By Elita de Klerk
Wellington, 1 December 2022
Good morning, ladies and gentlemen.
Thank you for your kind words. It is an honour for me to be invited here to address you today.
It is all too easy to sit and wring your hands with a sense of despair and helplessness at the downturn that this country has taken since my husband and Nelson Mandela jointly won the Nobel Peace prize in 1993. Sadly, almost 30 years later, we find ourselves grappling with rampant corruption, failing governance, poor service delivery and unprecedented levels of hunger, unemployment and poverty – the VERY afflictions he was hoping to ensure would never happen. The fact is that all these years later, we are still a traumatised society, and we have not yet come to terms with our past.
It is only through the work of NGO’s and those in the private sector, that some of these problems are being addressed and to some extent mitigated. In many ways, South Africans exemplify the saying, “When life gives you lemons…. Your challenge is to make lemonade.” And as a result, we’ve become SO good at making lemonade, we should be bottling it in competition to Coca Cola!
As an alternative to failing local governance: across the country, our citizens have had no option but to improvise by establishing all sorts of community-based service delivery initiatives. It is amazing to see how civil society, the private sector and professional associations are collaborating for the greater good – all work that our government employees are paid to do, but have elected instead, to do the very opposite!..
Can you believe that we have over 67 NGO’s in Cape Town alone, most of which are privately funded and administered? Essentially, we have come to rely on innovative, caring and proactive people who want the best – not just for ourselves, but for our fellow citizens. All this gives one a sense of hope, and restores some dignity to the countless numbers of unemployed, beleaguered people who somehow remain ever – patient and resilient.
The famous South African writer, Alan Paton, delivered a lecture at Harvard in 1977, in which he said: “We shall never comprehend the Creation, nor shall we ever comprehend man’s inhumanity to man, but one thing we may know for certain, that the ONLY way to make endurable man’s inhumanity is to try to exemplify in our own lives, humaneness toward humanity. The only way to make endurable the WOUND in the Creation, and that is to ask to be given a part in the healing of it.”
So how do we achieve this?
Firstly, we need to have tolerance and respect for one another. We need to foster opportunities for dialogue between all types of people of different backgrounds. Whether it be talking to your adversaries or your fellow man, you will realise that there are more things that UNITE you than DIVIDE you. We are all human beings with similar frailties, weaknesses and worries. We need to TRULY listen to one another, and bring empathy to the discourse by putting our feet in one another’s shoes. Only this way, shall we begin to understand each other.
Prof Schwella – I admire the fact that your excellent college is teaching this way of thinking, as it will enable your students to become the leaders we need. You are right on target in believing that continuous social innovation is needed to meet the needs of individuals coming from complex backgrounds. Under the umbrella of the Christian faith, your social innovation work is much to be admired and your short courses are critical to students who could not afford otherwise. I believe that the integration of learning and faith will enable you to build more self-sufficient, more functional and more contented communities. Your innovative program of training social leaders will go a long way towards creating opportunities for a better life, in a more healthy, caring environment.
Everything in life is taught by example:
The FW de Klerk Foundation is trying to engage civil society to become involved in the different projects that we run following FW’s legacy, which was about changing the very fabric of an unjust society, to create a more equal one. May I remind you of the words my husband shared in his Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech:
“In our quest for peace we should constantly ask ourselves what we should do to create conditions in which peace can prosper. Peace does not fare well where poverty and deprivation reign. It does not flourish where there is ignorance and a lack of education and information.”
The fact is that you cannot put a price on the value of education, which is the gateway to providing stability in life. It is something that no-one can ever take away from you. It is no secret that a good education, along with a college degree, will significantly increase the chance of doors opening to exciting career opportunities.
As Malcolm X said: “Education is the passport to the future, for tomorrow belongs to those who prepare for it today.”
Ladies and gentlemen – not all is lost! On a more positive note, let us look at what is possible with good governance. In a recent feature in the Financial Mail entitled ‘Why the Western Cape is pulling ahead’, Claire Bisseker looked at issues of crime prevention, load shedding, transport, education, and health and she examined what steps the Western Cape government has taken to do better than the rest of the country. She wrote the following:
“As despair about the rest of South Africa becomes pervasive, the province is a place where innovation, foresight and collaboration are translating into real gains. It shows exactly what’s possible with Good Governance!”
In closing, I’d like to make use of a lovely acronym using the word THINK that’s easily remembered, to encourage one another to pause and THINK before we speak, by asking if our words are:
T – TRUE
H – HELPFUL
I – INSPIRING
N – NECESSARY
K – KIND
And to those of you who have stopped concentrating, put together, that spells the word THINK!
Imagine how different the world could be if we all put this concept into our everyday thinking, and acted accordingly.