BARACK Obama has urged South Africans to emulate Nelson Mandela’s legacy by sticking to the truth, reducing inequality and not elevating themselves by pulling others down.
The former U.S president was delivering a keynote address at the Nelson Mandela 16th Annual lecture in Johannesburg.
Under the theme, ‘renewing the Mandela Legacy and Promoting Active Citizenship in a Changing World’, Obama told the 15 000 people attending the occasion at the Wanderers Stadium in that the democratic and economic gains that were achieved in the years that followed Mandela’s release from prison in 1990 were slowly being erased by authoritarian regimes that do not respect human rights and by global corporates that put profits before people.
“There has been a reversal of the gains of freedom and democracy that has swept the globe at the time former President Nelson Mandela was freed from prison and the Berlin wall came crashing down.
“Because of the failures of governments and powerful elites to squarely address the failures and shortcomings of this international order that we now see much of the world threatening to return to an old order, a more dangerous, a more brutal way of doing business,” Obama said.
The Nobel Prize Laureate advised the crowd to stick to what was true, stick to what they knew was right in their hearts and ultimately the better story would win.
“We have to start by admitting that whatever laws may have existed on the books, whatever wonderful pronouncements existed in constitutions, whatever nice words were spoken these last decades at international conferences or in the halls of the United Nations, the previous structures of power and privilege and injustice and exploitation never completely went away,”
The former US President was joined on stage by President Cyril Ramaphosa to introduce the key note speaker, who in a light moment said Obama could not dance like Mandela would.
But, Obama in his opening sentence of the speech politely disagreed with Ramaphosa’s observation. “Let me start with a correction. I am a very good dancer,” he said to laughs and cheers from the crowd.
Also on the stage was Mandela’s widow Graca Machel, Nelson Mandela Foundation trustee Njabulo Ndebele and businessman Patrice Motsepe.
Obama was the second former US president to deliver the annual Mandela lecture after former President Bill Clinton who gave the inaugural lecture in 2003.
Elsewhere, also on Tuesday ahead of Mandela’s birthday, renowned African scholar Professor Patrick Lumumba delivered the Nelson Mandela memorial lecture at the Walter Sisulu University in Mthatha, Eastern Cape.
He reminded South Africans of the great men and woman the land had produced and asked what wisdom there would be for the current generation to do what historians had done?
“It would be a miss on my part as I remember Nelson Mandela to forget the unique quality of this land that is sometimes referred to as Mzansi. This land is responsible for producing good men and woman.
“What wisdom would there be if we did what historians did? I think we should do other things,” Lumumba said.
In Limpopo, Health MEC Dr Phophi Ramathuba led what was titled 100 thousand footsteps for Mandela against crime in health facilities in Vhembe.
As a commemoration for Mandela’s centenary the walk saw hundreds of community members and stakeholders walking from Siloam Hospital to Rabali Clinic in Elim.
Health spokesperson Neil Shikwambana said the walk was aimed at raising awareness against criminal activities targeted at clinics in Limpopo.
“During the past year there has been an increase on the number of these attacks in which security personnel are disarmed and killed and nurses robbed of their belongings. These activities undermine the department’s commitment to maximise health care access by increasing the number of clinics functioning for 24 hours,” Shikwambana said.
The 100 Thousand Steps Walk saw members of the community, Youth against Crime Forum, police community forums, traditional leaders and health professionals go out in droves to protest against this scourge on Mandela day.