Minister Carlisle: The Legacy of Nelson Mandela, Post-1994 | Western Cape Government

Speeches

Minister Carlisle: The Legacy of Nelson Mandela, Post-1994

21 September 2011

The Honourable Witbooi said we must go back to before 1994 and I agree with her.

I first saw Nelson Mandela in either 1957, or 1958 - I can't remember exactly - at a rally in Victory Square in Western Native Township.

At the time, white people could not join the ANC, but that changed some years later.

But it is also important to ask on what basis South Africans were able to bridge their differences.

We managed to do this for two reasons.

Firstly, the majority sought reconciliation, not revenge. They were prepared to forgive. This is unprecedented anywhere else in the world.

Secondly, the minority was prepared to surrender its privilege before it lost its power. That too is unprecedented anywhere else in the world.

What both of these decisions return to is this: in a divided society, the middle ground is the most important space.

And Nelson Mandela was the master of the middle ground; he understood that in a divided society if you lose the middle ground everything falls apart.

The result is racial polarisation and the violence that comes with it. This is something that has been shown again and again in the history of our country.

Our country has many giants of the middle ground - Alan Paton, Chief Albert Luthuli, Helen Suzman, Walter Sisulu, Nelson Mandela and Desmond Tutu, to name a few.

But there have also been many that have tried to break the middle ground, like Verwoerd, Vorster, Malan, Swart, Terrablanche, Treurnicht, Malema and Manyi.

Yes, they are exactly the same.

Listening to Malema, he sounds almost exactly the same as former CP leader, Andries Treurnicht, when I used to listen to him rant in Parliament.

And I want to add that some of the statements I have heard today, stereotyping racial groups and justifying violence, are the exact opposite of Nelson Mandela's legacy as master of the middle ground.

We all have an obligation to work together in and to hold the middle ground.

Because if we lose the middle ground, then we lose the heritage of Nelson Mandela.

I thank you.

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