Former South African president Thabo Mbeki’s speeches are among those I love to read.
On January 1, I found time to read a speech he made on June 16, 1999 during his inauguration as second president of the democratic South Africa.
I was thrilled by a portion of it that I sought the permission of my editor to lift and adopt as my message to my readers.
The big man expresses the points far better than I would have done.
Speaking to a rainbow of people across the divide of orientations, ideas, loyalties, political persuasions, agendas, like we are in Malawi, he rallied them to join hands and mobilise resources of their energies in work defined by a common purpose to meet the challenges of their country.
Then he said (which are the points my readers may wish to grasp at the beginning of this year to define their purpose for the next 12 months):
“We must constantly return to the starting point and say – I am my brother’s keeper! I am my sister’s keeper!
And because we are one another’s keepers, we surely must be haunted by the humiliating suffering which continues to afflict millions of our people.
Our nights cannot, but be nights of nightmares while millions of our people live in conditions of degrading poverty.
Sleep cannot come easily when children get permanently disabled, both physically and mentally, because of lack of food.
No night can be restful when millions have no jobs, and some are forced to beg, rob and murder to ensure that they and their own do not perish from hunger.
Our minds will continue the restless inquiry to find out how it is possible to have a surfeit of productive wealth in one part of our common globe and intolerable poverty levels elsewhere on that common globe.
There can be no moment of relaxation while the number of those affected by HIV/Aids continues to expand at an alarming pace.
Our days will remain forever haunted when frightening numbers of women and children of our country fall victim to rape and other crimes of violence.
Nor can there be peace of mind when the citizens of our country feel they have neither safety nor security because of the terrible deeds of criminals and their gangs.
Our days and our nights will remain forever blemished as long as our people are torn apart and fractured into contending factions by reason of the regional, tribal and gender inequalities, which continue to characterise our society.
Neither can peace attend our souls as long as corruption continues to rob the poor of what is theirs and to corrode the value system, which sets humanity apart from the rest of the animal world.
The full meaning of liberation will not be realised until our people are freed both from oppression and from the dehumanising legacy of deprivation we inherited from our past.”
Mbeki would not have made the points any better.
The poverty that continues to beset our nation should, this year, begin to be the gasoline that fuels the engines of our angers to wake up to the realisation that it is our respective contribution that will change the fortunes of the country.
It is not the selfishness, the gluttony, the individualism, the self-assertiveness, the self-centeredness.
Without unity, we will fall!