Parliament, Sunday 18 July 2021 – Parliament’s Presiding Officers led by Speaker of the National Assembly (NA), Ms Thandi Modise and Chairperson of the National Council of Provinces (NCOP), Mr Amos Masondo, say that the birthday of South Africa's first democratic President is an opportunity for South Africans to reflect on progress made in living the values he espoused, embodied and endowed our nation and the world with.

As we celebrate the birthday of our first democratically elected President, Nelson Mandela, on 18 July, we should all endeavour to honestly answer the question - individually and collectively - is our nation better than he left it? Is our world a better place to play, live and work in than when Madiba left it?

The United Nations declared Madiba’s birthday, 18 July, as an annual international Nelson Mandela Day in 2009, to inspire each person to appreciate the power each one has, to use it to transform and make our world a better place for all, especially the vulnerable.

“As we celebrate the Mandela Day, we need to consider what Madiba would have done today to deal with numerous challenges that include persistent unemployment, economic challenges, inequality, crime, the Covid-19 pandemic and the latest destruction of property and livelihoods which left over 200 people dead and billions of rands lost. In appreciating our individual and collective responsibilities, we should spare no effort to help our country overcome these challenges,” said the Presiding Officers.

The Mandela Day is about the people. We must work to achieve the goal of improving the quality of life of the people, especially the poor and vulnerable. We should use whatever skills and knowledge at our disposal to advance the country and its interests. In that way, we would have gone a long way in ensuring that the values for which Madiba stood become a reality for the benefit of the current and future generations.

These values include: building a non-racial society, ensuring gender equality, protecting human rights, promoting reconciliation and conflict resolution, social justice, as well as a better South Africa - a better Africa and a better world.

The Presiding Officers said: “The disturbing acts of violence displayed this week in KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng –intending to plunge the country into an economic and social crisis - go against the grain of what Mandela firmly stood for. Parliament welcomes the work undertaken by law enforcement authorities working with communities to quell the situation and urges them to leave no stone unturned in bringing the perpetrators to book irrespective of their social status.”

Using its oversight tools and mechanisms, Parliament will closely monitor the work of the executive in restoring law and order in the two provinces, rebuilding and in pursuing and dealing with the instigators of insurrection to send a clear message to potential culprits.”

“Equally, amid the darkness, Madiba’s values sparkly blossomed when communities rallied together across racial lines helping to protect, clean and rebuild. His everlasting legacy of humanity and ubuntu is evident from the pushback South Africans did to protect their neighbourhoods, clean up and to contribute to rebuilding. We dare not lose hope; we are stronger united as we all work towards building our communities free from all socio-economic ills,” emphasised the Presiding Officers.

They continued: “As a country, we have all learnt valuable lessons from the crisis of the past week - the best birthday gift we gave Madiba was unity among communities in defending the hard-won constitutional democracy against its biggest challenge since the attainment of freedom in 1994. In his honour, Parliament recommits to its constitutional mandate of overseeing executive action in building a non-racial, non-sexist, democratic and prosperous South Africa for which millions sacrificed to attain.”

Parliament also urges South Africans not to let their guards down on Covid-19 health protocols – abide by all health protocols, maintain and observe social distancing, wear a mask when in public. The consequences of the last week are still to be felt in the coming period, however, united in our diversity and inspired by the teachings of Madiba, we will triumph over all the challenges.

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