Tambo Statue Unveiled

The unveiling of a statue of Oliver Tambo in north London’s Borough of Haringey brought back memories of the day in 1985 when former Cape Times editor Tony Heard and John Battersby met the exiled ANC leader in his Muswell Hill home 34 years earlier.

Courtesy: The Daily Maverick

By John Battersby• 30 October 2019

Visitors to the Albert Road Park and Sports Centre in north London’s Borough of Haringey are met on entry by a life-size and astonishingly lifelike statue of Oliver Reginald Tambo, the former leader of the African National Congress who sustained the organisation for three decades in exile.

It is so real that one’s first instinct is to reach out and touch to make doubly sure.

For a moment it was as though the calm and resolute leader I had met and listened to in his Muswell Hill home 34 years earlier – almost to the day (30 October 1985) – had come back to life. 

Memories of that day came flooding back as the singers and dancers got the event under way in true South African style.

In 1985 I had accompanied then Cape Times editor Tony Heard from my London base to conduct an interview which gave South Africans an opportunity to hear Tambo’s views and implacable opposition to apartheid for the first time in three decades.

It was a watershed moment which followed by a month the groundbreaking ANC talks in Lusaka with a delegation headed by leading industrialist Gavin Relly. 

The two events – both in defiance of South African laws outlawing Tambo and the ANC – segued into a series of historic contacts and exchanges between South African leaders and the ANC, serial safaris to Lusaka and Van Zyl Slabbert’s defiant mission to meet an ANC delegation in Senegal.

Heard was not as fortunate as Relly. He was arrested and charged for breaking the law. Two years later he was fired from his editor’s post after being awarded the Golden Pen Award by the World Association of Newspapers and Newspaper Publishers.

As Heard recalls in his book, The Cape of Storms, Tambo laid out his stall for future negotiations.

“Tambo’s message was moderate but firm,” wrote Heard.

Tambo urged the apartheid government to create a climate for talks and raised the possibility of a truce and the opening of talks, before violence had ceased. He said civilian targets would not be deliberately targeted but some could be caught in the crossfire if violence escalated. 

Tambo came out in favour of a mixed economy and embraced whites as full citizens on a par with black South Africans.

But he did not think that the government of PW Botha was ready for talks.

“Tambo spoke in slow, measured tones and he never got a thought or word misplaced,” Heard said.

Talks with Mandela in jail began in 1986 and several tracks between the ANC and the Afrikaner establishment were set up in the UK and Switzerland.

The Dakar safari – as the Slabbert mission was dubbed – became an ice-breaker and curtain-raiser in the series of events leading to the unbanning of the ANC and SA Communist Party in February 1990 and the negotiated settlement in 1994 and new Constitution adopted in 1996.

Throughout the run-up to negotiations, the quiet hand of Oliver Tambo could be seen keeping the process on track.

These were the thoughts racing through my mind as the dignitaries gathered around the statue still clad in a black cloth awaiting the unveiling.

The statue is the work of a team of artists and technicians under the leadership of Dali Tambo, Oliver Tambo’s son. 

It was unveiled at a ceremony attended by his eldest daughter, Nomatemba Tambo, currently the South African High Commissioner to the UK, who paid tribute to the values and example of her father.

Like the man it portrays, the statue is cast in iron but has an inviting ambience in its outreaching pose and modest but celebratory smile.

The statue captures the humility of a man with total integrity, unbending resolve and a compassion which won him the love and respect of all who came into contact with him.

High Commissioner Tambo quoted at length from a tribute to her father made by President Cyril Ramaphosa at Tamboville Cemetery in Brakpan on the same day. (Sunday 27 October)

As Ramaphosa observed, OR Tambo was a devout Christian, a dedicated member of the Anglican Church and had been an altar boy. He later studied for the priesthood before turning to law. 

Tambo’s father had impressed upon him the supreme importance of education and had taken his father’s advice and dedicated himself to his studies, performing all the tasks assigned to him and excelling at school.

“OR Tambo saw it as the revolutionary duty of students to excel academically, graduate in time and create space for others,” said Ramaphosa.

He said Tambo was a repository of the best values and principles upon which the democratic South Africa has been founded and sustained.

“He won the respect of his peers and the world at large through exemplary conduct,” Ramaphosa said. “He was radical, yet polite. Militant yet respectful.”

The unveiling of the long-awaited statue of the ANC leader drew an extraordinary line-up of local and national political leaders and a good turnout of former anti-apartheid activists.

The celebrity line-up included Lord Paul Boateng, a former anti-apartheid activist, Shadow Foreign Secretary Emily Thornberry, who is the MP for Islington and South Finsbury, and Catherine West, the MP for Hornsey and Wood Green. Dame Janet Suzman, the veteran South African-born actress, and Ambassador Lindiwe Mabuza, the long-serving former South African High Commissioner in the UK under whose watch the statue project was conceived, attended the two-hour ceremony. And Ann Grant, a former British High Commissioner to South Africa, was there too.

(Left to right) Shadow Foreign Secretary Emily Thornberry, MP for Islington South and Finsbury; Martin Kenyon, Her Excellency Nomatemba Tambo, Tambo’s eldest daughter and currently SA High Commissioner to the UK; and Lord Paul Boateng, former anti-apartheid activist, Treasury Secretary and High Commissioner in South Africa. Photo by John Battersby, at the bust of Oliver Tambo at Albert Road Recreational Ground in Haringey on 27 October 2019. 

So did Sir Nick Stadlen, the retired High Court Judge and director of the acclaimed documentary, Life is Wonderful: Mandela’s Unsung Heroes which has had more than 40 screenings in the UK, South Africa and the US and is due to be shown at 6,500 state schools in South Africa over the next two years.

Tambo’s vision and values were very much in line with those of the Rivonia defendants who are highlighted in Stadlen’s outstanding film for their selflessness, commitment and unity of purpose.

Also present was Kuseni Dlamini, chair of the pharmaceutical Aspen, which sponsored the event.

Mabuza paid tribute to OR Tambo’s “honesty, compassion and iron integrity” as his strongest qualities.

She compared him to some of the iconic leaders of the 20th century and related many anecdotes of how he had mentored exiles and helped them to achieve their goals in life.

She also paid tribute to his role in changing attitudes towards women in the ANC, challenging traditional stereotypes of women as submissive and subservient.

“He liberated us,” said Mabuza. “It was not always like that in the ANC.”

Lord Boateng, former anti-apartheid activist, Treasury Secretary and High Commissioner in South Africa, made a rousing speech peppered with liberation chants. 

He said that the vision and values of Oliver Tambo had not yet been fully achieved in South Africa and that the struggle for economic rights and justice still had a long way to go.

But he said Tambo had laid the foundation for a just society by the power of his example and the way he had lived his life of sacrifice and spiritual generosity.

Boateng recounted a meeting of church leaders in Lusaka in the dying days of the apartheid regime, where the late Beyers Naude, the Afrikaner priest who renounced his past and backed the ANC, had arrived and Tambo had reached out and embraced him as a brother.

“I will always remember that powerful moment of reconciliation… the discovery of a common spirituality which augurs well for the future,” he said.

He also recalled the moment at which the late British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher was alone in the Commonwealth holding out against sanctions against apartheid South Africa. 

Tambo had responded by declaring London an anti-apartheid zone, erecting a statue of Nelson Mandela on the South Bank and calling on people of all races to come together in opposition toapartheid. He had responded to the violence of apartheid by building bridges and building a coalition against apartheid.

Citing the paralysis in the British political system over Brexit and the ongoing inequality and racial prejudice in both countries, Boateng concluded that neither country could be satisfied with the status quo.

He said the vision and values of Oliver Tambo were sorely needed in the world today, more than ever before.

Shadow Foreign Secretary Emily Thornberry paid tribute to Tambo for providing the intellectual leadership and vision which had held the ANC together for three decades.

Noting that the ANC’s former London headquarters at 38 Penton Street had fallen in her constituency, she said she wanted to create a centre for learning in the area which would focus on the anti-racist struggle in Britain.

“We also need to use this occasion as an opportunity to think about the future of South Africa… a future with extraordinary potential,” she said. “We should maintain our close relationship with South Africa.”

Leader of the Haringey Council, Joseph Ejiofor, said OR Tambo was a hero among black people in Britain and had sustained them in their struggle against racism in their own country.

A variation of the statue was unveiled at OR Tambo airport in October 2017, the year of the Tambo centenary. This year he would have turned 102 on the day the statue was unveiled.

In the London version, Tambo is holding up a copy of the Freedom Charter, the 1955 treatise that proclaims that South Africa belongs to all who live in it and formed the basis of the Charter movement.

About 25 metres into the park there is a bust of Oliver Tambo by the late Ian Walters which was unveiled in 2007 to mark the place where OR Tambo – and his wife Adelaide and members of his family – often came from Muswell Hill to find peace and solitude from a constant stream of visitors and a vigorous travel schedule.

“Today we salute the rich legacy of a noble and humble man,” said Ambassador Mabuza.

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South African Chamber of Commerce AGM

Annual General Meeting 25th September 2019

The purpose of the Chamber is to address personal and business needs that ultimately improve the lives of South Africans – achieved through business, investment and trade.

The Chamber provides an opportunity for members to network, to discuss or raise business issues which, if the Chamber cannot resolve, can provide direction to solutions

Achievements for the year have been many. The Chamber held a successful inaugural Gala Dinner at the House of Lords which will be held again in 2020. The Awards Dinner will be held next year at a new location to allow for an increased guest list and reach wider and more diverse groups.

Events were also held in South Africa, a Leadership Master Class Series in London, CPD events, events of personal, historic, political or business interest, summer drinks returned to Millennium House. All were successful and well attended events designed to promote support South Africans, provide networking and create the opportunity for stimulating investment and trade with SA.

Three new developments this year have been the Young Professionals Chapter, in October the launch of the Women’s Forum and the first stage roll out of many UK Regional Chapters.

Communications by the Chamber have reached wider audiences using Social Media to target niche interested groups of people and business, using many platforms, an upgraded website, regular newsletters, prominence in the South African – an online newspaper etc, all designed to raise the profile of the Chamber to the wider community.

The Chamber successfully engaged with the Council for Foreign Chambers and hosted one of the quarterly meetings in 2019, we are working with the British Chambers of Commerce, as well as building close relationships with both country’s High Commissioners, the DTI in London and UK DIT in SA.

The objective for the Chamber is to promote advice, introductions, solutions, services, knowledge and contacts related to SA businesses wanting to trade with or locate to the UK and vice versa.

The Treasurer reported on a successful year with an increase in turnover of 142% with a forecast for increased turnover and gross profit for 2019.

The Chamber does not receive grants or Government support, relying on hardworking volunteers, Board and Advisory Board Members, income from Membership, events and sponsorship.

There is a focus on membership growth and member retention.

The Board has recently doubled in size from 5 (after one retirement due to tenure) to 10 Directors.

Off a sound foundation, with a senior and professional Board, the energy of Exco and clear strategic focus, the Chamber has set it sights high.

The Chamber has created an Advisory Board which currently includes the following business and political leaders in both SA and the UK:


EDIT: As of 10/10/19 Chantelé Carrington has retired from the Board of Directors to join the Advisory Board.

After 11 years Directorship, Mike Miller has stepped down from the Board.

The Chairman expressed thanks and gratitude for the contribution he has made to the success of the Chamber.

In recognition of this service he was awarded the highest honour the Chamber can give of an Honorary Membership, received a plaque to commemorate the years of serve and two personalised kitchen gifts for every day enjoyment.

Members voted to re-elect the five existing Directors who all stood for reappointment, for the appointment of five new Non-Executive Directors, three new Exco Members and were notified of the 20 confirmed members of the Advisory Board.

Members showed their appreciation to Sharon Constançon, as Chairman, for her commitment and hard work in growing, running and profiling the Chamber in both SA and UK.

Questions from the floor focused on what is required to generate the income to appoint paid staff members. Two key avenues were debated –

–   More Income
   o More membership income
   o Event income
   o Commerce Centre Income

–   Sponsorship and financial support from Strategic, Platinum and Corporate members for the first year.

Members were challenged to each bring one new member minimum before the end of the year and again repeat this in the new year.

Such members will be recognised and thanked at the next evening event and rewarded with a champagne gift at the ensuing event.

The number of bottles of champagne being relevant to the value of the membership category. Maximum being 12 bottles.

The Chairman thanked all members for attending, members for making the Chamber viable and fun and to those members for their hard work and effort to share the workload.

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Summer Drinks

Last Wednesday evening, 150 (mostly) South Africans gathered atop the rooftop terrace of Millennium Bridge House in the City of London to mingle, share a few drinks, and enjoy the view over The Thames and the iconic Millennium Bridge.

The South African Chamber of Commerce Summer Drinks took place a little later than usual this year, but the August weather was kind to us and not a single raindrop was seen. The venue, made available by Quilters plc, in any case offered a degree of shelter being partly indoors, although other than hosting the bar and snacks area, and a few seated groups engaged in quieter conversation, most chose to mingle on the rooftop terrace where they were able to enjoy some evening sunshine and a light summer breeze.

Many of the attendees knew each other, some with friendships dating back over many years, but the smattering of new faces were welcomed with equal alacrity. Friendships were renewed, quite probably some deals were discussed, but mostly the conversations were about the common bonds that all share for our beloved country, as well as catching up on each other’s latest news.

Despite the promise of no formal presentations, by popular demand Chamber Chairman Sharon Constançon did take three minutes to welcome everyone and share a few words about how the Chamber is growing and flourishing and what new initiatives are on the near horizon.

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Africa Oil and Gas Outlook 2019 Report

Brand new Africa Oil and Gas Outlook Report – Download it for FREE now

Dive deep into Africa’s oil and gas market with the brand-new Africa Oil and Gas Outlook Report produced in partnership with Menas Associates. It’s just a teaser of what will be discussed at Africa Oil Week this November.

The free report worth £3k provides an analysis of the global oil and gas market, plus regional developments and challenges. It then drills down into the 10 African countries that show particular promise in the year ahead.

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Johannesburg Cocktail Party

The SACC hosted a well-attended cocktail party in Johannesburg on Monday evening.

Guests were drawn from the Chairman, Sharon Constançon’s network of contacts, including the British Chamber of Business in South Africa, the UK High Commission in South Africa, the DIT, DTI, from her membership of the International Committee of CISI, and her own business Valufin, a currency advisory firm trading in South Africa as Constançon Currencies.

Three addresses were made, from the UK’s High Commissioner to South Africa, HE Mr Nigel Casey, the Chair of British Chamber, Mel Brooks and the Chairman of the South African Chamber of Commerce (UK), Sharon Constançon.

Mel Brooks, Sharon Constançon and HE Nigel Casey

Attendees represented a wide range of companies, including ABSA and Hogan Lovells, SACC platinum member and strategic partner respectively, plus representatives of accounting firms, banks, lawyers, international business, as well as some of this year’s SACC Award winners, CISI, TIKZN, Deputy Chairman and former CEO of Standard Bank and now also an Investment Envoy for Cyril Ramaphosa, Jacko Maree, Valufin / Constançon Currencies Associates and local Valufin team members, and many more. This gave attendees exposure to a very different network of people compared to the usual focused networks.

HE Nigel Casey shared his views on Brexit, the election of the new Prime Minister, and trade relations between SA and the UK in the future.

Mel covered the value that Britcham brings to trade between our two countries, and Sharon talked about the growth of the SACC, its new Commerce Centre, and invited attendees to attend UK and SA events to assess the value of membership. Sharon said that the two Chambers are working closely with one another, and announced the first shared member of the Chambers.

Sharon also covered the importance of forex management for international trading companies and explained that, managed effectively, companies can secure a direct bottom line net benefit of in excess of 2.5% of the forex trade value.

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Business and Community Awards 2019

Story as it appeared in The South African, 24th May 2019.

Last Wednesday, amidst the glamour of the Millennium Gloucester Hotel, 170 South Africans and friends came together to celebrate the best in talent, achievement and giving, at the 7th South African Chamber of Commerce Annual Business and Community Awards.

This was a record year for nominations, with over 140 being received from the public, and the calibre of finalists reported to be the highest the Chamber had ever seen.

It was humbling to read their portfolios, every one of them was a winner”, said Chamber Chairman, Sharon Constançon.

Sharon Constançon, Richard Swart, Tembi Tambo

The Master of Ceremonies for the night was Lali Dangazele, an accomplished actress and former star of South African soap, Rhythm City, now turned entrepreneur after founding “ShakeXperience”, which introduces school students to acting. Lali, who has been in the UK for the past few years studying for a PhD in Business at the University of Warwick, showcased a stunning range of outfits throughout the evening, designed by Sibu Kulaw of Urban Zulu.

Lali Dangazele

The South African High Commissioner, HE Tembi Tambo, gave a brief welcome address, saying that now the elections are over we can relax, but that “we can’t be business as usual this time, we’ve got to up our game and communities outside of South Africa such as yourselves are such an incredibly important part of that journey.” Urging that “we have to rapidly rebuild the economy” she encouraged South Africans with businesses abroad to invest back into South Africa.

The Keynote Speaker for the evening was Trevor Manuel who, due to the National Elections requiring him to remain at home, recorded a 20-minute video interview with Sharon Constançon the day prior to the Awards, which was shown on the night. During the interview he went into considerable depth about education, economic focus, cabinet challenges, land reform and corruption, all key issues concerning South Africans at home at abroad. The video is now available on the Chamber’s website.

There was a wide range of finalists selected for this year’s Awards, including; a twelve-year-old boy, Dali Ed Mkoyana; Wendy Applebaum, the daughter of Sir Donald Gordan, the founder of Liberty International; John Gilbert of the Racing Centre; Babette Brown who was nominated posthumously for her charity work; Lewis Pugh, the record breaking South African swimmer and Jason Goodall, CEO of Dimension Data – in addition to another 33 well deserving finalists, including some like David White of BusinessFit and Valdene Reddy from the JSE who travelled from South Africa especially to attend the ceremony.

However, seeking to make the Awards and the Chamber itself more fully representative of the demographics of modern South Africa, Sharon emphasised, “We’re here to represent and promote all South Africans in business, our door is open and we’re reaching out to all sections of our community in the UK to become fully engaged with the Chamber.

The Awards, sponsors and winners were as follows:

South African Community Support Award, sponsored by Sapro
Won by Ilana Friedman, CEO of Magical Moments, an NPO that aims to make special memories for children by giving them special days out and parties.

Rising Star of the Year Award, sponsored by Magic Moments
Won by Byron McNally, a South African born BAFTA nominated Producer based in London working across commercial, digital content and drama.

Micro Business Award, sponsored by BusinessFit
Won by Catherine Farrant, founder of Ossa Organic, a food brand specialising in gut healing and restorative foods.

Entrepreneur of the Year Award, sponsored by Anglo American
Won by Samantha Collen, owner and Marketing Director at JenniDezigns Clothing which specialises in children’s clothing using traditional African designs.

Innovator of the Year Award, sponsored by Genius Boards
Won by Ludre Stevens, the founder and Chief Product Officer of INBOTiQA, an innovative email management system for businesses.

SA – UK Trade Award, sponsored by the UK Department of International Trade
Won by Rob Cannavo, former South African Trade Diplomat for the DTI, now running a series of industry specific seminars with the South African High Commission and the SA Chamber of Commerce.

Lifetime Giving Back Award, sponsored by Maitland
Won by Kathi Scott, Executive Director of the Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund UK who has raised millions of Rand to benefit children in South Africa over the last 23 years.

Business Woman of the Year Award, sponsored by Freshfields
Won by Penny Streeter OBE, who went from living in a homeless refuge with three children to found businesses the A24 Group and the Benguela Collection, today valued at £75 million.

Business Leader of the Year Award, sponsored by Valufin
Won by Wendy Applebaum, trustee of The Tribune Trust, director of Victory Strategic Services, chair of De Morgenzon Estate, and director of Sphere Holdings.

Playing Your Part Award, sponsored by Brand SA
Won by Tashmia Ismail, CEO of the Youth Employment Service (YES), which aims to create 1 million work experiences for young people in South Africa.

Chairman’s Award, a special award at the discretion of the judging committee and Chairman
Won by Babette Brown, founder of Persona Dolls, a charity which uses ethnically diverse dolls made in South Africa to help create empathy and combat racism in schools. Chairman’s recognition went to Dali, as the youngest entrant, and Commendations to Valdene Reddy as a leading businesswoman and Duduzile Sokhela for a lifetime of giving back.

More details on all the finalists can be found on the Chamber’s website.

Over the next year the Chamber is committed to engaging with all the finalists, winners and sponsors to provide an engagement and mentoring programme to help bring value to each of them and their sponsors, including offering them access to the Leadership program run by the Chamber annually.

Sharon concluded by saying, “I was very moved by the emotion expressed to me by a number of the finalists. It’s important to be reminded how significant these Awards are to the people who receive them, and to know that not only are the Annual Awards a good night out and a good opportunity to network, they help to inspire, revitalise and enthuse key members of our community who day in, day out, work so hard to bring about a better future for our country.

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Trevor Manuel’s Address to the SA Chamber Annual Awards 2019

We had expected to have Trevor Manuel as our Keynote Speaker for this year’s annual Awards, but once the date for the National Elections was announced, he had to withdraw in order to concentrate on his duties back home.

We were very grateful though that he went to the trouble of recording an interview with the Chamber’s chairman, Sharon Constançon, which was shown at the Awards ceremony last night.

The full video follows below:

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Brand SA recognising passionate South African expats 

Brand South Africa will be supporting the UK’s South African Chamber of Commerce (SACC) Business & Community Awards on Wednesday 15 May 2019 in central London. The annual awards event is an opportunity for global South Africans to be acknowledged for their business and community achievements.

The UK is a key target audience for Brand SA given the number of British tourists who visit SA annually, bilateral trade interests, Commonwealth links and the sheer number of South Africans who live there. Brand SA was established back in 2002 to build South Africa’s Nation Brand in order to strengthen South Africa’s global competitiveness as well as encourage and support active citizenship among South Africans. Current UK country manager for Brand SA, Ms Pumela Salela, is passionate about engaging with South Africans in the UK to be part of her ‘glosaf’ (global South African) community. She aims to inspire and encourage others to become SA brand ambassadors abroad, whereby they can encourage foreigners within their networks to visit the country and also to get involved through business, charity or other activities to give back to South Africa.

The SACC offers 10 award categories which open to members of the public for nominations. Once nominations close, the nominees are vetted and screened then narrowed down to four finalists per category. The winners will be announced at the awards dinner at the Millennium Gloucester Hotel in London on Wednesday evening where nearly 200 South Africans will be in attendance.

Brand SA are key sponsors for the event with one of the awards being the ‘Brand SA Play Your Part’ award. This is awarded to an individual who in their personal capacity, or as a leader or key influencer within an organization, has their utilised time, money or skills to contribute to lifting the spirit of the nation, ensuring a better future for all.

The other 9 categories are: Business Leader, Business Woman, Innovator, Entrepreneur, Micro Business, Rising Star, SA-UK Trade, Lifetime Giving Back and the SA Community Support Award.

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Post Mining Indaba Seminar

Fortuitously, the SA Chambers’ second event in the Business Seminar Series, the Post Mining Indaba Seminar, held in association with ABSA and the South African High Commission, was preceded by a major press announcement less than 48 hours before the event was due to take place.

The announcement that Rio Tinto had signed off on a near $500m investment in its South African mineral sands business, providing a much-needed boost to the country’s mining industry, was truly great news for all attendees and speakers.

South Africa has a long involvement in the mining industry, and the Mining Indaba, the annual event held in Cape Town in February has become a miners’ pilgrimage. This seminar was our attempt to bring an update to a London audience who may have missed out on going to Cape Town. Participants on the day were made up of analysts, private equity groups, and mining companies active on the continent. 

ABSA gave a concise economic and minerals overview, which was followed by Sello Helepi (inset) of the Department of Mineral Resources who gave an update on some of the challenges being faced and some which have been overcome, as well as an insight into the upcoming changes expected post elections on the 8th May.

The panel discussion which followed, with Neil Hume, the Financial Times’ Natural Resources Editor, moderating, was extremely insightful. Many different facets of the mining industry were explored, including how the industry is responding to environmental concerns from the public and how often these are now shared by potential investors. Also, chamges in how the industry interacts with and includes local communities in the planning and decision making processes were explored.  

Pannelists: Jeff Gable , Shirley Webber, Sello Helepi, Adonis Pouroulis, Neil Hume (FT)

The feedback from the attendees has been extremely positive, and overall the mining and extractive industry globally is seeing an upturn in interest. The new mantra which is key to sustainable mining, of prioritizing people, planet and profit is now also adopted by South African mining groups.

The South African Chamber of Commerce will continue to showcase relevant sectors with real opportunities, bringing the voice of Government, finance institutions and private sector on one stage.

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Tutu Peace Summit

John Battersby at the Tutu Peace SummitRegent’s University 11th April 2019

“I see only one hope for our country, and that is when white men and black men…desiring only the good for their country, come together to work for it. I have one great fear in my heart, that one day when they are turned to loving, they will find that we are turned to hating….”

The prophetic words of Theophilus Msimangu,  a Zulu priest, in Alan Paton’s iconic novel Cry the Beloved Country, still the best-selling book – other than the Bible – in South African literary history.

At the time of Paton’s death in 1988 aged 85, it had sold more than 15 million copies in 20 countries since its publication in February 1948, the year the National Party came to power in South Africa. Long Walk to Freedom, Nelson Mandela’s autobiography is said to have clocked up sales of 15 million worldwide since its publication in 1994.

Paton’s work has twice been adapted for the cinema (1951 when apartheid was just getting into its stride and 1996 the year South Africa adopted its first non-racial constitution following the first democracy elections in 1994.) And in 1949 it was adapted as a musical on Broadway based on the Book Lost in the Stars by American author Maxwell Anderson with music by German émigré Kurt Weil.

Paton was looking at South Africa as a liberal and a Christian of British origin who had made South Africa his home.

What is most remarkable about Paton’s towering literary and moral achievement is how it resounds with the South Africa of today and what has happened in the seven decades since he wrote the book making allowance for his reference to men rather than men and women and one or two other dated turns of phrase.

The context of the quote about hate is a discussion between Kumalo and Msimangu about the corrupting influence of power and whether white men are more corruptible than black men.

They bemoan the fact that it is this corruption that is restraining South Africa from progressing from and they share their dreams of black/white co-operation to enable the country to realise its true potential. Sound familiar? That was written 70 years ago before apartheid had made it into the Oxford dictionary.

Other events of note occurred in 1948.

 Zionism triumphed after a long struggle in Palestine and the state of Israel was created. India gained its independence after a long non-violent campaign against British imperialism. And the National Health System was established in Britain. To mention a few. Apartheid, the clash between Zionism and the Arab world and the struggle against British colonialism all led to a lot of hate and violence.

Major restructuring took place in all three conflict situations; India got its independence; South Africa following racially flawed independence in 1910 and departing the Commonwealth in 1960 had democracy elections in 1994; and Israel and the Palestinians are still slugging it out after countless failed peace attempts.

My first three years as a journalist in South Africa in the late 1970’s were spent inter alia covering the systematic destruction of the so-called coloured community of District Six at the foot of Table Mountain under apartheid’s draconian Group Areas Act which imposed racially separated neighbourhoods and the Slum Clearance Act which provided a flimsy excuse for ethnic cleansing.

A vibrant maitrix of traders, professionals, gangs and street sellers waited for a knock on the door – would arrive home to find a notice attached to their door giving them 30 days to vacate their homes.

This continued relentlessly until the bulldozers had flattened the entire neighborhood and everyone of the last 66 000 were banished to the wind-swept and barren wastelands of the Cape Flats which in turn gave rise to far more violent and gangs and all the social ills associated with displacement. All that remained was a pile of rubble and a scar on the mountainside still visible today.

How do you not turn to hate when such injustice is meted out by a soulless and vicious white minority regime?

This systematic ethnic cleansing and social engineering amounted to a genocide of the soul.

When the bulldozers turned on the black shanty towns of Modderdam, Unibel and Werkgenot I would search for a flicker of humanity in the eyes of the white public works employees as they ripped apart corrugated iron houses which were home to tens of thousands of people.

As a South African correspondent in the Middle East I saw another brand of hatred with much deeper roots. How can a conscripted 18-year-old Israeli soldier at a checkpoint between Jerusalem and the West Bank ever hope to find the humanity in a Palestinian when his first interaction with them is lining him or her up in the sights of his or her automatic weapon.

When I was posted there in the mid-1990’s I was not prepared for the reality. It was not popular to compare Israel with apartheid South Africa but I could not escape equating the processes of dehumanisation which enabled Israelis to treat Palestinians as lesser human beings to justify a series of actions which they would never have inflicted on their own people.

The intersection of identity, fear and hate is a toxic mix which is very difficult to roll back once it has passed the point of no-return as it did in the Israeli/Palestinian conflict a long time ago and as can be seen today.

In Asia it can be seen in the treatment of the million Rohingya’s driven out of the Rakhine State in Myanmar; in the fundamentalism of ISIS and persecution of the Yazidis; the Tutsi’s fleeing from the Hutu’s; the Falun Gong, the Uighurs and the Tibetans in China; the Bahai in Iran; the Kurds in Turkey, Syria and Iraq; and one could go on and on.

Or we can reach back into recent history to the concentration camps of Nazi Germany or the gulag’s of Stalin’s Russia or the cultural revolution in China. Or the killing fields in Cambodia. The Protestants and Catholics in northern Ireland; the Crusaders; the era of slavery in which the UK was a major player and financial beneficiary; the US in Vietnam and Guantanamo Bay. There is no shortage of anecdotal evidence when it comes to man’s inhumanity to man and indeed to woman.

There are too many examples in history of how differentiation and stereotyping has led to hatred and violence.

What do all these have in common?

Human beings need very little encouragement to be really nasty to each other as the experiment with the brown eyes and the blue eyes so chillingly illustrates.

There is a recurring pattern of exclusion and denial leading to alienation, resentment and eventually fear and violent conflict which exacerbates racial or ethnic tension and, if unchecked, can lead to a race war where interaction is dominated by stereotypes, dehumanisation of “the other” and xenophobia.

Although there are still some horrific racial attacks of white on black – and ongoing attacks on white farmers and small-holders – and no shortage of hate speak from the likes of the Economic Freedom Fighters and the lobby group Black First, Land First – the fundamental dynamic in South Africa of racial tension is driven by economic inequality and opportunism rather than racial hatred per se.

The relative atmosphere of hope and reconciliation under Mandela which continued to some extent into the Thabo Mbeki era rapidly unravelled during the nine-year administration of Jacob Zuma characterised by patronage and corruption, a loss of moral direction and a widening of the gap between rich and poor.

President Cyril Ramaphosa is doing everything in his power to revive the Mandela vision and values after almost a decade of disastrous rule which took the country to the very edge of failed state status. There is hope again but the restoration process will be long and hard.

President Ramaphosa has a tough journey ahead but has made significant progress in rebuilding institutions, reviving fair play and the rule of law.

Today the Archbishop’s powerful vision of the Rainbow nation – and the Mandela vision – are under severe stress.

In South Africa xenophobia is never far below the surface putting a heavy burden on leadership to set an example of tolerance and inclusion rather than reinforcing stereotypes.

The solution to hatred is invariably to highlight our primary identity as humans and from that base strive to understand the point-of-view of “the other” and reach a compromise based on inclusion, understanding and ongoing communication to prevent a reversion to the stays quo ante. It calls on us to transcend our basest instincts.

Good education and strong and sound leadership can go a long way to achieving these goals.

The Archbishop’s commitment to the values of UbuntuI am because you are – is the way he lives his life. He is a living example that what really matters is not what you do in life but the way that you do it.

Nowhere was his commitment to the values of Ubuntu clearer than in the Truth and Reconciliation Commission where his focus was always to humanise both the perpetrators and victims by bringing perpetrators and victims together and acknowledging perpetrators as human beings and thus assisting them to take responsibility for their often terrible actions.

Nelson Mandela, despite having to meet the challenges of political power, was always clear on the principles of acknowledgement of the humanity of “the other” and the principle of inclusivity.

These qualities of true leadership were crucial to the – at times seemingly impossible – achievement of a negotiated settlement in South Africa.

One does not need to be a psychologist or academic expert to see that hatred is inevitably preceded by an act of exclusion – or perceived exclusion – followed by alienation, resentment, hate, fear and eventually violent conflict.

But there are no quick fixes when it comes to removing the underlying causes of hatred.

Archbishop Tutu insisted during the TRC process that reconciliation could come only with the perpetrator confronting the full horror of his or her actions and the victim experiencing deep forgiveness. Only in such a profound exchange could there be redemption and release from hate and all the pain that accompanies it.

So the question becomes: how do we deal with these challenges in a post-conflict situation still contaminated by residual inequality as in South Africa.

Here the values of inclusivity, magnanimity, forgiveness and steadfastness become vital.

The Tutu Foundation UK is doing a great job initiated by the late Paul Randolph in reaching out to marginalised youth in disadvantaged London Boroughs to build bridges and break down barriers between the youth and the police. This initiative has gained a new urgency with the alarming proliferation of knife crime in London.

Baroness Doreen Lawrence, mother of Stephen Lawrence, whose was tragically murdered by police 20 years ago, has turned adversity into triumph with the Stephen Lawrence Foundation and the launch next month of the Stephen Lawrence Research Centre. Baroness Lawrence recently visited South Africa in her role as Chancellor of De Montfort University.

The life lived by Nelson Mandela was an exemplary demonstration of Ubuntu. And the Archbishop is a living example of Ubuntu.

In his 1999 book, No Future Without Forgiveness, Archbishop Tutu elaborates on the notion of Ubuntu which is so close to his inclusive heart.

A person with Ubuntu is open and available to others, affirming of others, does not feel threatened that others are able and good, for he or she has a proper re-assurance that comes from knowing that he or she belongs in a greater whole and is diminished when others are humiliated or diminished, when others are tortured or oppressed.”

These values need to be engendered in our youth and should permeate the education system at all levels. 

And they are the qualities not only embraced but lived by Archbishop Desmond Tutu to inspire the youth of today to make for better world leaders tomorrow.

  • John Battersby is a Global Peace Ambassador for the Tutu Foundation UK, chair of trustees at the Canon Collins Educational and Legal Assistance Trust and a Director of the South African Chamber of Commerce. This is an extract of a speech at the 4th annual Desmond Tutu Peace Summit held at Regents University in London this week. The Theme was Hate: Causes, Consequences and Cures.

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Voting Abroad Date Confirmed – file your VEC 10

The Electoral Commission of South Africa has confirmed that SA citizens voting abroad will cast their ballots on April 27th, 2019.

In order to be eligible to vote abroad, if you have registered to vote you will still need to complete a VEC 10 form indicating where you intend to vote. For South African citizens in the UK, that will be the South African High Commission in Trafalgar Square, London. See map.

VEC 10 forms can be completed online, and must be submitted before midnight (UTC + 02:00) on 13th March 2019. That’s 10pm in the UK.

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