'Mandela and Gandhi were visionary men of their time' – Ramaphosa in India

2019-01-26 08:49
People walk in front of grafitti depicting civil rights leaders Nelson Mandela and Gandhi in the Babilonia favela in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.  (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)

People walk in front of grafitti depicting civil rights leaders Nelson Mandela and Gandhi in the Babilonia favela in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)

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President Cyril Ramaphosa has delivered the inaugural IBSA Gandhi Mandela Memorial lecture in honour of the two liberation giants and founding fathers of both India and his home country.

This formed part of his first state visit to India where he and his wife, Dr Tshepo Motsepe, also paid their respects to Mahatma Gandhi, who has been described as the founding father of India and celebrated for his nonviolent civil disobedience approach to oppressors.

Mandela, of course, is South Africa’s own liberation hero, who spent 27 years in jail for his political beliefs and went on to charm the world with his message of reconciliation after his release.

Mandela would have turned 100 years in 2018, while Gandhi’s 150th anniversary was marked in October 2018.

While Ramaphosa focused his address at the Leila Hotel in New Delhi on the paths towards democracy for both South Africa and India, the similarities between the two countries and the two leaders who had a greatly influenced how the two developed.

Ghandi controversy 

However, without even pausing to explain why Gandhi was seen as controversial by many on the African continent, Ramaphosa sought to explain the difficulty of legacy and playing politics instead.

He said both Gandhi and Madiba, as Mandela was fondly known, entered the political arena at a time very different from today.

"The issues they advocated for and how they articulated them; the political positions they took and the political decisions they made – will always be subject to interpretation and re-interpretation," he said.

Gandhi has been accused of being racist and believing Indians were superior to their black counterparts, all the while fighting for whites to recognise Indians as equals. This view has resulted in statues of Gandhi either being removed or defaced in a number of African countries.

Ramaphosa, who is often accused of failing to pick a side on many issues or opting for a more diplomatic stance, constantly reminded the room that both Gandhi and Madiba were men of their times, at the same time crediting them with being ahead of their time and being visionaries.

"Those of us who have chosen a life of politics, will know too well that the actions we undertake at a particular time will by necessity be held up to public scrutiny by future generations," said Ramaphosa.

He said the two leaders wanted to see the world free of racial domination.

South Africa and India will soon be launching a skills development project, named after their two formative leaders

Read more on:    state visit  |  mandela  |  cyril rama­phosa  |  india
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