In words and deeds: Nelson Mandela on development and international justice

Photograph of life of Nelson Mandela supplement included in print edition of The Guardian, 7th December 2013.
Photograph of cover of Nelson Mandela supplement included in print edition of The Guardian, 7th December 2013.

Many have said that in the passing of Mandela, a shining light in the world, a beacon of hope, has gone. This, I feel, is not true. We are all familiar with the more famous quotes from Madiba, however, here are some we may not be so familiar with – some to remember.

It is now up to us to ensure that his light does not become extinguished. It is up to us to keep not only his memory alive, but his ideals too.

On aid for Trade

“We need trade justice: no more subsidies and tariffs from the west that harm the exports and the people of Africa and the developing world. We need help to build infrastructure so that Africa can take advantage of trading opportunities and be given a fair chance to compete in the world economy.”

At the G7 finance ministers meeting, 4 February 2005.

On HIV stigma

“The fight against Aids goes beyond the physical and physiological; it challenges our thinking and our approach to many aspects of life. Let us start that war by breaking the silence around the issue of HIV/Aids. Stigmatisation and silence are as serious killers as the virus itself. Much of the progress we have made in this country in combating Aids is due to the growing tide of speaking publicly and clearly, and the growing public willingness to embrace and support those living with HIV/Aids.

As important as medicine and treatment are, people living with HIV/Aids need even more importantly love, support and compassion.”

At the Youth Forum on HIV/Aids, Johannesburg, September 22, 2003.

On tackling exclusion from higher education

“There was a time when universities were not primarily concerned with the special and often quite individualised needs of students. The institutions were repositories of great scientific and scholarly learning and it was up to the student to find his or her way into that specialised world. The members of the faculty were experts in their particular fields and their task was to continue to improve their scholarly expertise. To spend special energy on teaching those that could not cope was not always part of the primary function of the academic.

Universities must continue to be leading institutions for specialised high level scientific knowledge. In our own country, where we spend lots of time and energy contemplating issues of transformation also in higher education, that demand must remain non-negotiable. What one expects of the university in the changed circumstances is that it should utilise its expertise to find ways of greater sharing of knowledge.

It is not merely by accident that those from particular sectors of society are better skilled in accessing the world of knowledge than others. It is not as if those from poorer backgrounds or from the socially marginalised sectors have innately less intelligence or skills of knowledge acquisition. Many of these differences are socially and historically conditioned and are therefore capable of being addressed.”

At the 26th International Conference on Improving University Teaching, Rand Afrikaans Univeristy, Johannesburg, July 2001.

On Poverty Reduction and the role of the developing world

“Overcoming poverty is not a gesture of charity. It is an act of justice. It is the protection of a fundamental human right, the right to dignity and a decent life. While poverty persists, there is no true freedom. The steps that are needed from the developed nations are clear: The first is ensuring trade justice. I have said before that trade justice is a truly meaningful way for the developed countries to show commitment to bringing about an end to global poverty. The second is an end to the debt crisis for the poor countries. The third is to deliver much more aid and make sure it is of the highest quality.”

At the Make Poverty History rally, London, 3 February 2005.

On gender equality and women in leadership

“At the September Beijing Conference of the United Nations women of the world will gather to chart a path for humanity towards bringing an end to the evil that continues to plague even the most powerful of nations – and that is discrimination on the grounds of sex. I am assured of the constructive contribution that our women will make at that conference.

The constitution writing process is well underway. As a tribute to the legions of women who navigated the path of fighting for justice before us, we ought to imprint in the supreme law of the land, firm principles upholding the rights of women. The women themselves and the whole of society, must make this a prime responsibility.

We call on women to take an active part and leadership positions in the coming local government elections and structures that will emerge from these elections.”

At South Africa’s first National Women’s Day, 9 August 1995.

On the link between reconciliation and reconstruction

“From the outset, the government of National Unity set itself two interrelated tasks: reconciliation and reconstruction, nation-building and development. This is South Africa’s challenge today. It will remain our challenge for many years to come.

In reviewing the implementation of the Reconstruction and Development Programme, we should keep in mind the reality that the progress that we make in reconciling our nation will determine the pace at which this programme is implemented. On the other hand, reconciliation will remain shallow if it is not accompanied by thorough-going changes in all areas of life.”

100 days in government speech to South Africa’s parliament, Cape Town, 18 August 1994.

On participatory leadership and accountability

“Interaction and co-operation on policy issues and co-ordination of activities must become second nature. This does not however mean that government must be paralysed by the need to consult. As elected representatives we have a duty to take decisions. Some decisions may be popular but others not so popular. The fact remains that progress and development are dependent on well-thought out decisions.

Such decisions must be properly communicated to the electorate. My experience is that many important decisions take too much time to reach grassroots level. Regular meetings between councillors and their constituencies will help make transparency a key aspect of the daily functioning of local government.

Many of you have now been in office for just over a year. It is a good time to assess your own performance. Every councillor needs to ask: “Have I made a difference to the quality of life of the people?” How successful have we been over the past year in delivering essential services to residents, such as sanitation, roads, refuse removal, health services, electricity? Have we been able to deliver water and to mend the leaking pipes and the broken meters? Have we been able to bring services to the informal settlements and the rural areas? Have we deserved the trust that communities put in us?”

At the National Summit for Organised Local Government, Durban, 22 November 1996.

On technology

“Communication technologies have transformed the way people live and the manner in which countries develop. They have the potential to enable us to solve many of the critical problems confronting us. If this potential is to be realised, then we must find ways of turning these technologies into a resource for all people despite the challenges they face within their communities.”

At the opening ceremony of ITU Telecom World 2009, Geneva, 5 October 2009.

On leadership and freedom

This is probably the last time I will have the honour to stand at this podium to address the general assembly. Born as the first world war came to a close and departing from public life as the world marks half-a-century of the universal declaration of human rights, I have reached that part of the long walk when the opportunity is granted, as it should be to all men and women, to retire to some rest and tranquillity in the village of my birth.

As I sit in Qunu and grow as ancient as its hills, I will continue to entertain the hope that there has emerged a cadre of leaders in my own country and region, on my continent and in the world, which will not allow that any should be denied their freedom as we were; that any should be turned into refugees as we were; that any should be condemned to go hungry as we were; that any should be stripped of their human dignity as we were … Were all these hopes to translate into a realisable dream and not a nightmare to torment the soul of the aged, then will I, indeed, have peace and tranquillity. Then would history and the billions throughout the world proclaim that it was right that we dreamt and that we toiled to give life to a workable dream.”

At the United Nations general assembly, New York, 21 September 1998.

On meeting George W Bush

“He asked me what I would like to drink. I said, Cuban rum please”.