"We need to learn from the example set by Eric Mtshali and Pik Botha" - Mbeki foundation
LINDA KEA MOREOTSENE
Former president Thabo Mbeki has paid tribute to struggle veteran Eric "Stalin"Mtshali who died this week at the age of 88.
In a statement issued by the Thabo Mbeki Foundation, Mbeki also sent condolences to the family of former Minister of Foreign Affairs, Roelof Frederik “Pik” Botha.
Mtshali passed away at the Inkosi Luthili Hospital after a long illness.
In his tribute, Mbeki noted that Mtshali and Botha fought on opposite sides of the South African conflict, whose resolution defined our present national reality.
"By conviction, Mtshali believed in and fought for a South Africa which belongs to all who live in it, black and white. Botha on the other hand became the global face of the apartheid system which the United Nations rightly declared as a Crime Against Humanity," Mbeki said.
"To his credit, Botha later appreciated the voice and wisdom of Mtshali and his comrades and came to the conclusion that: “we (South Africa) are like a zebra: if you put a bullet into the black stripe or the white stripe, the animal will die."
Mbeki's statement comes after an outpouring from numerous organisations paying tribute to Mtshali including the African National Congress (ANC), who described the former Umkhonto we Sizwe icon as an "unsung hero"".
"The task of constructing a united, non-racial, non-sexist and prosperous South Africa which truly belongs to all is still a work in progress. To give impetus to this ongoing work, we need to learn from the example set by Eric Mtshali and Pik Botha when they laid down their arms and sat around the negotiation table in the early 1990s in search of a political settlement," the statement said.
To paraphrase President Thabo Mbeki in a letter to Botha on July 17, 2007, the future of South Africa lies in undertaking practical measures to address the legacy of colonialism and apartheid by both black and white South Africans alike acting as a nation for itself and not merely as a nation in itself.