In the first Nelson Mandela Annual Lecture to be convened as a physical gathering since 2019, as a consequence of the Covid-19 pandemic, on Saturday 12 November the Nelson Mandela Foundation partnered with the Province of KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) to offer a special 20th edition headlined by the lecturer Prime Minister Mia Mottley of Barbados. She spoke compellingly to the theme of “Social Bonding and Decolonisation in the Context of the Climate Crisis: Perspectives from the Global South”.
Dedicated to the memory of those who suffered loss in the devastating floods in KZN earlier in the year, the event also featured contributions from KZN Premier Nomusa Dube-Ncube, Mrs Graça Machel and Professor Njabulo Ndebele. Proceedings were facilitated by Foundation Chief Executive Mr Sello Hatang and graced by musical performances from Ladysmith Black Mambaso, the Drakensberg Boys Choir and Mbongeni Ngema.
Prime Minister Mottley outlined compellingly what she called intersecting global crises, all of them underpinned by a resilient colonial patterning and a global financial system which is profoundly unjust and still rooted in its colonial pasts. Justice for the world, she suggested, is not imaginable while the most basic aspects of freedom have not been guaranteed.
She invoked Nelson Mandela as a still-powerful moral compass and recalled the international anti-apartheid movement as an enduring model for human solidarity. Her call to the Global South to work together, to own its agency, understand the issues and make reasonable demands, was insistent. As she drilled down into the technical aspects of climate and economic justice, she noted ruefully that this was not a ‘sexy’ line of enquiry for a Saturday afternoon in the seaside city of Durban. But her message was received warmly by a large and appreciative audience, which responded with ripples of applause throughout and three standing ovations.
In her formal response to the Lecture, Mrs Machel thanked Prime Minister Mottley for her example on the global stage. “We have a crisis of leadership, globally,” she said. “And in that crisis, you keep rising.”