'We must recapture the spirit Mandela's release'

Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu on Wednesday urged all South Africans to recapture the spirit of the day Nelson Mandela was released from prison—February 11 1990.

“While politicians dwell on the political significance of Nelson Mandela’s release from prison, it is fitting on this momentous 20th anniversary of the event for all South Africans to remember where we come from,” he said in a statement.

“For the victory belonged not just to his beloved political organisation, the African National Congress, but to all the people of our dear land.”

Apartheid created a nation of victims and survivors. The indignity and brutality of the system affected everyone, and the fact that South Africa had one of the widest gaps in the world between its rich and poor citizens was a painful and enduring legacy, Tutu said.

The gap between rich and poor did not relate solely to income. It was a gap that was systemically levered through the deliberate creation of inferior and degrading social conditions for black people.

“The day Nelson Mandela walked free from Victor Verster Prison our collective spirit soared.

“It was a day that promised the beginning of the end of indignity. Four years later we voted for the first time. Some termed the new South Africa a miracle, the Rainbow Nation of God.

“Now, 20 years and four national elections down the line, our infant democracy is learning to walk. So much has been achieved, and there is so much yet to achieve.

“When we look around us and see the number of our compatriots still living in squalor, attending under-equipped schools, crammed like sardines into unsafe minibus taxis, we wonder when the fruit of democracy will reach the tables of all of our people.

“If we really want to make a difference we must recapture the spirit of that day of Nelson Mandela’s release. We must recapture the spirit of pride once articulated by Steve Biko. We must not forget the past,” Tutu said.—Sapa

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