George Bizos: Who do our leaders think they are kidding?

2013-12-13 08:36

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Human rights lawyer and struggle stalwart George Bizos has castigated South African leaders for claiming to be “following in Nelson Mandela’s footsteps”.

“As soon as (Mandela) was elected president, he announced one-third of his salary would be paid over for the building of a school.

“Who do our leaders think they are fooling when they tell us they are following in the footsteps of Nelson Mandela?” Bizos said.

Bizos’ question was greeted with thunderous applause by academics, alumni and students who packed the Wits Great Hall’s auditorium for a memorial service held in Madiba’s honour last night.

Mandela was a student at the university for six years in the 1940s but left without completing his law degree.

The memorial service featured a conversation with struggle stalwart Dr Ahmed Kathrada and Bizos, facilitated by Wits chancellor and deputy chief justice Dikgang Moseneke.

Responding to a question about where South Africa found itself as a nation, Bizos said we have “failed to live up to the vision of Nelson Mandela who yearned for an egalitarian society in which there would be no poverty, (in which there would be) equality of opportunity and everything that he stood for.

“We have failed materially in many of these respects. The question I’m asking is what will we do about that?”

Asked the same question, Kathrada said he would be “very worried if there was a change in the policy of nonracialism and nonsexism ... If there was a change in that I’d be worried.

“The ANC, in conference after conference, in its constitution and in the constitution of the country, has reaffirmed the policy of a nonracial society ... so we will miss him, but I’m sure the policy for which he sacrificed himself remains.”

A closing remark by Moseneke was also cheered when he said South Africa needed to continue to establish those democratic institutions that would see the goals of the struggle realised.

“We need a public protector,” said Moseneke, who was then interrupted by the applause of the crowd.

Moseneke went on to say that South Africa also needed a good Parliament with all the powers of oversight, good security forces, good political parties with good leaders and a good treasury.

The memorial also included a moving performance by songstress Lira.

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