Tribute to His Excellency, Former President of the Republic of South Africa, Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela, Architect of the Free and Democratic South Africa1893 16 Jan, 2014
Mr. Nagamootoo: I know that we are fast approaching the midnight hour and we did have an opportunity in this House to initially pay our tribute and respect to the late Nelson Mandela, former President of the Republic of South Africa.
I know the temptation is for us to delve into history, to have a recitation of historical facts and events but I believe that now that Mandela has been put to rest in his native village we have to, if we want, respect him and his memory, see how we can situate ourselves in his life and how we can redefine or define ourselves in his example. We can say all of the fine things about Mandela, as undoubtedly one his own followers President Zuma had tried to do at his funeral and he was booed by a section of his own people because the question, which is before and was before the people of South Africa, was whether those who claim to have been lineal descendants of the struggle of Mandela had lived up to the expectations of the said Mandela.
Sometime ago, while he was still General Secretary of the People’s Progressive Party (PPP), Mr. Donald Ramotar, now President, I had sent him an article and I pointed out the reason I was sending him that article, that captioned, “South Africa had reached its tipping point”, that was some years ago, was because Mandela had demitted office and there was a fear that there was no moral example by which the leaders, who succeeded him, would move by and that South Africa was engulfed in official corruption of all sorts. Poverty was pervasive, the disease of AIDS was widespread and there was, at that time, no notion as to how it could be curbed. The inequities and inequalities, which Mandela had fought against, persisted long after the ANC had come to power and therefore, if we were to talk about Mandela, only talk about him, we would fail him. We have to do Mandela and that is what I said in the tribute I had given on the last occasion.
I had come to see the face of South Africa long before I have read, perhaps, of the legendary Mandela way back in 1967. When I was in Europe it was not Africans who I had met, which is part of the historical interest that produced Mandela to be the Mandela we pay tribute to this evening. It was the face of Indian, Indo-Africans. First time I met Aziz Pahad who was to become Minister of Education in the first Cabinet after apartheid was dismantled and served under Mandela and Aziz Pahad, who under Mandela’s successor, Mbeki, became his Minister of Information and Head of the Presidential Secretariat. He liberally ran the Office of the President.
After Mandela and people such as Mohammed Musa, who became ambassador to Egypt subsequently and then he became a junior Minister of Education in South Africa,... to show that primarily the struggle on South Africa had not, in fact, been what we tried to make it out to be, an African struggle, meaning a black struggle. It has always been a multiracial struggle even in its antecedent that we speak about the struggle about Gandhi in South Africa against oppression, so oppression does not peculiarly carry an ethnic face.
Later, the Hon. Clement Rohee and I, when we were in Ethiopia in Africa, in 1978, participated in a conference for the liberation of southern Africa where all the more prominent leaders of the revolutionary movement had attended and it was amazing on that occasion that I met Joe Slovo. Joe Slovo, many did not know, at that time, was the founder, the leader and the commander of Umkhonto we Sizwe, the liberation army of the South African people. Joe Slovo was white; Joe Slovo was Jewish; Joe Slovo’s antecedent was in Ukraine. Here was Mandela working side by side... Of course, Mandela, who was the commander of the guerrilla movement of the Underground Resistance Movement, was working with a white commander, so that what happened in 1994 did not come as what is being made out in the world that Mandela suddenly seized on the moment into multiracialism.
Multiracialism was part of that struggle against apartheid, and how multiracial are we? How multiracial do we want our country to be?
When Mandela formed his government in 1994 he made Mangosuthu Buthelezi his Minister of Home Affairs who fought against him and who was the tribal leader. He was not fighting apartheid as a system, he was fighting tribalism as a social disease, almost, in the country of his birth. He incorporated Buthelezi into his Cabinet as he was to bring in Mr. de Klerk from the National Party, white minority.
There it was, in this combination, the evolution of the struggle into the fruit of struggle, which was the deliberation of all the people of South Africa, was able to be seen. If we want to talk about Nelson Mandela we have to begin to ask ourselves whether we are cable of doing Mandela, of building a multiracial government, a multiracial society that is based generally on all. It is not to fight racism and tribalism and apartheid but to be able to go after the root causes of all these problems, the inequality of wealth, the need to redistribute the wealth of the societies. Those are notions; those are values that we have to deal with in talking about Mandela.
He was not just a person, he was a concatenation of values and unless we take grip of those values a recitation of history would not help us here, who know more about what happened in the past. That is not going to help us. It is those who know where we ought to go or what we ought to be that will make us good followers of Mandela.
I want to say this because I know that many people felt that when Chris Hani was assassinated the reason was to remove the credible choice of an authentic South Africa for a good succession, a value succession. Those who claim to be Mandela if they had a chance they will kill the succession that will make our country multiracial and make our country united. There are things which had happened in South Africa. As my friend is heckling me, I will let him know that things does not happen in South Africa by road, there were those who were identified for elimination because of what they felt they were capable of doing for South Africa in post Mandela period. As I say this, I want to make two points because we do not seem to grapple the essence of the South Africa that Mandela set out to reconstruct.
One, with regard to Joe Slovo, whom I have mentioned and had the honour of meeting, there was something that genuine revolutionaries will always embraced but perhaps not accept. His writings had become very critical in a historical period in Guyana when we had to decide whether we want to initiate talks with Burnham and the People’s National Congress to form a government of national unity. He had become one of the key influences in all of our discussions, those who were genuine revolutionaries. Joe Slovo said that people had asked him the question whether the arms struggle would have succeeded in unseating the apartheid regime and he said his answers have always been no. When asked him: Why did you undertake arms struggle in South Africa and violence as a means to undermine the government? He said that they were shooting their way hopefully to the negotiating table. They were trying to use revolutionary violence as a means of forcing the Government of South Africa to sit down and talk to South African revolutionary, to the ANC. That was why.
I want to say this: For those of us who had been through revolutionary life for 50 years and more, that has been a choice. Perhaps it is not a clear choice but a choice available in Guyana. If we do not learn from the South African experience that we could talk without having to fight our way to the negotiating table, we are missing a valuable chance.
In a society, such as Guyana, we need not descend into violence in order to tell us that we can talk, we could negotiate and we could have a settlement through peaceful means. We need the Mandela example because this is a fractured society; this is an ethnically divided society; this is, from an economic point of view, a polarised society. If we do not see that then we are pulling a wool over our eyes and we are just wantonly mentioning the name of Mandela because it may help us to win some sympathy among people, that at least we embraced someone of worth.
I speak with passion on this issue. It is not that I want to speak at length but I believe that we will be doing the memories of Mandela a great disservice if we do not avoid the pitfalls that would have become the outcome in South Africa if there was a full-fledged war. Those we had taken while we wanted to decide whether or not to talk to the PNC in the 1980s. There were talks earlier, but some of us had said that we have to talk before we end up in another direction that would have led in a worst social catastrophe in Guyana. This first of the point
I read with interest a statement made by the PPP General Secretary, again I refer to the Hon. Rohee, in saying that perhaps the time is not too late for us to think about a state of national democracy. I believe that those are very guided words because those were words also that South African revolutionary were talking about, not to win power for a particular race, but it is to be able to have a state of national democracy where all classes, all strata, all races are involved in the management of the society. It will be a superior state, rather to have a minority rule on a big minority of either African or either Indian or even Amerindian or any other race. We are all minorities here in this country and therefore one needs not only to talk about a state of national democracy but one needs to fundamentally define it and to approach it from a way that we could begin to have the type negotiation that will prevent this country from going into a pitfall of social negativity and violence because we can see with the example of South Africa that it worked.
Also I need to mention of another aspect. I refer to it as the tipping point. When I refer to the tipping point in South Africa... Elections are coming in a short while in South Africa and even though these elections will be held under the shadows of the mighty Nelson Mandela we would see how the ANC would fear in these elections. We would know whether the ANC had, in fact, been doing what Mandela set out to do to, to deal with the poverty in the society, to deal with the corruption that is now becoming pervasive and to deal with the social issues. I can only mention what had happened during the Mbeki’s term. He was lineal descendant of Mandela. His father and Mandela were in jail together, perhaps for all the periods. He was a very brilliant man, but there was a big scandal, a scandal that shook the government of South Africa after Mandela demitted office and Mbeki took over. It was a scandal about the billion dollars purchased of arms from Italy. For those of us who want to study history must know that even the man I met as a friend, I invited him here, Mr. Essop Pahad had to resign from the Office of the President because there was a notion that the scandal was being covered up. It had rocked the South African Government in such a way that afterwards, with that scandal and the confusion as to whether HIV cause AIDS and the reluctance to deal with it as other countries have been dealing with it, through medication. There was also that issue, which came forward, that put at risk the tradition of a clean government, a lean government of Mandela. Worst, yet recently, there was the big scandal of President Zuma over the building of a swimming pool at the state’s expense. What is new? What do we need more to learn? We have to learn that Mandela is a compass; he is a guide, and therefore if we want to talk about Mandela in this National Assembly then we have to give an account of ourselves, whether we have acted in restraint of the very fact that we know that there were things about which South Africans were not happy for their own party that they have elected by popular vote not so long ago.
This is a good occasion for us to talk, but for me the motion is a very comprehensive motion, very well put, all the fine words, which we need to say about Mandela, are here, but we also have to know that we could have Mandela on a pedestal. Let us take for example the former Prime Minister of Israel who died, Ariel Sharon. We did not see outpouring of sympathies and the mourning in the world. Why? [An Hon. Member: Bring the motion...] I am not saying that this is about this Parliament. I am saying that the evil that you do, live after you and therefore you have to take notes that if you follow a path that lead you to massacre, that lead you to racism under doctrine, called it Zionism or whatever...The Sabra and Shatila massacre of innocent refugees of Palestine and Lebanon would haunt the world forever. Therefore it is a leader of a country and, of course, there is another former leader of another country...
The world is watching; people know these things; they know the nuances of greatness and the nuances of value. It does not matter how much we talk; it does not matter how much we claim affinity hoping to have a little rub off for Mandela that will make us marketable. We have to be able to do those things that would realise what true devoted revolutionaries, such as Mandela, have set out to do. Therefore I want to say that we could be influenced by everything we say; everything that the speakers here will say. Everything that will happen beyond midnight here perhaps we could be influenced by all those learning’s from history because Mandela also was influenced by Abraham Lincoln.
There is a book, which came out not so long ago, The Team of Rivals, and in it there is a notion that in the time of Abraham Lincoln the people who opposed him and challenged him to become President of the United States of America he brought them into his Cabinet. That was to repeat itself by President Obama when he brought in Hillary Clinton and now John Kerry who opposed him. He showed that it was possible that people can come from different political persuasions and have different political opinions and views but in terms of working with them for the good of the nation he did not have to quibble over that. He brought together a team of rivals and, perhaps, that was what Nelson Mandela also did in South Africa when he formed his Government he brought together a team of rivals. They were not only rivals, some of them were, in fact, enemies, but he has probably felt it was good for South Africa.
The Alliance For Change supports this motion. We place on record the fact that Mandela was indeed a mahatma in his own right and that he can help to influence our political process in Guyana and that every day, from now on, when we mention the name of Mandela we must have in our mind that we do so in order to transform our country, in order to make Guyana united and prosperous.
Thank you. [Applause]
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