We need to talk as a nation - Mbeki

2017-05-05 18:54
Thabo Mbeki. (Tshidi Madia, News24)

Thabo Mbeki. (Tshidi Madia, News24)

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Johannesburg - Three former heads of state have called on South Africans to stand up and participate in a national dialogue on the current state of the country and in seeking solutions to some of South Africa's challenges.

Thabo Mbeki, Kgalema Motlanthe and FW De Klerk's foundations along with five others launched the National Foundation Dialogue Initiative in Johannesburg on Friday, with all three leaders addressing guests on the project and their hopes for what it would achieve.

"South Africa is in the grip of the most serious challenges that have confronted it since the establishment of our non-racial constitutional democracy 23 years ago," said De Klerk.

His views were shared by Mbeki who said issues over the past three years confirmed the urgency of the dialogue which he insisted would give a voice to the people.

The second president of a democratic SA said he supported the initiative on that basis, telling those in the room that the independent voice of ordinary people were excluded from dialogue and only the elite were heard.

Current issues

In responding to questions from the floor, Mbeki said the dialogue had to also deal with current issues in the country and not to run away from any topic.

"Nothing is off the agenda. As a nation we must say where were we yesterday, where are we today with regard to everything and what must we do," he said.

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There was consensus on the economy of the country being one of the key topics which South Africans needed to debate.

Mbeki said the Constitution of the country also needed to take centre stage, explaining that it was the people who decided that South Africa should be a constitutional democracy.

"It means that anybody or [any] institution which acts in violation of any provisions of the Constitution is repudiating the will of the people," Mbeki said.

Motlanthe, the third former president to speak, cautioned against leaders who became averse to criticism and saw themselves exempted from the norms and standards they opposed onto others in a society.

"Such aberrations as taking authority as truth only happens when the country's citizens withdraw to themselves without caring to listen to the harm of daily politics," said Motlanthe.

The consequences of having none [national dialogue] are too ghastly to contemplate in a post-apartheid, post-colonial setting, he added.

Disruption

Members of the Economic Freedom Fighters attempted to disrupt the event, with some arriving just before lunch time. They said they were opposed to De Klerk's involvement in the dialogue.

Earlier, party leader Julius Malema hit out at Motlanthe and Mbeki for including the apartheid era president in the initiative.

Malema, who was appearing in the New Castle Magistrate's court said the two should not share a stage with an "apartheid criminal".

"By recognising De Klerk, Mbeki and Motlanthe made a mistake that will lead to white racists thinking they still have a place in SA," he said.

The initiative, two years in the making, was announced in 2016 and is now expected to go to provinces where the NFDI seeks to engage with South Africans about challenges facing the country.

Read more on:    anc  |  eff  |  kgalema motlanthe  |  fw de klerk  |  thabo mbeki  |  politics

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