Burning issues in Madiba fireside chat

FILE PICTURE: Advocate George Bizos. Picture: Refilwe Modise

On Thursday night Wits Chancellor and Deputy Chief Justice Dikgang Moseneke, Advocate George Bizos and Dr Ahmed Kathrada had a “fireside chat” as Moseneke called it.

A chat in front of more than a thousand academics, Wits alumni and members of the public to pay tribute to the late, great Nelson Mandela.

Kathrada teased Bizos for sending them to jail. Our deputy chief justice confessed to smuggling newspapers and books to Mandela in prison.

And Bizos brazenly chastised current leaders claiming to follow in Mandela’s footsteps.

“Who do our leaders think they are kidding?” Bizos exclaimed after recalling that Mandela donated a portion of his salary to the building of a school after he was inaugurated as South Africa’s first democratically elected president in 1994.

This remark was met with applause from an ardent audience.

“Mandela was a great man, but he always emphasised that he was part of a collective.

“He did not make policy, but that the collective made policy. I will be very worried if there is a change in the policy of a non-racial, non-sexist, democratic, prosperous South Africa,” said Kathrada.

Kathrada continued by emphasising the role of the Constitutional Court in protecting policy and, when Moseneke listed that, going forward South Africa needs the Public Protector, a good parliament and good leaders, the audience made their agreement known.

In stark contrast to the fumblings characterising other memorial events this week, the service paid tribute to Mandela without trying to do too much.

The memories of Mandela’s close comrades allowed us to laugh and cry in turn.

And yet the evening was underlined by a sense of urgency, purpose and a call to return to the ideals and vision that Mandela fought for.

“We have to continue to establish those democractic constitutions that will see us there, that will get us there,” said Moseneke.

“He was not a fanatic, he was a reconciliator.

“But he also resented the suggestion that he was so special that there was no other person in South Africa to take over,” said Bizos.

Other speakers at the Wits University memorial service included Johannesburg mayor Parks Tau, president of the Wits Convocation Professor Mamokgethi Phakeng, and president of the Wits Student Representative Council Shafee Verachia, who received a standing ovation after his tribute.

The programme was interspersed with musical numbers from the Wits School of Music choir and well-known, popular singer Lira.

today in print

today in print