Asmal: What happened to our humanism?

The African National Congress had remained intact in times of extreme adversity because of the discipline of members and their clear understanding of the party’s vision of peace and the eradication of poverty, Kader Asmal said on Wednesday.

That vision survived prison and exile and was embodied in the Freedom Charter of 1956 and in the Constitution, drafted in 1996, he said.

Asmal’s address was read at the Critical Reflections on the Legacy of Nelson Mandela conference organised by the Nelson Mandela Museum and the University of Fort Hare..

He said the ANC had never chosen violence to achieve democracy, but had only resorted to violence only after all peaceful means had been exhausted.

“A peaceful resolution of conflict is at the core of the Freedom Charter,” he said, noting that the authors of the Charter were arrested for treason.

Asmal said political violence had been rampant when Nelson Mandela was released from prison in 1990, particularly in KwaZulu-Natal and the East Rand

He said young people had wanted a direct order to intensify the struggle. Then and later, Mandela demonstrated his commitment to a negotiated settlement. When he visited KwaZulu-Natal for the first time after his release he called on the combatants to “take your guns, your knives and your pangas and throw them into the sea”.

“Let us ask ourselves what happened to that humanism that is represented and embodied by the generation of the Mandelas as brother attacks brother for the mere fact that they speak a different language and have different shades of skin. On our side, the legacy we know Mandela left us is that of human respect and dignity of all people, irrespective of race, colour or creed.”

He called on delegates to “ensure that you revisit the basis on which human beings wage the struggle for human rights and dignity”. - Sapa

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