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Don’t touch us on our Mandela. Many of us witnessed, first-hand, what he did at Codesa. Later, we noted how he ran a government of national unity with great integrity and capability. He had parliament behind him and he had the nation in step with him. He gave the nation the push start we needed and how splendidly he did that. He played his role to perfection. He was everybody’s president.

Like Muhammad Ali he did what no other politician in South Africa could have done. He created unity. He inspired millions here and abroad.

No wonder Muhammad Ali’s widow Lonni and Bill Clinton as well mentioned Nelson Mandela in their respective speeches at the champ’s memorial service. Mandela like Ali will remain internationally towering figures.

Mandela, as Barney Mthombothi, correctly points out in today’s Sunday Times, was certainly not the architect of our chaos, the angst that we are now experiencing and the loss of hope manifesting itself in South Africa.

The first problem lay in the Constitution making. The drafters and negotiators had the image of Nelson Mandela in mind when assigning a huge range of powers to the President. That was where the problem subsequently arose. If Nelson Mandela had ten years as President, our country would have been on a different path politically, socially and economically. We would have also had a new electoral system and the war on HIV-Aids would have begun in earnest much sooner.

The second problem lay in the failure of society to transform itself. While apartheid collapsed on paper, it remained very much alive in the minds of a vast majority that had benefitted hugely from it. South Africa’s minority groups, borne out by the reality of the last twenty two years, unfortunately remained largely rooted where they were in mind and in geography twenty two years ago. The opportunity to transcend racial barriers and prejudices proactively and enthusiastically was lost and the spurt to create a new society was squandered.

Thirdly, looting of state resources developed a life of its own. The lure of the loot kept the ruling party together. It is the vested interest of key role players in the looting schemes that allowed state capture to take place. This has brought South Africa to the brink of collapse. To criticise the ruling party is to be out “in the cold”, in the words of Mr Zuma. To criticise Nelson Mandela is an oblique way of criticising those who are presently in power. Madiba is being unfairly, unnecessarily and unjustifiably scapegoated. That is wrong.

Congress of the People is wedded irrevocably to pursuing Mandela’s legacy. We urge South Africans to do the same. That is the only way to a peaceful and stable future.

Issued by COPE

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