the abil­ity to rise to the chal­lenge of lead­ing the peo­ple of our coun­try, black and white, out of the quag­mire of op­pres­sion. He had a clear vi­sion, within the frame­work of his or­gan­i­sa­tion’s strate­gic ob­jec­tives of bring­ing an end to the night­mare of apartheid. For that, Madiba will for­ever be re­mem­bered. All of us, as South Africans, are liv­ing his legacy and also liv­ing in the shadow of what he be­queathed to the peo­ple of this coun­try. We must cel­e­brate his brav­ery, self­less­ness, to­tal com­mit­ment and courage in lead­ing from the

front while tak­ing his peo­ple along with him,” re­flects Ramaphosa.

A lot has been said and writ­ten about Ramaphosa’s re­la­tion­ship with Man­dela. Leg­end has it that he was in fact Madiba’s pre­ferred choice to suc­ceed him as Pres­i­dent. It’s a sub­ject the Pres­i­dent won’t be drawn on, but – lis­ten­ing to him talk­ing about the great man – his pro­found re­spect and ad­mi­ra­tion for Man­dela are be­yond doubt. “For me, Madiba will for­ever re­main the stan­dard – the per­son I want to emulate,” he says. “He’ll for­ever be the type of per­son I as­pire to be too. I be­lieve we should all seek to be like him. How­ever, we should also ac­knowl­edge when we fall short and recog­nise when we’re not be­ing as hon­est as Madiba was. He was the great stan­dard-bearer and a role model par ex­cel­lence. We’re for­tu­nate to have had a per­son of his cal­i­bre walk­ing the streets of our cities and the paths of our vil­lages.”

“IT’S EASY TO THROW AROUND WORDS LIKE ‘SELL-OUT’ FROM THE COM­FORT OF AN ARM­CHAIR. WE HAVE TO RE­JECT SUCH RE­VI­SION­ISM.”

While Man­dela in­spired gen­er­a­tions of young ac­tivists around the world, he was al­ways quick to point out that he was a prod­uct of his own move­ment and the great lead­ers of the ANC who came be­fore him. “I see my­self in that vein,” says Ramaphosa. “I’m also a prod­uct of this long line of lead­ers. I drew in­spi­ra­tion from Madiba in want­ing to serve my coun­try at the high­est level. I want to emulate his abil­ity to in­spire and gal­vanise the na­tion. It’s by no means an easy feat, but it’s a stan­dard worth as­pir­ing to.”

For all the gains we’ve made as a demo­cratic na­tion, there re­mains a dis­pro­por­tion­ate num­ber of cit­i­zens of SA who haven’t re­ceived a cut of the post-1994 div­i­dends. For the vast ma­jor­ity, free­dom re­mains an ab­strac­tion – a dream yet to be ful­filled. The vi­o­lent protests against poor ser­vice de­liv­ery which have be­come all too com­mon around the coun­try are ev­i­dence of grow­ing anger. Ramaphosa points out that Madiba him­self ac­knowl­edged that the at­tain­ment of univer­sal fran­chise was only a launch­ing pad to the next phase of the strug­gle. “In his au­to­bi­og­ra­phy, Long Walk to Free­dom, Madiba wrote of the many hills he had to climb and how, on reach­ing the top of one of them, he couldn’t al­low him­self to linger. He couldn’t ad­mire the view of a new demo­cratic SA be­low be­cause he knew there were still many more hills left to climb,” ex­plains the Pres­i­dent. “Madiba knew that what we’d achieved in 1994 was only a break­through. It wasn’t the to­tal lib­er­a­tion and eman­ci­pa­tion of the op­pressed masses of SA. And that’s how his move­ment char­ac­terised that mo­ment. It was what’s de­scribed in mil­i­tary terms as a ‘beach­head’: we’d just landed on the beach. There’s still much work to be done as we ven­ture into the hin­ter­land of the new SA.”

The grow­ing dis­af­fec­tion among cer­tain sec­tors of our pop­u­la­tion has pro­vided fer­tile ground for a new nar­ra­tive about Man­dela’s legacy to take root – one that seeks to lay all the coun­try’s woes squarely at Man­dela’s door. Brand­ing him and his gen­er­a­tion as “sell-outs” has seem­ingly be­come ac­cept­able among the “woke” gen­er­a­tion. These lat­ter-day rev­o­lu­tion­ar­ies charge that the 1994 set­tle­ment be­trayed black peo­ple while pro­tect­ing the ill-got­ten gains of white South Africans.

“We must be wary of these arm­chair rev­o­lu­tion­ar­ies who’ve now be­come the most crit­i­cal an­a­lysts of the rev­o­lu­tion, de­spite them never hav­ing ac­tu­ally en­dured the hard­ships and dan­gers that came with wag­ing the strug­gle. It’s easy to throw around words like ‘sell-out’ from the com­fort of an arm­chair. We have to re­ject such re­vi­sion­ism. We dis­miss such ig­no­rance be­cause we have a bet­ter ap­pre­ci­a­tion of what Madiba’s strate­gic ob­jec­tive was. That strate­gic ob­jec­tive, which was deeply steeped in the na­tional demo­cratic rev­o­lu­tion, was to lead SA to free­dom and in­tro­duce democ­racy in our coun­try. Madiba de­liv­ered that,” as­serts Ramaphosa.

“Lib­er­a­tion was never meant to be a one-day event. Some peo­ple think the strug­gle came to an end on 27 April 1994. In fact, that was just the be­gin­ning of a

new one. Madiba car­ried it on through his one term as Pres­i­dent be­fore hand­ing the reins to Thabo Mbeki to take the strug­gle for­ward.”

“The cause of women’s eman­ci­pa­tion is part of our na­tional strug­gle against out­dated prac­tices and prej­u­dices. It’s a strug­gle that de­mands equal ef­fort from men and women alike.” – Nel­son Man­dela

If the quest for eco­nomic free­dom is the next phase of our strug­gle for lib­er­a­tion, the fight for the lib­er­a­tion of women cer­tainly presents the next fron­tier. This year alone, South Africans have been con­fronted with hor­ri­fy­ing in­ci­dents of gen­der-based vi­o­lence. Some of the of­fend­ers have been high-pro­file per­son­al­i­ties, in­clud­ing a for­mer Deputy Min­is­ter of Education who was con­victed of as­sault­ing three women at a night­club in Jo­han­nes­burg. It was Madiba who said: “Free­dom can’t be achieved un­less women have been eman­ci­pated from all forms of op­pres­sion.” It was a cause he cham­pi­oned – and it’s one fully em­braced by Ramaphosa too.

“I’m an ar­dent ad­vo­cate and sup­porter of women’s rights,” he says. “Women re­main a sec­tion of our pop­u­la­tion who are still op­pressed and marginalised. They still get a raw deal in the work­place, where they con­tinue to earn less than men per­form­ing the same or sim­i­lar work. They suf­fer be­cause they’re women and black women, in par­tic­u­lar, also suf­fer be­cause of their race. Our task as men is to en­sure that we pro­mote the in­ter­ests of women and fight the scourge of phys­i­cal and sexual abuse. We must pick up the flag and rally be­hind this cause. Should we fail to do this, our so­ci­ety will be im­pov­er­ished. We can only re­alise our full po­ten­tial as a na­tion when women take their place as full cit­i­zens, en­joy­ing the same rights as men.”

“In judg­ing our progress as in­di­vid­u­als, we tend to con­cen­trate on ex­ter­nal fac­tors such as so­cial po­si­tion, in­flu­ence and pop­u­lar­ity, wealth and stan­dard of education… But in­ter­nal fac­tors may be even more cru­cial in as­sess­ing one’s de­vel­op­ment as a hu­man be­ing. Hon­esty, sin­cer­ity, sim­plic­ity, hu­mil­ity, pure gen­eros­ity, ab­sence of van­ity, readi­ness to serve oth­ers – qual­i­ties which are within easy reach of every soul – are the foun­da­tion of one’s spir­i­tual life.” – Long Walk to Free­dom

Free­dom ush­ered in the prospect of a bet­ter life and in­fi­nite pos­si­bil­i­ties. Many South Africans for whom daily life had been about toil and strug­gle were sud­denly pre­sented with a re­al­is­tic shot at pros­per­ity. Now, how­ever, our glo­ri­ous vic­tory over apartheid has be­come in­creas­ingly sul­lied by cyn­i­cism. A cul­ture of ac­quis­i­tive­ness and greed is fast re­plac­ing the noble ideals of self­less­ness and ser­vice es­poused by Nel­son Man­dela. The need to feed and sus­tain a fickle life­style has spawned a de­gen­er­a­tive dis­ease that threat­ens the very fab­ric of our so­ci­ety. Cor­rup­tion is ar­guably the sin­gle big­gest threat fac­ing our na­tion since the ad­vent of democ­racy. It’s a mill­stone that weighs heav­ily around the neck of Pres­i­dent Ramaphosa, but it’s a chal­lenge he’s vowed to tackle head-on.

“Cor­rup­tion steals from our peo­ple. Cor­rup­tion mil­i­tates against their in­ter­ests. When peo­ple steal money, they’re stealing out of the mouths of our peo­ple. This is money that should be go­ing to­wards build­ing houses, hos­pi­tals and roads for our peo­ple. That’s why we must fight cor­rup­tion at every turn and rid our­selves of this dis­ease that’s spread through­out our coun­try. I am de­ter­mined that in my Pres­i­dency, I’ll fight cor­rup­tion. I’ll en­sure that those who steal are dealt with se­ri­ously and se­verely. Our peo­ple ab­hor cor­rup­tion and are fully awake to its man­i­fes­ta­tions. There­fore our task is to up­hold clean gov­er­nance and en­sure that pub­lic rep­re­sen­ta­tives, civil ser­vants and, in­deed, the pri­vate sec­tor op­er­ate free of cor­rup­tion.

“We must con­stantly as­pire to be the coun­try for which Nel­son Man­dela lived and died: a

South Africa in which there’s ac­count­abil­ity, re­spon­si­bil­ity and hon­esty, and in which there’s no room for im­punity.”

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