LON99:SAFRICA-ELECTIONS-MANDELA:JOHANNESBURG,10FEB00 - FILE PHOTO 11FEB90 - TO MATCH FEATURE BC-PEOPLE-SAFRICA-MANDELA - In the ten years since his walk to freedom, Nelson Mandela, now 81, has packed more into life than most young men. Mandela, who spent 27 years in apartheid jails as the world\'s most important political prisoner, walked free from Victor Verster prison, near Cape Town, on February 11, 1990. Mandela is accompanied by his former wife Winnie, moments after his release from prison in this February 11, 1990 file photo. km/Photo by Ulli Michel REUTERS

Cape Town - On the 25th anniversary of Nelson Mandela’s release from prison on Wednesday, Struggle stalwarts Ahmed Kathrada and Laloo Chiba have called on South Africans to renew the fight against racism.

Their statements follow an increasing number of reports of racial and xenophobic incidents, and public debate around matters relating to race over the past few weeks.

Kathrada and Chiba, both in their mid-80s, were jailed alongside Mandela for 26 and 18 years, respectively.

“As Mandela walked out of prison with the ‘Amandla’ salute, we knew that the values of non-racialism and democracy were triumphant over apartheid. It is, however, disheartening and of great concern to me, that 25 years on, we still see blatant acts of racism being perpetrated. We have made significant progress since 1994, but racism still lurks under the surface,” said Kathrada.

“I read the newspapers daily, and I am perturbed at the reports of racism, especially at places of learning. Young people are the future of this country, and it worries me when they are being separated in classrooms based on race, or when one hears that race may have played a role in the recent Northern Cape school abuse case. One hopes that such incidents are isolated. We need to pay more attention to youth development so that young people can become agents of non-racialism.”

Kathrada said it was imperative that Mandela’s ideals - one of which was non-racialism - be upheld. “We can join the call by the ANC and others to remain vigilant when racism arises, and we can take the initiative to speak out against it. If necessary, we should hold demonstrations against it. Racism must be tackled head on.”

Chiba said that Mandela’s release was the “apex” of the fight for democracy. “This in turn led to a negotiated settlement, democratic elections and the constitution, which upholds the ideal of a non-racial, non-sexist South Africa.”

Chiba said he was “extremely disturbed to see that racial discrimination carries on in a big way”.

“I never thought that evidence of racism would be so rife 20 years after democracy. It is absolutely essential that we carry on the Struggle against racism”.

Like Kathrada, he emphasised that the key to a non-racial future lay with young people.

“We invite young people to join the Ahmed Kathrada Foundation Youth Leadership Programme. Through this course, the essence of non-racialism is instilled in the youth,” he said.

Meanwhile, the South African Gold Coin Exchange and The Scoin Shop will be launching the 1oz 25th Anniversary of Mandela’s Release Gold Medallion.

The medallion was expected to be unveiled on Wednesday at 2.14pm, the actual date and time of his release.

The medallion was designed and minted by the gold coin exchange in conjunction with the Mint of Norway and the Nelson Mandela Foundation. It features the scene of Mandela’s release after his 27 years of imprisonment.

“We are thrilled to commemorate this special day. It will always be remembered as the day of new hope, for not only South Africa, but the world. Mandela Medallions are the perfect way to remember our great Madiba and honour his legacy,” said Alan Demby, executive chairman of the exchange and The Scoin Shop.

The reverse of the medallion features an inscription which reads: “PEACE. DEMOCRACY. FREEDOM FOR ALL” along with the date, signifying the day’s importance for all the people of South Africa, irrespective of their race and creed.

Cape Argus