Madiba 20

Mandela should be proud - Vavi

2010-02-11 11:54

Special Report

Obama calls Mandela
Obama calls Mandela

US President Barack Obama has called former president Nelson Mandela to mark the 20th anniversary of his release from prison.

Cape Town - Nelson Mandela could be proud of what South Africa had become two decades after his release from jail, Cosatu general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi said on Thursday.

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 mistakes.

Nelson Mandela represented not only unity, love, but also represented good values.”

March out of prison gates

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 later Thursday morning in a symbolic re-enactment of Mandela’s first steps to freedom.

Mandela himself is not attending the event, but will be at Parliament on Thursday evening to hear President Jacob Zuma’s state of the nation address.

Earlier, Mandela’s former prison comrade, Ahmed Kathrada, told reporters at the prison that the anniversary had great significance for South Africa.

“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 prison.”

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 chaos.

“And we instilled into the people of South Africa pride, one nation, one flag, one anthem. That is more important than any material gain.”

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.

Read more on:    nelson mandela  |  zwelinzima vavi

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