Former President Nelson Mandela, at the release of the Census 1996 results by the head of Statistics South Africa, which he launched, shared some interesting remarks. Photo: AP
JOHANNESBURG – Former President Nelson Mandela, at the release of the Census 1996 results by the head of Statistics South Africa, which he launched, shared some interesting remarks.

These are very relevant in our turbulent South Africa and I have decided to revisit them in my column today. It was in his speech on October 20, 1998, that Mandela said the following:

“Many people have tried to assess the performance of my government and, in doing so, they have at times used a standard far more severe than they employed through the apartheid regime and its Bantustans - forgetting that there is a fundamental difference between the governments of this country that preceded 1994 and the present government.

"Not a single individual here can stand up and contest the claim that we ended 346 years of white rule in this country. No government has delivered the services such as we have done during the last four years.

"Unless one thinks in terms of a white minority of less than 14percent of the population, but if you think about the entire country, there is no government which can compare with what we have achieved.

"But, the fundamental difference that ought to be taken into account, is that in all previous governments, the incumbents were trained in governance - they were able to go to school, universities, Technikons, teacher training institutions and acquire knowledge, skills and expertise.

"So, they were proficient because of that training.

"What is more, you were dealing with a white minority where the environment at school was exactly the same as the environment at home, because you have parents with a high level of academic qualification and a child, when he or she comes back home, is able to get professional assistance from their parents in an environment of relaxation. They ate well, had ample accommodation, where the child had a room and facilities for studying and concentration.

"But what is the position with the blacks in this country, with Africans, coloureds and Indians? In most cases they were excluded from schools, even less so in tertiary education and because you did not have the facilities, you could not go to the best schools in the country and the environment between the school and the home was totally different.

"You come to parents, some of whom have never seen the inside of a school - housing facilities where about five children share one room, sleeping on the floor, where children have to study on the floor by candle light.

"Notwithstanding that difference, nevertheless, the media, analysts, judge us more severely than they judged the apartheid regime.

"Our people went into exile in order to mobilise the international community to isolate South Africa to make it a polecat of the world Suddenly, you found on the 27th of April 1994 that we were now entrusted with the task of running an advanced country with modern ports and harbours, with a sophisticated banking and insurance system, with improved communication - either by road or by air and so on.

"We were taken literally from the bush in order to run this country, and yet we have delivered services which no government in the country has done. We ought to be complimented for that.

"Naturally, we have made many mistakes, some of them fundamental. Then, we have shown weaknesses, because we came to government determined to clean it of corruption and yet we found that our own members, some of them who held leading positions in the liberation movement themselves, became corrupt and in some cases even more corrupt than the civil service of the apartheid regime. That was a great disappointment, and still is to us, because we believe in a clean government.

"But the difference between the apartheid regime and ourselves is that we have set up a commission under a senior judge to investigate corruption in the government and we have arrested a lot of people - some of them highly placed - and exposed them, because we had given instructions that anybody who is corrupt must be arrested and if there is evidence, he must be convicted.

"Even if he belongs to the ANC. We must compliment Judge Heath for having investigated no less than 9000 cases and for having recovered more than R10billion, which were embezzled by state employees. That is our position, transparency, even about weaknesses among ourselves.

"But what I want to say to you is that, nevertheless, South Africa occupies a special place in the hearts of the international community - what you have done collectively has been hailed as the miracle of the world.

"We have brought about this miracle When you go to the world you need just to say: 'I am a South African!' whether you are black or white, and the doors of this world become wide open to you

"I want you to keep that in mind, to respond to the call for unity and for reconciliation and not to behave in a way which lets down those who trust us, inside and outside the country.

"You have become an example: a shining beacon to the entire world.”

Pali Lehohla is the former Statistician General of South Africa and former head of Statistics South Africa.

The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Media.

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