By Pali Lehohla
JOHANNESBURG – May 2004 was poised for better outcomes in South Africa. Former president Thabo Mbeki led a celebratory victory party at the Union Buildings after he, late president Nelson Mandela and Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu had presented a compelling case for South Africa to host the 2010 Fifa World Cup.
The economy was growing at 5 percent and unemployment had dropped from 30 to 22 percent.
2010 came and departed.
Fast forward a decade later and ask what South Africa has done with its glorious legacy of struggle. What does the passing on of advocate George Bizos in the past week mean for us?
Bizos, one of the most decorated human rights lawyers the world has ever known, must be worn out by mountains of affidavits of the Covid-19 corruption that is collapsing the moral fibre of the nation.
He would be telling late founding president of the ANC Youth League Anton Lembede that the current president of the ANC Cyril Ramaphosa has called the party accused No 1.
He would tell Lembede that of the protestation from Ramaphosa’s predecessor Jacob Zuma that it is not the ANC, but a few advantaged, that should stand accused.
Lembede would ask Bizos on the allegations and the counter allegations. He would tell Bizos that he heard from fellow struggle stalwart Andrew Mlangeni how his family refused Zuma speaking rights at his funeral.
He had heard the same from Dennis Goldberg, Ahmed Kathrada and Makhenkesi Stofile.
Lembede would ask Bizos what has happened to his beloved ANC that even Mandela’s funeral could be mired in a scandal similar to that of the procurement of personal protective equipment.
He would say he heard from Winnie Mandela that her funeral was also tainted by corruption. Lembede would ask what happened to the message of hope that Chris Hani, Oliver Tambo, Dullah Omar, Steve Tshwete and Govan Mbeki gave that South Africa was on the rise after achieving a peaceful transition.
But we, as a society, have to ask ourselves how we embraced the sacrifices and the commitment of Lembede and his compatriots of freedom in our lifetime.
Franz Fanon said each generation needed to discover its mission and fulfil it or betray it. Former ANC Youth League member China Dodovu laments the deplorable state of the youth league.
His lamentations are well grounded.
The EFF’s protests against the racist Clicks hair advert this week has demonstrated that a mission is one that should be embraced as a social movement.
It needs permission, strategy, nor tactics from no one, but prompted by society itself.
Dr Lehohla is the former statistician-general of South Africa and former head of Statistics South Africa.