‘Invest to rebuild S. Africa’ call by Winnie Mandela

MRS Winnie Mandela has called on countries to invest in South Africa to help rebuild a nation ravaged by the policies of the apartheid era.

Speaking at the opening of the Singapore-owned Sammy Marks Convention Centre on Monday, the Deputy Minister of Arts,Culture, Science and Technology said her government faced a “mammoth task” of creating jobs and providing houses, schools and better health services.

“In the global village, no nation is an island unto itself,” she said in her speech.

“For the reconstruction and development programme to succeed, South Africa needs a massive infusion of foreign investment to complement its efforts.”

The African National Congress-led government has estimated that “reconstruction” programmes would cost US$12 billion (S$18.3 billion).

The ANC has promised to build a million homes over the next five years and distribute state land to black people. It has also to create 2 1/2 million jobs and improve education and health services.

“It is a nightmare. Squatters have mushroomed on the peripheries of every city in this country. Apartheid just bled us,” Mrs Mandela told The Straits Times earlier in an interview – her first to the media since she assumed her Cabinet appointment in May this year.

She said that the “biggest test” of the new government was to deliver the “social goods” it promised during the country’s first all-race elections in April this year.

The 59-year-old head of the ANC Women’s League was arrested, charged, convicted and jailed repeatedly by the apartheid regime because of her political activities with the ANC.

“We fought battalions of the enemy during the apartheid era. We were never afraid,” she said. “But I am more frightened of not delivering our promises to the people than anything else.”

She said more than 18,000 people had been killed in racial riots over the last four years and “many, many thousands more”, before that. “We owe it to those poor innocent children who spilled their blood for this country,” she said with tears welling up in her eyes.

Mrs Mandela said it was not easy to forget how the whites had repressed the blacks in South Africa.

“I don’t know if you can make a people forget injustices against them,” she said in the 20-minute interview in her office. “But we must make every effort to forgive … though many whites find it difficult to accept the new reality.” She said that the ANC would “defend the revolution” if anyone tried to undermine the coalition government.

I will die a freedom fighter to save this revolution which is so dear to me,” she said, adding that the happiest period in her life was working underground as an ANC activist.

“Nothing was more fulfilling than keeping the ANC alive in the most difficult years of our political struggle,” she added.

Asked if she would reconcile with her husband, President Nelson Mandela, who separated from his wife in 1992 after her conviction for kidnapping four black youths, she replied:

“I am not fighting to be the country’s First Lady. In fact, I am not the sort of person to carry beautiful flowers and be an ornament to everyone.”

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