Mandela can be proud of SA: Vavi

2010-02-11 10:23

NELSON Mandela could be proud of what South Africa had become two

decades after his release from jail, Cosatu general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi

said today.

He was speaking to journalists at Drakenstein Prison outside Paarl,

where the African National Congress is hosting a morning of celebrations to mark

the 20th anniversary of Mandela’s freedom.

“I think he should be proud generally about the progress that the

country has made,” Vavi said.

“We are a respected democracy. We have had four rounds of national

elections and local elections, largely peaceful.

“We have a Constitution celebrated everywhere else in the world as

one of the best that humankind can dream of.

“We have made progress in relation to a number of social issues:

better access to health care, better access to electricity and water, better

access to houses and all of that.”

Vavi said there were still daunting challenges, the biggest of

which was at the economic level, manifested in the unemployment crisis and the

massive inequalities in society.

The fact that 75% of unemployed people in South Africa were below

the age of 35 was a “ticking bomb”, because with those levels of desperation one

could see the other social ills that went with it, such as HIV and Aids, and

service protests.

“If there is one thing that we must do to take forward the legacy

of comrade Nelson Mandela, (it) is to make sure that the economy works for the

majority of our people,” Vavi said.

Despite all the problems, there was “every reason” for South Africa

to celebrate 20 years on.

“All citizens feel they can change the course of political life in

the country, we have a very vibrant Parliament; we’re enjoying real fruits of

freedom from that point of view.

“You have no idea of what it meant to be in the streets celebrating

Nelson Mandela on the 11th of February in 1990.

“In that very same night, despite the fact that he was freed, many

of us could not afford to go back to our homes and sleep peacefully, because of

the levels of violence sponsored by the state.

“At least that thing is a thing of the past. We can sleep

peacefully at night without fear of being petrol-bombed or killed.”

Asked whether South Africa had the political and moral leadership

for which Mandela had spent time in jail, he said he did not believe that the

country’s leadership should be judged on the basis of one person’s


“Nelson Mandela represented not only unity, love, but also

represented good values.”

Vavi was one of a host of VIPs who attended a breakfast in a

marquee set up in the prison grounds.

They are to march out of the prison gates in a symbolic

re-enactment of Mandela’s first steps to freedom.

Mandela himself is not attending the event, but will be at

Parliament this evening to hear President Jacob Zuma’s state of the nation


Earlier, Mandela’s former prison comrade, Ahmed Kathrada, told

reporters at the prison that the anniversary had great significance for South


“But we must remember that the second of February (the day of the

announcement that Mandela would be freed) and the 11th of February were part of

a process,” he said.

“These days didn’t just suddenly descend on us. It was part of a

process that Mr Mandela started from prison, while we were with him at Pollsmoor


Asked whether the South Africa of today was something he was proud

of, he said it had to be remembered that the apartheid regime had robbed people

of their dignity and humanity.

“We regained our dignity. Without dignity, all the wealth, all the

freedom is nothing.

“We also liberated our white compatriots, because they had believed

the propaganda that comes a black president this country will be plunged into


“And we instilled into the people of South Africa pride, one

nation, one flag, one anthem. That is more important than any material


Kathrada declined to comment on the controversy over Zuma’s love

child, saying he was an “ordinary ANC branch member” and kept his opinions on

such issues to himself.

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