Tribute to His Excellency, Former President of the Republic of South Africa, Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela, Architect of the Free and Democratic South Africa2945 16 Jan, 2014
Ms. Teixeira: Mr. Speaker, I have the honour of speaking on this motion and the regret of being the last person speaking. I know everyone is very tired. I want to begin by emphasising the nature of this motion. It is important because it is a consensus motion. I want to recognise and thank Mr. Granger, the Leader of the Opposition, for accepting the overture to let us work together on this motion, and for his assigning Mr. Bulkan as my counterpart to be able to bring this motion to the language that would be acceptable between the APNU and the Government side.
I am very proud as a Guyanese woman, as a Guyanese, as a Member of the People's Progressive Party/Civic that Guyana, this country of ours, has a history that goes back over 50 years in the struggle to end apartheid. We can quibble about who did what, but when history is looked at - and we go back to this same house the 50s, the 60s, the 70s, the 80s and the 90s - this House, the legislature of Guyana, whether it was initiated on the side of the then Government, the PNC, or the then Government, the PPP, the record shows the consistency and the principle and progressive position taken by successive Governments of this country. If we want to try to measure and quibble over who did what more we will be the lesser for that, because what we should be proud of as Guyanese is that Guyana was a country that was forthright from the 1950s right up to the day in taking a position on South Africa to end apartheid, to have Mandela released and to support post apartheid South Africa. We should be proud of that as Guyanese. We do not need to quibble about who did what more than the other.
There are some very special things that I have not heard some people speak about. I would like the opportunity and your indulgence to just emphasise some very special things. Mandela was an extraordinary, unique, personality on the global arena and in South Africa. But there are some very unique and special things about South Africa itself. Comparisons and analogies between Guyana and South Africa shows there are similarities, but there are also intense differences, not just about apartheid. One of the powerful things about South Africa is the existence of long, tried and tested organisations with mature political leaders. The African National Congress formed on 8th January is the 102nd Anniversary of the African National Congress. The South African Communist Party was formed in 1921. I think that was about 91 years ago.
The Indian National Congress, the Congress of South African Trade Unions, the more recent Council of South African Students that was formed in the 80s, are long, deep organisations which were ingrained and entrenched in South African society, and, therefore, were able by mature leadership, political leadership, organisational leadership, to sustain a people to fight against one of the worst systems the world has seen. Apartheid was and is a crime against humanity, as slavery is a crime against humanity. How would a people over 100 years and more been able to sustain themselves. I encourage people to look at the website of the African National Congress because there is the history starting from 1901 through. It will give us a sense as Guyanese, as politicians and Members of this House that there was not consistency in the way the ANC operated - there were good times, bad times, times when they were inactive.
There were times when from the 1930s and 1940s with leaders like Oliver Tambo, Walter Sisulu, Mandela, and Govan Mbeki and Joe Slovo they were able to bring reinvigoration into the movement. But it still took them from the 1940s to 1990 to be able to abolish apartheid. Therefore, when one looks at South Africa and the role of Mandela the question is how powerful were the organisations that represented the people and led the people? The fact is that the international alliance was also an important part. In the 1970s, as speakers pointed out, the ANC was a terrorist organisation - South African Communist Party banned. Internationally, as Mr. Odinga pointed out, they could not travel, get visas etcetera. Many ended up in the late 1970s being exiled in some countries like Canada and some parts of Europe. It was the NGO societies, the NGO bodies in the early years that took positions on apartheid, not governments. And that is why Guyana’s role in the 1950s through is so significant because Guyana did it as a colony.
To sidestep a little, we paid the price as a people. It is Guyana, under the PPP and later the PNC that paid the price for some of these progressive, pro-liberation positions we took. When Guyana supported Cuba, when Guyana supported the struggles of Vietnam and the African Liberation Movements we paid the price politically. The PPP was called the Communist, the PNC the socialist - we paid the price. We were looked politically and internationally by the western powers up to the 1970s with tainted eyes. So we must not get caught up trying to prove who was more revolutionary than the other in support of the ANC. We paid the price as a people. Therefore, the position that Guyana took on allowing Cubana Airlines to use Guyana as a technical stopover was something that was supported by our people, and by the PPP and PNC in Government. And we paid the price. The fact that the PPP's position in 1978 of critical support was fundamentally premised on supporting the PNC Government on its progressive policies, in particular its foreign policies, on the Non-Aligned Movement, ACP, South Africa, liberation movements etcetera, whilst we criticised the PNC for the rigging of elections.
So the issue of the way in which the ANC mobilised support internationally was important. And the fact is that it took long dogged years to be able to wake up western powers and many countries which did not want to support. And that is why the link between Cuba and Mandela, and Cuba and the ANC, is one that is an unshakeable bond and will continue I think for many, many years to come. But the issue is of mature political leaders who consistently stood by their people and give them as wise leadership as they could at that time.
The former struggle: we talked about Umkhonto we Sizwe, but the ANC, SACP, INC, and COSATU had a multi-pronged approach to struggle -peaceful protest, defiance campaigns, arms struggle, underground grassroots, and community defiance. It was multi-pronged because when they started in the 1960s with Umkhonto we Sizwe it was uni-lineal in the sense they were trying on that level. The problem for the ANC and Umkhonto we Sizwe was how to get their fighters back into the country. There were problems with that logistical and otherwise. They discovered by the 1970s that they had to have a multi-pronged approach, and on top of that layer was the international campaign, bringing up South Africa at every single forum that was possible. And the churches, the religious bodies globally, nationally and regionally, took very strident positions. And we have to recognise the role of faith based organisations in supporting the struggles of the ANC and the South African people. But the former struggle and this multi-pronged approach required well oiled, well organised, machinery that was well-led, and controlling what were adventurist and extremist elements.
When we talk about Mandela, after the abolition of apartheid and becoming the President, one of his greatest problems was the Inkatha and the gangs that were funded by the Afrikaners. Also, Bathelezi and others were also carrying out their own civil war and violent attacks on South Africa and black South Africans. It was not as simple as white and black, it was much more complicated and he made a wise decision as a wise leader of a wise organisation.
When one looks at the letter that the Africa National Congress (ANC) put out on 5th December, at his death, which is on their website, they say, “Our nation has lost a colossus, an epiphany of humility, equality, justice, peace and hope of millions here and abroad.” They continued to say he worked tirelessly for the ANC and for a free South Africa. He hated racism and bigotry and sought united, non-racial, non-sexist and democratic societies where all are equal.
The part that some persons have spoken about, the future, that he passed on the baton to the younger generation of his beloved movement, the ANC, to carry on with the vision of bringing about an equal and just society. The ANC continues in this task as set forth by him and those of his generation, living and decease. Indeed men and women, such as Nelson Mandela, when they pass, they leave a vision of a new and better life and the tools with which to win and build it. At no point did Mandela and or the ANC state that the struggle was over.
One of the most fascinating documents and events in all the struggle of the ANC is the Freedom Charter of 1955, 26th June – the congress of the people at Kliptown. For its period of 1955, it is one of the most progressive documents to emerge, not only in the developing world, but the developed world in 1955. It is a charter that talks about all people being equal; of all races. It talks about South Africa belonging to all the persons who lived in it, black and white, and that no Government can justly claim authority unless it is based on the will of the people. Therefore, we the people of South Africa, black and white together, equals, countrymen and brothers, adopt this Freedom Charter. It goes on in different areas o talk about equality, freedom, justice and so on.
This was 1955 and it is this document that becomes the foundation of the political philosophy between 1955 and right through to present day South Africa. One of the writers who spoke on this document, Hutchinson, talked about what the document represented; that a new world had unfolded when this charter was made by over 3000 delegates coming from the ANC, South African Communist Party (SACP), INC, all races and all classes that met in Kliptown.
This was in an era of the global movement of colonised people for freedom, justice, end to racism and independence. It was also this era where we saw the struggle for US civil rights of Afro-Americans and also Guyana’s struggle for independence, as well as many other countries.
Mandela became, as it is said in their own document, the epitome of all that was good and righteous and just in South Africa. My deduction of it, which might be quite simplistic, is that I truly believe the world needs heroes. I truly believe that people need heroes; people to look up to; people to respect. Mandela epitomised the dirt in the world of those kinds of leaders who can transcend national boundaries. All that he represents was not only his. He came to represent an entire movement of all the people who struggled to end apartheid. He epitomised and embodied all of them, but he may not have been the only one; there were many who lost their lives.
Mandela as the statesman, who had the courage and did the unusual thing, particularly in many developing countries, and that is to retire/resign as President in 1998 and to pass on the mantel. As someone pointed out here in the House, there are always risks when countries lose these great mega leaders. How do they adjust afterwards? I believe when one reads the statements by Desmond Tutu, in relations to Mandela and what he embodied. Basically what Desmond Tutu speaks about is the whole issue of representing what was good and that he represented what was good and that people needed this; the whole issue of vindicating the evil or the injustice in the world.
Desmond Tutu said this in an article in 2006, “Let South Africa show the world how to forgive” by noble lore, Desmond Tutu, it was 1st February, 2006. He talks about the example of post World War II, where there were the Nuremberg Trials and the Victor’s Justice. He talked about in contrast with Chile’s response in the restoration of democracy in Chile, where the Chilean Post or Pinochet, granted a blanket amnesty to all those who had committed terrible atrocities in the struggle for democracy in Chile. He posits the South African way and he said, “Our country chose a middle way of individual amnesty for truth. Some would say, ‘What about justice?’ We say Retributive Justice is not the only kind of justice, there is also Restorative Justice. Because we believe in Ubuntu, the essence of being human; that idea that we are all caught up in a delicate network of interdependence. We say, ‘A person is a person through other persons.’ I need you in order to be me and you need me in order to you.” This was Bishop Desmond Tutu.
The South Africans talked and in documents they have the National Democratic Phase for the post apartheid regime. The People’s Progress Party (PPP) also struggles in the post 1992 period with defining and devolving what is its own definition of the National Democratic Phase. Both are countries that have emerged from particular pasts and are struggling to find their paths.
I believe that this motion, simple as it is, represents an important aspect of who we are as Guyanese. That is that despite all that happened in 2013 in this House and the acrimony and the bitterness and the no movement and little movement on an issue that had a whole past for parties on both sides of the House. A whole past of individuals, some were named by different persons speaking tonight. A whole past of who we are as individuals that we were able to reach consensus. It may not look like a major victory, but for me it is an important step forward as a people, as this legislature.
In closing, my personal honour in speaking on Mandela, my whole life for 40 years has been involved in many different ways with South Africa anti-apartheid and so forth. For me personally it is an honour to be able to speak on this. I want to say this that when we look at the history of South Africa, and again I repeat, go to the website, where it is written up there in simple ways. Contrast, the very long as I said and protracted struggle of a people and organisation, such as the ANC versus what is called the Arab Spring, which was driven by the social media; persons by remote control, sending messages to persons to do things, a headless, so called revolution that has taken place in North Africa and the Middle-East and which is disintegrating in a variety of ways.
Therefore, the lesson of South Africa and the lesson of that Mandela brought to us was that extremism does not have a place. Even when the ANC fought - arm struggle - it was a righteous struggle because all else had been exhausted. Even when they did that they never attacked civilians. They recognised that the multipronged approach was going to make the change. The last leg of the whole struggle, between 1986 and 1990, when all of these prongs came together and were intensified, over 300,000 South Africans were detained, houses were bombed, persons killed and yet the South African regime was holding on. All the data show that the economy was spinning down. The world depended on the gold and minerals of South Africa and many countries between 1985 and 1990, who had called the ANC and Mandela terrorists, suddenly started to have a direct interest in being able to reverse the fortunes of South Africa and to reverse apartheid as a system that would no longer be able to hold its merit for those who wanted profit and it did not care where the profit came from and how it came.
Mr. Speaker, I am thankful that we are ending this morning on, I believe, a positive note, in terms of being able to have achieved something in this House. If Mandela is the means for us to have done that, then God rest his soul. May he rest in peace and may he always be guidance for those of us of what is a wise Statesman. The world needs heroes like Mandela. Thank you. [Applause]
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