Opening remarks by Deputy Minister Ntombazana Botha at the Nelson Mandela Foundation Malibongwe Dialogue held at Sandton Convention Centre
Honourable Mrs Graca Machel
Honourable Mrs Winnie Madikizela Mandela
Gracious veterans and sisters
Our distinguished Stalwarts
Ladies and Gentlemen
Malibongwe igama lamakhosikazi!
It is a privilege and a pleasure for me to welcome you all to this dialogue session.
This year we are celebrating the 90th birthday of one of our greatest, world-renowned icons of the century, uTata u-Nelson Mandela. It is, therefore, commendable that the Nelson Mandela Foundation organised a series of programmes to celebrate the life of a truly remarkable person, the father of our nation, the son of our beloved country and, indeed, a statesman who is loved and revered by the whole world. Please join me in wishing him a happy 90th birthday year, good health and happiness. Happy birthday, Tata!
The issues we will be discussing today in this dialogue session are some of the important issues which Tat’ uMadiba had placed before the nation when he took office as the first President of a democratic South Africa . In his first State of the Nation Address in 1994 he made a profound statement in Parliament. He said: “It is vitally important that all structures of Government, including the President himself, should understand this fully that freedom cannot be achieved unless the women have been emancipated from all forms of oppression. All of us must take this on board that the objectives of the Reconstruction and Development Programme will not have been realised unless we see, in visible and practical terms, that the condition of the women of our country has radically changed for the better and that they have been empowered to intervene in all aspects of life as equals with any other member of society”.
It is now 14 years since Tat’ uMadiba said these words. In this month of August, the Women’s Month, we take this opportunity to look back with pride at what has been accomplished in response to Tat’ uMadiba’s call.
As we celebrate Women’s Month we should also be paying tribute to a phenomenal woman who gave birth to this unique gift for the world, Tat’ uMadiba’s mother, uMama uNosekeni.
His inherent strength, his wisdom, his caring nature and his visionary leadership are qualities which, I believe, Tat’ uMadiba acquired in his mother’s womb (waza waphinda wazincanca emabeleni ka Mama wakhe, uMama uNosekeni), the woman who raised him, who nurtured him and instilled in him the values of ubuntu - of love, care and compassion. We are deeply indebted to Mam’ uNosekeni for the sacrifice she made of offering her son for the liberation of our nation.
We will therefore, year after year, continue to pay tribute and salute all our unsung heroes, like Mam’ uNosekeni, who led by example and left us a legacy of the true meaning of courage, sacrifice and determination in pursuit of the noble goal of equality, freedom and justice for all.
Every year, the month of August presents us, the women of South Africa , with an opportunity to renew our pledge, to join hands and together build a prosperous and peaceful nation free from all forms of discrimination, injustice, social exclusion and inequality.
We are spurred on by the deep understanding that as long as women are bound by poverty and as long as they are looked down upon, the ideals that Tat’ uMadiba stands for will take a long while before they are realised. As long as patriarchal tendencies prevent women from making a meaningful contribution to society, progress will be slow. As long as the nation refuses to acknowledge the important role women are playing in society, as leaders and as peacemakers, then I dare say that we are pursuing a lost cause.
Our theme for Women’s Month last year was: Emancipation, Equality, Empowerment of women for Poverty Eradication. This year’s theme is: “Business Unusual -/span> All power to Women”
In a democratic South Africa , for which Nosekeni’s son fought for many decades, we recognise the power that women possess and that it is because of women’s involvement in the struggle spanning many years that today's women are playing a central role in the process of transformation of our country.
Today I wish to single out uMama uNosekeni and place her in the realm of those who throughout the long years of struggle demonstrated fortitude in confronting the most difficult conditions. It is essential that we must build on the tradition established by these heroic women who contributed to our liberation to ensure that women today continue to be social and political activists and fighters for their own emancipation and empowerment, and contributing to the achievement of the goal of a better life for all by eradicating poverty and all forms of inequality.
Furthermore, it behoves us to strengthen our resolve to accelerate the process of transforming South Africa to become a truly non-racial, non-sexist, democratic and peaceful society. We need to ensure that our government creates an enabling environment for the empowerment of all women by providing the necessary integrated services and resources to improve the quality of their lives.
What is required is unfailing commitment to work together in all sectors including the private, public and religious sectors to ensure proper representation of women at all levels of decision-making. We should work closely with our compatriots in business, so that together we can move away from the 'old boys club' mentality that results in the exclusion of women from positions in top and senior management, and give the women of this country the opportunity to demonstrate their capabilities and utilise their God-given talents and expertise to drive our economy and contribute meaningfully to the overall economic growth.
As we deliberate today let us also reflect on how best to include those women in our communities, who are still marginalised; those women who are still trapped in the cycle of poverty in the rural areas and in the informal settlements. The door to door visits to destitute families, which supports the war on poverty campaign, forces us to stare poverty straight in the face and to come up with instant solutions to bring about change , working together as women; to develop strategies to break the cycle of poverty in each of these household. This campaign ushers in an era of hope. Hope that there is always at least one person in each household who can break the cycle of poverty, working together with other family members.
This is a challenge to all of us present here today. Some of us are involved in successful businesses. Others are professionals and others are experts in their field of work. All of us together have the potential of making a difference in the lives of our less privileged sisters and brothers. Our national theme for this year is, therefore, very appropriate: “Business Unusual: All hands on deck to speed up change”.
Let us also take this opportunity to thank our dear father and leader, Tat’ uMadiba for foregrounding women’s emancipation and also to thank President Thabo Mbeki for promoting the participation of women at various levels of decision-making in government.
Once again, welcome to this second Malibongwe Dialogue. Our panelists will have much more to share with us and I hope that all of us will participate in the discussions. I have no doubt that this dialogue and subsequent dialogues will benefit all of us and help us chart the way forward to accelerate the process of transformation for a better life for all the people of our country.
Malibongwe igama lamakhosikazi!
I thank you.