I had the privilege and honour of knowing the late Nelson Mandela as one of his aids after his release from prison and I remember him as an icon whose stature transcends even death – a great man whose humility, dignity and positive attitude continue to inspire me, and the world.
It is only fitting that we commemorate his loving memory in this period, which saw the commemoration of the 16 Days of Activism for No Violence Against Women and Children campaign and this the month of reconciliation, with the Day of Reconciliation celebrated today, Wednesday December 16. This is a national imperative to uphold freedom and human rights in promoting equality and justice in solidarity of his ideals.
Far too many of us stand on the sidelines, comfortable in complacency or cynicism when our voices must be heard.
Rampant gender-based violence in South Africa is an example of the betrayal of the fundamental values of our constitution and that cherished legacy of Madiba.
Also, it is a cruel irony in that South Africa is one of a few countries in the world that made gender equality a constitutional right, yet we stand accused of having one of the worst track records of violence against women and children.
True to his legacy, Madiba showed us the power of unity in action and that we are all bound together in ways that can be invisible to the eye – that there is oneness to humanity, that we gain when sharing ourselves with others and caring.
The unacceptable high levels of violence and abuse against women and children are indicative of something fundamentally wrong with society and it is my conviction that if we all work together, we will not be in this situation.
It is the legacy of Madiba that reminds us that “it always seems impossible until it is done”.
We can choose to live in a country defined not by our differences, but by our common hopes.
We can choose to live in a country defined not by conflict, but by peace, justice and equality.
Our racist past and sexist and antidemocratic practices make it difficult for men and women, black and white, to conduct themselves appropriately without some help to bring about a change in mindset. As such, forging constructive relationships with real men who know that abuse is a sign of weakness on the part of the abuser is the key to a bigger momentum to stop the shame of violence and abuse sweeping our communities.
Therefore, I am encouraged by campaigns by NGOs such as Sonke Gender Justice and initiatives such as the Million Men March that open up the way for collaboration between men and women to help stop violence and abuse.
I also concur with the view that it is an indictment on our global society that the 16 Days of Activism campaign has to be run in the first place.
This confirms that we are still challenged with some serious questions that must be addressed as a matter of urgency.
How do we promote equality and justice to uphold freedom and human rights so that we do not have a complete break-down of the system, before we have a break-through?
It requires civic education at home, at school, in the workplace, in communities…
The longer we wait, the more likely we are to normalise what is abnormal, hence, we need communities to stand and work together to shift mind-sets from accepting the abnormal as a new normal where zero tolerance for abuse is the norm of the day.
We can close the gaps between the constitution, the Bill of Rights and its values and the day-to-day reality of abused women and children.
This much we owe our children and generations to come – to act together and reaffirm the right to dignity, freedom and equality.
In the final analysis, Madiba understood the ties that bind the human spirit and regardless of our situation and circumstances, we must ask how well we have applied his lessons in our lives.
Let us be torch-bearers of Madiba’s legacy in our fight against woman and child abuse and inequality which undermines the fundamental principles of our constitution.