Reconciliation did not die with Madiba, says Thabo Mbeki

2013-12-12 16:58

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Former president Thabo Mbeki says the death of Nelson Mandela does not spell the end of national reconciliation.

Speaking at a ceremony dedicated to Mandela’s memory at the Calvary Methodist Church in Midrand last night, Mbeki said he was worried about a story he had been hearing that some South Africans were asking what would happen to them now that Mandela had passed away.

“This has come across to some people as a Mandela project. The matter of the unity of our people, both black and white, our reconciliation, our capacity to build a new future together despite what happened in the past – that that vision belonged only to Nelson Mandela and when he departs this vision will depart with him.

“When I hear this story, I say to myself it’s clear there’s some explanation that needs to be made. It is even necessary to say to the people who are worried, who are concerned and panicking, it is necessary to say to them, ‘but the rest of us are here’.

“The rest of us surely are not going to allow that something disastrous happens to other South Africans because Madiba has died,” Mbeki said.

He said Madiba was an “outstanding representative” of a vision of reconciliation, which had been advanced by past liberation struggle leaders such as Albert Luthuli. That is what should be taught about Mandela, he said, who represented “an equally outstanding generation”.

Mbeki quoted a letter Luthuli wrote to then Prime Minister JG Strijdom in 1958 calling for a negotiated settlement as an example of this:

“... Never has my congress preached hatred of any racial group in the country. On the contrary, it has stretched out its hand of friendship to South Africans of all races, emphasising that there is sufficient room for all of us in this beautiful country in which we can and must live in peace and friendship.

“I would, for emphasis, reiterate that it is our ardent desire in congress to see human conduct and relations motivated by an overriding passion for peace and friendship in South Africa and the world in general. And so we would be as strongly opposed to black domination or any other kind of domination from whatever source as we are uncompromisingly opposed to white domination. We regard domination, exploitation and racialism as arch-enemies of mankind...”

Mbeki said it was wrong to say this vision Luthuli outlined belonged only to Mandela, and for anyone to be fearful in 2013.

He lauded Mandela and his generation for calling for freedom in their lifetime and fighting to achieve that goal. He said South Africans owed this generation for all the positive outcomes it had achieved to end oppression.

More still needed to be done to achieve reconciliation, as well as to reduce poverty in South Africa.

“It can’t be that national reconciliation consists in our ability to drink tea together,” he said

Mbeki lamented the quality of leadership in South Africa, saying that the country needed to raise the bar to deal with its complex problems.

When Mbeki finished his speech, the mourners sang, “Thabo Mbeki, Buya Thabo” (Thabo Mbeki, come back Thabo).

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