Political titan, businessman extraordinaire, philanthropist and a figurehead of the ANC’s negotiation process in the early 1990s, Dr Mathews Phosa visited the North-West University (NWU) on 23 May and pulled no punches in detailing how to get the country back on track.
The NWU’s Faculty of Engineering hosted the event and, in his address titled “How students can contribute to building a better future for all”, Dr Phosa paraphrased “…our beloved Madiba, who said: ‘I dream of a South Africa at peace with itself.’ The tragic truth is that we are not at peace with ourselves, and here are some of the reasons why. Government inexplicably disputes that it has a legal duty to provide certain services and infrastructure to its citizens.
“To ensure that there is no ambiguity I propose that our legislators amend the relevant sections and schedules of the Constitution to reflect that it is their duty to provide, among others, a stable, uninterrupted flow of electricity and water.”
He added that as things stand, we will be involved in endless litigations as to what government duties are, while those we should diligently serve are cold and hungry.
“We are sadly again flirting with the seductive dangers of tribalism, chauvinism and racism. I am especially concerned at the signs I see of leaders seeking populist retreats in the cocoons of regional tribalism. We seem to have shelved, in the interest of political expediency, the ideal of a rainbow nation in which we acknowledge and treasure the guiding principle that South Africa belongs to all who live in it, black and white.”
Dr Phosa said that he recently advocated for a Government of National Unity to help the country get rid of the cancer of corruption brought on by the sad spectre of a government dangerously disconnected from the vulnerable that they are supposed to lead towards a better life.
“We need all hands on deck to turn around a ship that is heading towards treacherous waters. Instead of looking for enemies everywhere, we should be looking for friends, partners and ideas that challenge our outdated wisdoms. In our diversity lies strength, not weakness.”
He also outlined the role that tertiary institutions can play in allowing democracy to thrive. “Your duty as academics, intellectuals and students is to speak truth to power, to challenge corruption, to expose lies and to come up with ideas to improve service delivery and stimulate jobs through a growing economy.”
Dr Mathews Phosa.