It is time for introspection and correctional action in the best interests of our society, for our hard-won freedom, for the current and future generations, for a non-racist, non-sexist, truly democratic and corruption-free South Africa.
Among many positive attributes of our country and lessons learnt from our collective history there are three that stand out for me right now.
All three have contributed to the creation of a country we have been proud of: a country that puts people first.
All three helped to shape the shared values that resonated so widely with all those who identified with the liberation project, and with many other people of good will around the world.
Our leaders held themselves to a higher standard, and they were beyond reproach. This made our struggle credible and our cause just.
With Ubuntu, again our people helped to create a narrative that explained human solidarity to us as a nation.
There are many around the world who have also embraced this term and appropriated it for their own struggles.
Our tradition of indaba, lekgotlas, bosberaads, the way we handled Codesa and the constituent assembly achieving a sufficient consensus – all this makes us a people who (use) dialogue.
All three together feed into our tremendous, positive, shared history that is defining for South Africa – and to be cherished.
Where do we stand now?
We are now in need of a leadership that can help us to restore the values that we have been losing. We need role-models for this, and we need society at levels to engage and to pull together.
We need to return to the South Africa that is envisaged in our constitution.
With leaders who serve instead of being served, and to restore Ubuntu to be part of the guiding principles for our nation.
We are deeply in need of dialogue where dissent is not seen as contentious.
Youth and women have played an important and positive role in our discourse.
The women of our country and women in many parts of the world including countries in conflict are often a catalyst for change, able to stand for peace and reconciliation when nations tear themselves apart.
Batswara Thipa kabohali in defence of the weak and the indigent, they fight for humanitarian support and justice. We need to occupy that space again in our country, more decisively and deliberately.
We must not hand over a divided, demoralised, unscrupulous country to the next generation where there is mediocrity and greed.
Instead let us strive for excellence, Ubuntu and Batho Pele.
Who stands to lose most if we do not find our way?
The masses of our people who are still battling poverty and those who deserve and need services, will lose.
When we deliver those services it is not a favour that we dispense but a right that people have. We must not expect to be rewarded or reward ourselves for doing our jobs, just as we cannot reward a fish for swimming.
If we do not find our way the women and girls who live and experience violence will lose.
When institutions that are supposed to show zero tolerance to any form of violation of rights are themselves in crisis we all lose.
The rights of women and those who have overcome many challenges are eroded when we fail to respect our constitution and its values.
When racism from all sides, and xenophobia rears its ugly head, we all lose.
That is why it is time for dialogue.
It is time for introspection and correctional action in the best interests of our society, for our hard-won freedom, for the current and future generations, for a non-racist, non-sexist, truly democratic and corruption-free South Africa! DM
This was Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka’s speech at the National Foundations Dialogue Initiative