Hundreds of people attended the 12th Nelson Mandela Annual Lecture, delivered by Chilean President Michelle Bachelet on Women's Day, 9 August 2014, in the Cape Town City Hall.
VIPs and ordinary guests to the 12th Nelson Mandela Annual Lecture were bowled over by the message delivered by Chilean President Michelle Bachelet – and each took something away from her address.
Nelson Mandela Foundation trustee and businessman Tokyo Sexwale said: "It was an incredible inspiration to hear from a great Chilean whose past is not dissimilar to ours. Her speech resonated with what Madiba said when he spoke here at City Hall many years ago – it's all about reconciliation."
Sexwale explained that South Africa and Chile were very similar, in that both have achieved political justice, but both need to focus on achieving "economic justice, as well as social cohesion".
He added: "As a trustee, I've been to all 12 annual lectures and they have all been great. Michelle Bachelet's point was that achieving economic justice and social cohesion is dependent on how people make decisions about what it is they are trying to achieve."
Anant Singh, producer of the acclaimed film Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom, said: "I've only ever missed one Nelson Mandela Annual Lecture, because I was out of the country at the time. Today's event was fantastic, great to be back here in Cape Town."
Zandile Mzazi, who sang the national anthems of Chile and South Africa: “I felt very nervous, in the presence of so many important people. I was panicking! I was singing the Chilean national anthem for the first time, and I could hear the president of Chile singing it with me. I had so much joy in my heart.”
Former President and Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe commented: “I think it was very inspiring, fantastic and from the heart.”
Former Constitutional Court Judge Albie Sachs said: “It was a tremendous speech, and particularly powerful coming from a president. There was thought and passion and spontaneity – not just a speech prepared by a committee. It was very moving for me. I was in exile in Mozambique with Chilean exiles, and I felt the excitement today of the Chilean connection.”
Founding chief executive of The Mandela Rhodes Foundation Shaun Johnson said: “We had the privilege of hosting President Bachelet at a private function this morning. I was blown away by her. She has an amazing life story. I thought she was a very appropriate choice because of the connections between Chile and South Africa.”
Councillor Gareth Bloor, the City of Cape Town's Mayoral Committee member for Tourism, Events and Marketing, said: "It's so humbling to see how the legacy of Nelson Mandela has lent itself to Cape Town, and how it has contributed to Cape Town being seen as the city of peace in many ways."
Cape Town has been chosen to host the 14th Summit of Nobel Peace Laureates in October, and the Nelson Mandela Annual Lecture has added great impetus in the build-up to this, added Bloor.
Anton Groenewald, the city’s executive director of Tourism, Events and Marketing, said after a very successful Nelson Mandela Annual Lecture in Cape Town in 2012, much effort had gone into bringing the event back to the city from Johannesburg.
"It's great to have people such as former Irish President Mary Robinson, as well as Chilean President Michelle Bachelet, speaking in our city. Today's event was a great boost for relations between South Africa and Chile, and gives us impetus to re-engage ties on various levels."
Mandela’s grandson and Member of Parliament Mandla Mandela said the lecture had been insightful and made it clear that being an elected official meant you had to continue to speak on behalf of people.
“This is to ensure service delivery and to be a true reflection of what is happening in the country ... We must strive to make a better world. Her excellency has called us back to the drawing board, and has raised questions: have we done enough to recognise indigenous people? Is there still a role in post-apartheid South Africa for traditional leaders?” he said.
Actress and author Bonnie Mbuli said the lecture had created a sense of urgency in her. “I came expecting to get ideas for projects to build social cohesion,” she said.
Mbuli said Bachelet’s words had reminded her that she is here to serve. She has plans to use her acting and writing skills to help children bridge the education gap.
Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu, who delivered the Nelson Mandela Annual Lecture in 2004, was upbeat as he walked out of the hall. Showing the victory sign, he said the lecture had been "wonderful to listen to", and Bachelet had been “fantastic”.
Minister of Social Development Bathabile Dlamini said she was still absorbing the lecture, but it had been super. “We can learn from what she said,” Dlamini said.
Writer and political commentator Ryland Fisher said it was as if he had been listening to a South African speaking, because, he said, Chile and South Africa shared many similarities.
“It was amazing. She spoke like she knew our issues, inequality and the emerging middle class,” Fisher said.
Singer Yvonne Chaka Chaka, who performed after the Annual Lecture, said: “It was on the dot and the nail was hit tight on top, because it is Women’s Day today. Mandela heard this today, and I’m sure he approved.”
Former South African ambassador to France Barbara Masekela, said: “I think it was particularly moving because it was the first lecture after Mandela has left us, and I missed his presence. But at the same time, he is in our hearts. And [President Bachelet] is a very wonderful and inspirational person.”
Actor and playwright John Kani, the programme director, said: “Every day, in every action, we need to ask ourselves, ‘Would Mandela have approved?’ We need to live with honesty and integrity as a commitment to a free society.”
Bridgette Prince, who works for the Human Sciences Research Council, said: “I think the issue she highlighted is moving the debate beyond just democracy, to citizenship and ownership.”
Audience member Alex Spoor said: “Bachelet was very eloquent. She was extremely diplomatic and very clear in her message of solidarity – she made clear reference to what is going on in the world [in terms of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict].”
Ekay Hiliza-Ellensson added: “She could have been more radical. She knew about the protest today [a protest in the Cape Town city centre in support of the Palestinian people]. But I’m very inspired. She’s an icon!”
Andrew Paget commented: “She is a very inspirational lady – how she spoke about not just access to education, but also the quality of education.” His partners, Lara Wallis, added: “She was very, very humble, considering the life she’s had.”
Sunil Geness, who works for SAP, said: “I think she expressed very well the link between research and her own experience … She also tied up very well the issue of social cohesion and the point that the poorest of the poor should not be the last to receive social benefits, and that there should be fairness of access.
“I thought her most powerful point, though, was about the global challenge of a loss of confidence of institutions [of democracy], and how the highest currency is that of integrity, truth and light.”
Lister Majuti, who is from Botswana, said: “It was very inspiring. I think she was very direct; she was very bold and I think she did a good job.”
Karin Pickand Lewis remarked: “It was fabulous! I am from Cape Town and I was so glad it was in Cape Town and on Women’s Day – it was very inspirational and all the more special.”
Elain Coetzee described the lecture as inspiring. “We can learn a lot of what she is saying.”
Thando Nkosi said it was time for South Africans to say, “What can I do to help?” Bachelet’s call, for not only quantity but quality education and ease of access had struck a chord.
“Most importantly, there needs to be a dialogue among citizens that will bring solutions to a lot of what South Africa is going through.”