[BOOK EXTRACT] Dare Not Linger
In 1994, Nelson Mandela became the first president of a democratic South Africa. From the outset he was committed to serving only a single five-year term. During his presidency, he and his government ensured that all South Africa’s citizens became equal before the law, and laid the foundations for turning a country riven by centuries of colonialism and apartheid into a fully functioning democracy.
'Dare Not Linger' is the story of Mandela’s presidential years, drawing heavily on the memoir he began to write as he prepared to conclude his term of office but was unable to finish. Now, South African writer Mandla Langa has completed the task, using Mandela’s unfinished draft, detailed notes that Mandela made as events were unfolding and a wealth of unseen archive material. The result is an account of Mandela’s presidency and the creation of a new democracy. It tells the extraordinary story of a country in transition and the challenges Mandela faced as he strove to make his vision for a liberated South Africa a reality.
Nelson Mandela, speech at the final sitting of the first democratically elected parliament, Houses of Parliament, Cape Town, 26 March 1999. He is reflecting on the Government of National Unity’s achievements and the ongoing challenges.
‘Each historical period,’ he said, ‘defines the specific challenges of national progress and leadership; and no man is an island.
‘And for me, personally, I belong to the generation of leaders for whom the achievement of democracy was the defining challenge.
‘I count myself fortunate in not having had to experience the rigours of exile and decades of underground and mass struggles that consumed the lives of such giants as OliverTambo, Anton Lembede, Duma Nokwe, Moses Kotane, and J. B. Marks, Robert Sobukwe and Zephania Mothopeng, Oscar Mpetha, Lilian Ngoyi, Bishop Alpheus Zulu, Bram Fischer, Helen Joseph, Alex La Guma, Yusuf Dadoo and Monty Naicker. Unfortunately, Steve Biko passed away in his youth, but he was a rising star. If he had been given the chance, I would have counted him among these.
‘I count myself fortunate that, amongst that generation, history permitted me to take part in South Africa’s transition from that period into the new era whose foundation we have been laying together.
‘I hope that decades from now, when history is written, the role of that generation will be appreciated and that I will not be found wanting against the measure of their fortitude and vision. Indeed, Madam Speaker, I have noted with deep gratitude, the generous praise that has often been given to me as an individual. But let me state this:
‘To the extent that I have been able to achieve anything, I know that this is because I am the product of the people of South Africa.
‘I am the product of the rural masses who inspired in me the pride in our past and the spirit of resistance.
‘I am the product of the workers of South Africa who, in the mines, factories, fields and offices of our country, have pursued the principle that the interests of each are founded in the common interest of all.
‘I am the product of South Africa’s intelligentsia of every colour, who have laboured to give our society knowledge of itself and to fashion our people’s aspirations into a reasonable dream. I am the product of South Africa’s business people in industry and agriculture, commerce and finance – whose spirit of enterprise has helped turn our country’s immense natural resources into the wealth of our nation.
‘To the extent that I have been able to take our country forward to this new era, it’s because I am the product of the people of the world who have cherished the vision of a better life for all people everywhere. They insisted, in a spirit of self-sacrifice, that that vision should be realised in South Africa too. They gave us hope because we knew by their solidarity that our ideas could not be silenced since they were the ideas of humanity.
‘I am the product of Africa and her long-cherished dream of a rebirth that can now be realised so that all her children may play in the sun. If I have been able to help take our country a few steps towards democracy, non-racialism and non-sexism, it is because I am a product of the African National Congress, of the movement for justice, dignity and freedom that produced countless giants in whose shadow we find our glory.
‘When, as will be the case in a few months, I once again become an ordinary citizen of our land, it shall be as one whose concerns and capacities are shaped by the people of our land.
‘I will count myself as amongst the aged of our society; as one of the rural population; as one concerned for the children and youth of our country; and as a citizen of the world committed, as long as I have the strength, to work for a better life for all the people everywhere. And as I have always done, I will do what I can within the discipline of the broad movement for peace and democracy to which I belong.’
'Dare Not Linger' is published by Pan Macmillan South Africa.