Twenty years ago on 27 April South Africans made their way into the enormous and influential books of history. For the first time ever Africans could participate in the country’s general elections. Multitudes formed long, snaky queues to go and elect a government that best represents their interests. After many years of battling with the arrogance of white power the masses made their way in large numbers to different voting stations around the country to have their voice heard. Addressing the nation sixteen days later on the occasion of his Inauguration at the Union Buildings in the capital Pretoria, the son of the soil and the newly elected president of the infant democratic Republic of South Africa Tata Nelson Mandela spoke with pride and joy when he said: ‘Today, all of us do, by our presence here, and by our celebrations in other parts of our country and the world, confer glory and hope to newborn liberty.’
Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, today we gather, twenty years later to confer once again glory and hope to our hard won liberty. Today we gather again in our multitudes around the country, be it in the high-paced cities where sons and daughters lose their way, the pandemonic townships or in the serene far-flung hinterlands where you and I hail from, to also celebrate a tumultuous journey that we challenged ourselves to undertake back in 1994 albeit under difficult circumstances.
It is also important that we reflect hard on this journey, to assess the mistakes of the past; because to assume that we have always travelled on the right path would not only amount to foolishness of the highest order, but it would also indicate an uncharacteristic sign of arrogance on our part. We therefore take this privileged moment as South Africans to unequivocally state that despite the problems we encountered along the way, our astonishing progress has put detractors and naysayers to shame. Yet in the same breath we do concede together as a nation that more needs to be done to take this beautiful country to greater heights. Detractors and naysayers will always be on the sidelines to cheer on our failures and shortcomings because like all professionals it is their job. Theirs is to focus on the negatives. When one of us falters we should not distance ourselves from them because we fear that we might recognise ourselves in them. It goes against our grounding moral principle of Ubuntu/Botho that is imbued in the African way of life; after all to err is human.
Compatriots, a day as significant as this brings to mind the old, popular saying: Rome was not built in a day. We therefore understand that to expect to miraculously overturn centuries of suffering poverty and inequality is not only close to impossible but beyond preposterous. And as a people we are intellectually mature enough to know fully well that a nation cannot be taken to the gallows for the sins of one man. My countrymen, we have come this far; why not challenge ourselves once again to another twenty years of mystery and revelations? Old, wise men have once said to me that the future is inspired by the past. Or that history is the greatest teacher. Having perused the enormous and influential books of history regarding our past twenty years, I am not ashamed to say: South Africa, let us do it once more.
Fellow South Africans, dearly beloved, let it be that when we embark on a small journey today to the various voting stations scattered around this resplendent land of our forebears, surrounded by its breathtaking landscapes, to elect a political party that we see fit to ignore all the tempting ornaments and trappings that come with power and put our interests before theirs, we do so mindful of our treacherous past and thus making sure with a our vote that we never go back there. Let us put that all important ‘X’ to declare emphatically in the words of our Founding Father Tata Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela that ‘Never, never and never again shall it be that this beautiful land will again experience the oppression of one by another and suffer the indignity of being the skunk of the world.
Let freedom reign.
The sun shall never set on so glorious a human achievement!
God bless Africa!’ Kgotsong!