Enjoining the significance of the 1838 Battle of Blood River with the formation of ANC’s armed wing, Umkhonto we Sizwe in 1961 into a day to focus on that which must enjoin us as South Africans and forge ahead to build a united, prosperous and just society, was the dream of the former Presidents.

During his lifetime, President Mandela lived this dream in big and small ways. From a visit to the widow of Hendrik Verwoed in the enclave of Orania, to mobilising the nation behind the Springboks in the 1995 World Cup, to ensuring structural reform that addressed the profound inequality in the country – with a high premium placed on creating a better life for all, particularly the most vulnerable.

Fast forward to 2017, and the country holds its collective breath as the Day of Reconciliation coincides with the opening day of the ANC’s 54th national conference. For the cynic, the irony is not lost that the race for the number one position in the ANC is divided between two key contenders, with a starting race of six. Of the top two in the race, one seeks to win the vote on a ticket of radical economic transformation, land seizures and derision about the nation-building project, while the other contender for the presidency of the ANC advocates more moderate positions focused on maintaining a steady hand on the tiller. That the presidential race is brutal and divisive is not in question, with elements in camps taking a ‘take no prisoners’ approach because the stakes are so high. The country watches with bewilderment as the ruling party loses course and sets on itself, breaking up in factions and offshoots, wondering what Nelson Mandela would make of the ANC of 2017.

The shenanigans within the ruling party notwithstanding, South Africans continue to demonstrate a robust, vocal and unremitting commitment to building a future together. This was underlined in a recently released report by independent researchers Ask Afrika, which “highlighted two sides to South Africans. The first is that a majority of South Africans are united in being fed up with corruption and state capture. The second is that South Africans, in the main, are still proud to be South African. It’s these two ingredients that could spark much bigger change when the country votes in 2019”.  A key conclusion of the report is that, “the ties that bind citizens, irrespective of background or differences, are: 1. the fight against corruption; 2. Employment for all and 3. The fight against poverty”.

The issues identified in the Ask Afrika report are located in common concerns and a common desire to address that which ails the country. Further to also set it on a course that grows the economy, addresses the concerns of poverty and inequality, and strives for a future where you are your brother’s/sister’s keeper. This vision, so eloquently and graciously woven by Nelson Mandela and reinforced in a study four years after his death, must be re-envisioned so that days of reconciliation are the norm in how South Africans imbibe and live in a country at peace with itself.

By Ms Zohra Dawood, Director

Photo credit: flowcomm on Foter.com / CC BY

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