South Africa to move on with Constitution’s help
Emine Kart CAPE TOWN/ANKARA
Wind blows the tarp off of the raised fist of a nine-foot statue of former South African President Nelson Mandela, waiting to be unveiled outside South Africa’s newly renovated embassy in Washington. Cape Town Mayor Patricia de Lille says the country ‘misses Mandela very dearly.’ Reuters photoCape Town Mayor Patricia de Lille recalls that her country comes from a very divided and sad past and is already mourning for Nelson Mandela’s eventual farewell, who she says has a “glue-like” effect for the unity of the country. She maintains, however, that her country’s Constitution has the capability of both healing the past’s wounds as well as resolving the potential crises in the future.
“We miss Mandela very dearly because the entire country has got the sense of unity within the country thanks to him,” De Ville said, as she elaborated on great gestures of goodwill by Mandela particularly after being elected as the president in 1994, that have set examples for the majority of the population, that is to say for non-white people.
“What happens after he goes? For me, even to talk and think about the day when Madiba is not here is very difficult,” she said, referring to Mandela by the traditional clan name by which he is affectionately known.
Yet, she went on to say: “Because we have such a good Constitution, we have to tend to make that Constitution a living document, because that is what we have inherited from Mandela. It is one of the best constitutions in the world and it is to get those active citizens that can go out and claim those rights.”
De Ville’s remarks were delivered last week to a group of journalists from Turkey who visited her country at a time when their country was the source of a considerable amount of concerns over whether the current polarization in the country might eventually lead up to a new big wave of instability as well as concerns over the cascade effect of an eventual failure in the ongoing peace process aimed at ending the three-decade long conflict between Turkey’s security forces and the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) in order to hopefully pave the way for resolution of the century-old Kurdish issue.
Those remarks inevitably bring to mind the fate of the ongoing Constitution-making process in Turkey which has been stalled as the four political parties represented in the Parliament have not yet been able to reach a consensus even on articles covering fundamental rights and freedoms.
Project, not intervention
Mandela lived by example, according to de Lille, who was at the time described by Mandela as “a strong, principled woman” and his “favorite opposition politician.”
De Lille recalled remarkable moments of Mandela as a reconciler when he had tea with the widow of apartheid architect Hendrik Verwoerd and when he donned the Springboks rugby jersey to congratulate the mainly white team’s victory in the 1995 Rugby World Cup.
“All of us, as grassroots people, we never used to support our rugby team, we supported all the visiting teams that come and play here. And when he went to the stadium, 95 percent of the audience was white people,” she explains in a bid to better elaborate on the boldness of his actions.
“Reconciliation cannot be invented. It is a process and so we are still in that process of reconciling,” de Lille said.
As a matter of fact, she was speaking of a concept which has been commonly used in Turkey to the level of exhaustion of the very same concept. he majority of politicians in Turkey interpret “reconciliation” as a derivative of a problematic understanding of “tolerance,” in which the party which “tolerates” is “the predominant,” thus the ruler of the so-called reconciliation.
“The point is that when we want to reconcile in this country; just who is to reconcile and with whom and why? We tend to shy away from saying who must reconcile and why. And so you got a number of white people with serious guilt feelings, lots of them in denial and lots of them saying that they did not know apartheid existed,” de Lille also said, bringing to mind scenes in Turkey which may easily be associated with what she described of her country’s situation vis-à-vis the issue of reconciliation.