Former President Kgalema Motlanthe addressing the issue Living the Social Values of Nelson Mandela during a public discourse at the University last night.
In a thought provoking 30-minute delivery, the former President emphasised the importance of accepting each other as we are. “We see ourselves in each other because of shared values. Our values inform our words, thoughts and actions.”
He added that this was at the root of Mandela’s holistic philosophy of fairness, humility, ethical leadership, freedom as well as building a united and cohesive society, which we should all strive after. Quoting Mandela, Motlanthe made a passionate plea for ethical leadership in the country: “The true quality of their characters become clear when you give people power,” he said.
“In his fight against apartheid Nelson Mandela has been at the centre of one of the most intense political dramas the world has ever seen. He, especially his humility and ethical leadership, has inspired a movement that was not only instrumental in shifting the nation but also the international community towards human rights and equality.”
The former President added that we should all roll up our sleeves and get actively involved in creating the South Africa we want. “The sanctity of life, freedom and human rights are incredibly vulnerable. In homage to Nelson Mandela, we must pledge our help and active citizenship for those in need as a symbol of his many years of selfless service. Active citizenship starts within. How far have we come? Is our social activism still alive or do we simply browse through anniversary calendar days as an activity? Perhaps we should ask how we can respond to these moments in a way that allows us to adopt an authentic philosophy of the values we celebrate.”
Motlanthe reminded the audience of the importance of celebrating and upholding the legacy of Nelson Mandela. “As a sign of solidarity to future generations to keep Madiba’s flame alive, every July we embark on a collective mission to change the lives of the most vulnerable and address the challenges that face their communities. This becomes a solemn time to embody the values of the Freedom Charter – to elevate the collective above the individual. A time to reflect, a time to look forward, a time to rekindle the flame of the South Africa we dream of, a time to join the path on the Long Walk to Freedom.”
During question time, the audience raised a number of issues, including those related to land and the employability of graduates.
The former President commented that land hunger has been a source of national grievance for many years. He talked at length about investigations he chaired in the past as well as Section 25 of the Constitution that guide land issues.
Responding to the issue of the employability of students, he emphasised the importance of education being in touch with what the economy needs. He highlighted that equipping students with skills needed in the economy as well as skills to create jobs could assist in decreasing the high unemployment rate in the country. He also challenged young people to be radical and push the boundaries.
“It is the prerogative of youth to bring radical perspectives to the fore and to disrupt the status quo through innovation and imagination. Creativity by process of disruption is the stuff that the youth feed off, they drive it, they champion it. The young, and the old Mandela, was the quintessential disruptor – an ideal role model for the youth of today seeking to innovate our world of tomorrow. “
He concluded with a quote by Oliver Wendell Holmes Junior:
“When we were young our hearts were filled with fire – and as life is action and passion, a man must share in the actions and passions of his time at peril of being judged not to have lived at all.”