Thirty years today Mandela was released – a challenge for Cyril Ramaphosa


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Thirty years ago today, we were having a braai at the house of the then Chief Justice of South Africa, watching the release of Nelson Mandela on television. My parents were visiting Cape Town, and we went to the big square in front of the Cape Town City Hall where Mandela gave his first public speech.

This was a time of great hope, of celebration, and also a time to recognize that the work had just begun, the work of building a nation. Yet here we are, thirty years later, our economy still in ruins (as Madiba mentioned in his speech from the balcony), divided by the divisive politics arising out of the twin evils of populism and corruption, with no end in sight to poverty as unemployment has spiraled out of control.

What would Madiba think if he saw us today, as divided now as were then, if not more so! What would he think of the state of our economy? What would he think about politicians using divisive tactics to get votes so they can get in power and jump on the gravy train?

Our current president, a much younger man, was standing beside Madiba on the balcony at that time, the great Walter Sisulu on the other side. President Ramaphosa, you are standing on the shoulders of these giants you were standing with on this day 30 years ago. Can you uphold the Mandela legacy, and give us back the hope that we had on this day in 1990? More importantly, can you be the force that creates the action we need? And goodness knows, we need action if we are not going to fail Sisulu’s and Mandela’s vision for what we could become with democracy in our hands.

Below is my interview with CBC Radio with Ted Blades on On The Go.

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