27th April 2021
Open letter to Madiba
I can still see that broad smile on your face as you were about to cast your first ballot after waiting in the queue in our first democratic elections on 27th April 1994. That moment captured the hopes of millions in South Africa and around the world who had sacrificed life and limb for our freedom and for your release from 27 years of incarceration. It was symbolic of the rebirth of our nation disenfranchised by three and half centuries of colonial occupation and decades of apartheid.
Our journey has not been an easy one but under your leadership we chose nation building, national reconciliation and social cohesion and we stepped away from the brinkmanship of civil war and chaos that some extreme elements on both sides of the political spectrum were gleefully intent on. How fortunate we were that you remained calm and yet decisive in leadership and your faith in the collective wisdom to do what is right for South Africa and her people remained unshakable.
How odd it is that we have nearly come full circle. The corruption of the apartheid regime that you so vehemently decried has now insipidly entered our ranks and the threat of factionalism looms large. The rumblings from KwaZulu Natal caused consternation then and seems to be brewing yet again. Despite that and other maschinations we forged ahead and despite many obstacles we made significant progress in many areas.
Yes we have accomplished a great deal; 7 million new houses built, 12 million school children are provided with a nutritious meal each day, 17 million South Africans receive a monthly grant amongst others, and our spend on the apex priorities of education and primary health care has quantum leaped. The education budget alone has grown from R93 billion in the last apartheid budget in 1993 to well over R300 billion and we have reached significant milestones although we still have a long way to go.
One of the most pressing issues that confronted us at the dawn of democracy was and remains the land question. For the majority of our people it was at the very root of our loss of dignity and alienation in the land of our forefathers. You chose the reconcilatory approach and harboured great faith in the good will of the white farmers and landowners to be willing and eager participants in the willing buyer willing seller paradigm. It was fraught with risk as they dug in their heels as they still do now. Another failed experiment.
It seems that whatever argument we advance be it unlocking the economic potential of South Africa’s surplus productive land or the looming chaos of rising land hunger and illegal occupations even the reality of unemployment, hunger, poverty and suffering faced by the majority seems to count very little in the scales of those hanging on to the land. Their ubiquitous arguments centre on the primacy of property rights to attract foreign investment and guarantee stability. It escapes them that the property rights that they so ardently advocate is also claimed by the victims of the 1913 SA Natives Land Act and moreso by those who have first nation status and whose legitimate claims predate 1652.
Quo vadis? How shall we find each other again in a way that restores land justice, addresses the hunger, poverty and unemployment that stares us in the face and yet still advances the project of nation building, national reconciliation and social cohesion. You argued that negotiation necessitates compromise and negotiation can never harbour the expectation of ending up with your position fully intact. Something must give and all patriotic South Africans must and will dig deep in search of solutions. What would Madiba do?
The suffering children and mothers of Palestine, Western Sahara, Kashmir, Myanmar, Syria, Yemen and Northern Mozambique still call for justice in your name. How long will their cries fall on deaf ears. Our freedom has always been tied inextricably to the cause of international human solidarity and building a better and just world. We shall never abandon your legacy of fighting for the voiceless and suffering masses all over the world.
Finally, you demonstrated your leadership in the face of the HIV/AIDS crisis that gripped our nation and led to the loss of your son and my father Makgatho Lewanika Mandela and thousands of others. Today, under the leadership of President Cyril Ramaphosa the nation gathers for family time even as many endure the loss of loved ones and we hang on in the hope of overcoming the ravages of the Covid 19 pandemic. The devastation, loss of lives and fear that has gripped the world still looms large. From whence will the help come?
In those moments that we rest for a while upon the hilltop reflecting on the deep valleys and ravines that we have traversed; I hear your calming voice that there are yet many more mountains to climb and many a river to cross and the everlooming presence of threats, dangers and precipices that may derail us. Yet we should never lose hope nor ever give up for the sacrifices of those who have gone before us still nourish our tree of freedom. We have much to do for with freedom comes immense responsibilities. The glitter of hope and expectation of freedom and a better tomorrow still glistens in the eyes of our children. We dare not fail them for in doing so we would fail you.
Rest in peace and in the knowledge that the struggle continues and we shall not falter nor shall we rest.
Happy Freedom Day
Royal House of Mandela
P.O. Box 126
Eastern Cape Province
South Africa 🇿🇦