It's easy to say Mandela sold out black people and to forget that a lot of the problems we face today could have been solved if we continued to build on his legacy.
This was one of the core messages of speakers at the third annual Nelson Mandela colloquium held at the Stellenbosch University (SU) Museum on the Stellenbosch campus on Thursday (12 April 2018).
Themed Stellenbosch University and Nelson Mandela at 100, the event was hosted jointly by the SU Museum and the Nelson Mandela Museum. Former president Nelson Mandela, a recipient of an honorary doctorate from SU, would have been 100 years in 2018, the same year in which SU is commemorating its centenary.
The speakers at the colloquium were Prof Jonathan Jansen Distinguished Professor in SU's Faculty of Education, Dr Wilhelm Verwoerd, Research Fellow at the Beyers Naudé Centre for Public Theology at SU, Ms Malaika Mahlatsi (better known as Malaika wa Azania), writer and political commentator, and Ms Nwabisa Makunga Deputy Editor of The Herald.
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Highlighting the role that Mandela played in uniting South Africans, Jansen said we need to reclaim his legacy of reconciliation.
“I believe that a legacy of radical reconciliation can help heal our country."
Responding to those who criticise Mandela for selling out black people, Jansen said it's very easy to make hard judgments about his leadership in the negotiations in the early 1990s.
He pointed to the challenges in basic education and continued racism and said “what happened since Madiba was the problem. We had good policies, we had a lot of good will and we could have changed this country."
Echoing Jansen's sentiments, Ms Nwabisa Makunga said that “after 1994 we've dropped the ball tremendously because many of us did not do the hard work that was required to actually change this nation around."
“We need to ask ourselves what we are willing to give to take South Africa forward," she added.
Makunga said she also does not believe that Mandela sold out black people.
Mahlatsi argued that when analysing the legacy of Mandela it is important to do it in “its entirety, the politics of time and space".
While she also disagree with those who consider Mandela a sell-out, Mahlatsi said reflections about his legacy must also include substantive conversations about the land question and what we mean by it.
Speaking about his own family history and in the particular the meeting between Mandela and his grandmother, Verwoerd said he was inspired by the former President because he embodied radical inclusivity and a very different sense of family.
He added that we need to be careful how we honour the legacy of Mandela so that we “can honour his whole life and not just the grandfather smiling at the end of his life".
In welcoming the guests, Prof Wim de Villiers, Rector and Vice-Chancellor of SU, said the University is honoured to commemorate its Centenary in the same year as former President Nelson Mandela. He said the purpose of the colloquium is to promote the values and legacy of Mandela.
“This is a legacy that we continue to honour at Stellenbosch University, and one that will serve us well as we enter the second century of our existence," De Villiers added.
- Photo: Prof Jonathan Jansen, Ms Nwabisa Makunga, Ms Malaika Mahlatsi, and Dr Wilhelm Verwoerd at the Nelson Mandela colloquium.
- Photographer: TC Kieck.