The wife of former South African president Nelson Mandela, Graca Machel has called on government to mend the social crises in South African communities. Machel said the country had not begun to understand the deep "social crises, which has been structured, crafted, engineered and systematically implemented” during the apartheid period to oppress the majority of the people.
Machel was speaking at the Archbishop Desmond Tutu Peace Lecture that took place at the University of the Western Cape in Bellville, Cape Town.
The purpose of this annual lecture is to acknowledge the contribution of all those who supported the struggle for liberation in South Africa through peaceful means, and to also promote understanding and co-operation in a multi-faith democratic South Africa.
Women, democracy and freedom was the foundation of Machel's speech. The issue of gender violence is being emphasised as the 16-days of activism approaches. “That is important, we need that, but it is not the basic of the issue. The issue is why we have so many cases of trying to hurt and dehumanize one another. That’s one issue I don’t think we have taken the trouble to look into.”
We are bleeding and we are harming one another because we can’t control our pain
She said South Africa’s societal interactions were those of accusing and blaming one another, as if it was the responsibility of someone else.
“We are in pain. We are hurting. We are bleeding and we are harming one another because we can’t control our pain. I’m talking of our society in general. Those who rape women, elderly, and children are reflection of self-hate. They’ve become hollow of their humanity.
“We need a vision of how to build a healthy society… how to heal the character of the sons and daughters of this nation. It should help us move away from anger, fear and accumulated inhibitions.”
Machel pointed out that, families had been “torn apart for at least three decades” during the apartheid regime and that today’s parents, who grew up in “torn and dysfunctional families”, were trying “to mould their children into family environments they didn’t enjoy.”
Machel also reminded the audience of the celebrated Women’s March of 1956, describing it as a turning point in women’s place in society.
“Women proofed they could change the rules of the game. I think we need to fit that image of all women marching together for their dignity.”
Machel further lamented, “Today, women’s voice is fragmented in different interest group and women in rural areas are not heard on national issues.”
She called on women to be “agents of change.”
“Voices of women need to be part of shaping, implementation of how we move together.”
Introducing Machel to the podium, Tutu described Machel as a freedom fighter.
“When Freedom came to Mozambique she was minister of education and culture and later married the president,” to a round of applause from the audience.
Deputy Vice Chancellor of the UWC, Ramesh Bharuthram also described Tutu as “a moral compass, who fearlessly stood for the wellbeing of others.”
Last year, President Jacob Zuma thanked Mozambican people for helping South Africa in its fight against the apartheid system. Zuma said this during an event at Mbuzini, Mpumalanga, during the 25th anniversary commemoration of the death of Mozambique's president Samora Machel.
He said Machel had done this at great cost to his life and his country's prosperity. He said the relationship between Mozambique and South Africa should ensure that future generations knew about what happened in the past.