To celebrate the centennial of Madiba’s birth, two lecture’s were delivered by Former US President Barack Obama and Kenyan intellectual, legal expert and scholar, professor Patrick Loch Otiena Lumumba.
The two deliveries occurred after the other and offered interesting takes on the memory of the late Nelson Mandela and the future of South Africa respectively.
Obama’s theme was centered on “Renewing the Mandela Legacy and Promoting Active Citizenship in a Changing World”.
He addressed a 15 000-strong crowd at Wanderers stadium with a diplomatic American charm and wit, that focused on how a collective spirit would be needed to create conducive conditions for bridging divides, working across ideological lines, and resisting oppression and inequality.
His speech tracked the enormous social and democratic progress the world has made in the 100 years between Mandela’s 1918 birth and 2018. The former US president also spoke of his personal attachment to Madiba’s memory.
“Madiba’s light shone so brightly … that in the late seventies he could inspire a young college student on the other side of the world to re-examine my own priorities – to reconsider the small role that I might play in bending the arc towards justice. President Barrack Obama, “And now an entire generation has now grown up in a world that by most measures has gotten steadily freer, healthier, wealthier, less violent and more tolerant during the course of their lifetimes. It should make us hopeful.” he said
Obama further outlined how the world has changed from one just emerging from a devastating war and in which most of what is now the developing world was under colonial rule. Women, across the world, were seen as subordinate to men, some races were seen – almost universally – as naturally subordinate and inferior to others, and business saw nothing wrong in seeking to exploit workers, of any race or creed.
Obama went on to caution on now the world stood on the brink of letting go of all this progress.
“Some people, world-over, saw the politics of fear and resentment as preferable to the “messiness of democracy”, Obama said. The former US President said, however, that he still believed in the vision of Nelson Mandela.
“I believe we have no choice but to move forward,” Obama said. “I believe those of us who believe in democracy and human rights have a better story to tell.”
Obama concluded with a call for the empowerment of young people, who would need to be aroused so they could lead the world into the future.
The second Nelson Mandela Memorial lecture was delivered at the Walter Sisulu University Mthatha Campus by Professor Lumumba. The lecture was attended by‚ a number of dignitaries namely Bhisho legislature deputy speaker Mlibo Qoboshiyane‚ Department of rural development and agrarian reform MEC Xolile Nqatha and ANC provincial secretary Lulama Ngcukaitobi.
Lumumba touched on what he thought would’ve been the pivotal questions that would need answering , if Mandela was alive to celebrate his centenary. Questioning how a continent like Africa‚ which is rich in mineral resources‚ continued to be poor and disadvantaged.
“He would have asked how is it that our continent that is so endowed produces what it does not consume and consumes what it does not produce. He would have asked whether the continent of Africa is really liberated‚” Lumumba said.
“He would have asked, how is it that the tea that’s produced in Kenya is then taken to the United Kingdom and upon a little addition is then christened British tea? continued Lumumba.
The professor spoke on the issue of land and the need for corruption to be dismantled. He said the time had come for Africa to cleanse itself and deal with corruption‚ as Mandela would have liked.
“The time has come we must do away with dealers and have leaders‚ do away with cheaters and have teachers instead. He would have posed the question: ‘How is it that corruption is still a scourge in our continent?’ Madiba would have told us to unite‚” he said.
The lectures were similar in the fact that they spoke of doing away with corruption and supported the fact that a collective unity would be needed to drive Africa forward.
However, the lectures differed in a number of ways, particularly on which points would need to be questioned if we are to elongate and revive Nelson Mandela’s true legacy and memory.