11 February 2013

South Africa: Fulfilling Madiba's Vision Lies First in Recommitting Ourselves to It

press release

Today, 11 February 2013, we mark the 23rd anniversary of the release of Nelson Mandela from prison.

Madiba's release and his iconic walk from the gates of Victor Verster Prison, after 27 years in detention, will always be engraved in our memories.

South Africa today is a much better place than in 1990 - and yet as we celebrate this 23rd anniversary, every South African knows that our country is drifting far from Madiba's vision of a peaceful, prosperous democracy in which every person has the chance to achieve their potential.

This week the whole country has been shaken awake to the reality of violent crime in South Africa. The horrific rape and murder of Anene Booysen has reminded us all of what problems remain in our society, and how much work we still need to do to solve them.

On the day of his release, Madiba delivered a speech at the Grand Parade in Cape Town, in which he correctly foresaw what the biggest hurdles the new democratic South Africa would have to overcome. He said that one of the worst legacies of apartheid would be that "the fabric of family life of millions of people has been shattered. Millions are homeless and unemployed".

Madiba saw that these would be our greatest challenges on the very first day of his freedom, and he remains right. He also knew that we would only overcome them if we committed ourselves to the words and values of the Constitution as a "sacred covenant" between all South Africans.

President Jacob Zuma and his inner circle sadly do not share Madiba's vision for South Africa.

They do not believe they are bound by the Constitution in a covenant of service with the people. And they are not interested in solving our toughest problems like poverty, unemployment and the erosion of family life. They are more interested in amassing power and wealth for themselves than in the success of South Africa.

As we remember Nelson Mandela's release from prison, we must never forget the wonderful vision of the future and the Constitution which he bequeathed us, and which today is his greatest legacy.

If we are ever to achieve that vision in South Africa, we must end the drift away from it that our current leaders are responsible for, and we must recommit ourselves to building a truly united, non-racial, prosperous and peaceful South Africa.

Helen Zille, Leader of the Democratic Alliance

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