In April 1994, the journey to rebuild a new nation began. We began to work towards peace and harmonious co-existence. This came after a negotiated democratic transition where all parties committed to peace rather than civil war. Under the leadership of President Nelson Mandela, government launched this big idea of reconciliation which was first introduced in the make-up of the South African Government after 1994 elections. This was the Government of National Unity.
The aim was an inclusive Cabinet that comprised of leaders from the opposition parties. This was one of the most difficult undertakings in the history of humankind. We had no choice but to work together to bring peace, stability and a common future to ancestral land. Twenty years later, we look back with great pride at the achievements scored.
It took the political acumen and astuteness of our leaders of all political formations led by the ANC to champion the idea of reconciliation. We will recall that in President Mandela’s message of December 1995, at the first celebration of the Day of Reconciliation, the late President Mandela spoke: “We, the people of South Africa, have made a decisive and irreversible break with the past. We have, in real life, declared our shared allegiance to justice, non-racialism and democracy; our yearning for a peaceful and harmonious nation of equals. But we do know that healing the wounds of the past and freeing ourselves of its burden will be a long and demanding task”.
Indeed reconciliation is a process, and not an event. Reconciliation also does not mean forgetting or trying to bury the painful history of conflict. It means that while we remember the pain of the past, we will not allow it to stop us from building a better tomorrow. Generations to come will testify that us people who lived through this period of transition from apartheid colonialism to a new non-racial, democratic society, were a truly wonderful and remarkable generation to have been able to overcome fear, hatred and pain to build a new non-racial future.
This government adopted more than 789 laws into legislation in the first 10 years of democracy in an effort to wipe out apartheid engineering of society and put in place that of freedom for all our people so that everybody can have a sense of belonging. We adopted a thriving Constitution that is a symbol of nation building to the world. It is a reflection of our Freedom Charter and has a Bill of rights that protects all citizens. It proudly declares, as it did as early as 1955 that “South Africa belongs to all who live in it black and white, and that no government can justly claim authority unless it is based on the will of all the people”. All of this was a committed effort from all our people to remove the legacy of apartheid colonialism from our laws.
Reconciliation and redress are two sides of the same coin. In this vein, our government continues to bridge the inequalities and differences in access to quality health care, education and training, clean water and adequate sanitation. It has continued to intensify the fight against poverty, combating crime and drug abuse, championing the interest of women, children and people with disability, fighting all forms of racist, tribal and xenophobic tendencies.
Economic transformation has also taken centre stage through better implementation of laws such as the Employment Equity Act, broad-based black economic empowerment act, land restitution and redistribution, and other forms of empowerment. Cultural redress also continues through the improved utilisation of African languages in public institutions including our schools. All these efforts are there to build our nation and remove the legacy of apartheid colonialism from our land, minds and laws. There is absolutely no South African who disagress with all these efforts I have mentioned to rebuild a country free from poverty, unemployment and inequality.
Our government has also built monuments that symbolize heroism, nation building and social cohesion. It has removed statues and old monuments that resemble the painful reality of our ugly past that all of us suffer from. We have renamed streets, airports, buildings and universities in an effort to remove the past from our minds and our land to instill a new refreshing spirit of a bright future by renaming them after our heroes and heroines. South Africans must understand and be consistent with the fact that the recent calls to remove Cecil John Rhodes statue from the University of Cape Town and changing the name of Rhodes University are all efforts that we must have a dialogue about as citizens like we did in CODESA to agree that it is part and parcel of a project to reconcile by removing the legacy of apartheid from our minds, our laws and our land.
To build a caring society, we should embrace the values of Ubuntu which include human solidarity, generosity, hospitality, friendliness, caring, compassion, harmony, forgiveness and neighbourliness. All our goals of building a non-racial, non-sexist, successful and prosperous society are achievable if we are united and continue to put South Africa first in everything we do. Together we must move South Africa forward.
President Jacob Zuma, when opening and unveiling the new Ncome Bridge Phase 2 project during the National Day of Reconciliation on 16 December 2014, he said: “To this day, we continue to deal with the legacy of colonialism of a special type that deprived the African people of their land and made them pariahs in their motherland. Owing to the deep divisions of the past, December 16 before 1994 had a different meaning to different people, depending on their racial or ethnic background or even their ideological orientation. For some it was the symbol of triumph, for others, the symbol of resistance and pain or alternatively a bitter potent experience of wars and disposition”.
Frantz Fanon, one of the greatest leaders and authors to ever walk across our land also put it beautifully in one of his abundant pieces when he said: “imperialism leaves behind germs of rot which we must clinically detect and remove from our land but from our minds as well”.
All of us South Africans, black and white, female and male, rich and poor, therefore, as a serious commitment to our united future, must ensure that everything from the past is removed from our minds, our laws and our land.