Nelson Mandela Foundation

July 11, 2009 – The audience in the Johannesburg City Hall at the Seventh Nelson Mandela Annual Lecture hailed Professor Muhammad Yunus’ speech as inspirational.

“He’s amazing! He was so down-to-earth. He made me feel so foolish that I haven’t done more. He’s the first person I’ve heard speak without notes for over an hour and hold an audience like that – the first was Fidel Castro.” – Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, member of the ANC’s National Executive Committee

“It was an incredible, inspirational speech. We need to have goals and aspirations. Poverty has been the biggest issue of humankind. Making a contribution to fighting it defines our humanity.” – Maria Ramos, businesswoman

“It was wonderful. What Professor Yunus said convinced me that we have the capacity to conquer poverty. His policies are worth following up, I would like to thank the NMF for bringing him here and I think he was a great motivation for us all.”– Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, Congress of the People (Cope)

“It calls for a review of institutions, to talk to one another and to fight poverty in this country.” – Bantu Holomisa, leader of the United Democratic Movement

“For years, banks have seen the poor as too much of a hassle. We need to ensure that this changes.” – Trevor Manuel, Minister in the Presidency

“We have invited people in the past who are highly philosophical. It is the first time that we have invited someone to take us into the practical exactitudes of how it can be done. The housing backlog is 2.1-million people, but it was 5-million and we have halved it. In 10 to 15 years we can do away with it all together, but big and small corporations need to work together.” – Tokyo Sexwale, Minister of Human Settlements

“I thought it was very timely for us to hear such a speech in South Africa. It’s an opportunity for the country to focus on the problems of the poor, hopefully with new approaches and in the spirit of today’s speech that nothing is impossible.”– Njabulo Ndebele, author and trustee of the Nelson Mandela Foundation

“It was brilliant, practical, and profound in so many ways. He links the practice of his ideas with the ideas, which is unusual.” – Zwelakhe Mankazana, businessman

“What he said about people not visiting their neighbours, that is how people are. We need to learn to give.” – Ephraim Talane, attorney 

“The lecture was brilliant, he made it very simple. He addressed issues that are large challenges to South African institutions and government. We live in a capitalist country and capitalism has thrived on poverty. To address poverty, government needs to come up with a programme and institutions need to react to that.” – Maishe Maponya, writer

“It was inspiring. Two lessons to be learnt: firstly, fighting the culture of entitlement instead of getting up and doing it yourself, and it is also about business for people instead of business for myself.” – Coco Cachalia, Kagiso TV and Communications

“Poverty is a big problem but in a small way if everyone does something small it will make a huge difference.” – Dr Venitha Jithoo, psychologist at the University of the Witwatersrand

“I like the fact that he mentioned that we can achieve impossible things. The idea that we can do the impossible has to be entrenched in our discourse.” – William Bird, Media Monitoring Project

“Often we are put down by people with a particular view and it doesn’t have to be that way.” – Portia Kobue, SABC

“There is nothing impossible, we can do anything that we put our minds to”– Jacob Phalafala, World Bank

“The lecture was great. I loved his optimism and humility. It was inspirational and it opened my mind to the fact that I can do it by myself. He made me think of things that I wouldn’t necessarily have thought of.” – Andrew Lang, Wits Business School

“The Prof was great – he made everything sound very simple and possible. He taught me to stop taking things for granted and with a little effort we would be able to implement his policies here in South Africa.” – Keith Ramatlape, Nedbank Business Banking

“As he was giving his speech I said Yes! Let’s make South Africa a poverty-free zone.” – Barbara Nel, Trustee, Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund

“The speech was excellent. His message was ‘keep it small and simple and it will spread’.” – Stewart Pennington, SA The Good News

“It was absolutely marvellous, perfectly simple and straight to the point. He got the message across and spoke to the sentiment.”– Diane Wood, The Diane Wood Organisation

“The speech was wonderful, fantastic and inspirational. The man has his finger on the pulse; I loved his idea of doing the impossible and he makes me want to go out there and eradicate poverty. As he was giving his speech I said Yes! Let’s make South Africa a poverty free zone.’” – Alice Brown, Ford Foundation

“I liked the Prof’s reflection on how you deal with the impossible and the examples he used. Secondly, I think the issue of poverty eradication is important. You can see from what he has done that it is possible.” – Sello Hatang, Nelson Mandela Foundation

To download the full speech click here


Praise singer Zolani Mkiva


Professor Muhammad Yunus addresses the crowd


Members of the audience


Branding outside the City Hall


Neslon Mandela at the Seventh Annual Lecture


Professor Jakes Gerwel chairperson of the Nelson Mandela Foundation