CAPE TOWN -- The South African National Assembly on Friday held a special prayer service for ailing former President Nelson Mandela, vowing to carry forward his struggle for “the total liberation of our people, politically and economically”.
The service came as Mandela spent his 35th day in hospital for a recurring lung problem, his longest hospital stay in years.
“This prayer is indeed meant to evoke our inner strength, to refocus us in the work ahead in honour of his (Mandela’s) honourable name. This is a solemn pledge we want to make and to which we swear our complete loyalty,” Deputy Speaker Nomaindiya Mfeketo said at the service.
He said MPs need to pull together their energies and focus on what Madiba (Mandela’s clan name) declared that parliament must lead the fight against the evils of poverty, disease and ignorance.
While 1994 was a major historical turning point, it did not result in a reversal of centuries of dispossession for the majority of the people, Mfeketo said.
“Political freedom, critical as it is, did not bring about economic freedom. Most of our people still have nothing to show for their hard-earned freedom. This is an important reason for us not to let our guard down but to continue with Madiba’s project for the total liberation of our people, politically and economically,” Mfeketo said.
“Sky-scrapers and huge buildings define the cities’ sky-lines while shacks and other makeshift structures are homes to the majority of South African people.”
The legacy of apartheid remains so tragically obvious throughout the country and is particularly visible in the poor communities where inequality prevails, he said.
The damage caused by the architects of apartheid and entrenched for decades by many laws is a constant reminder that the struggle is not yet over, said Mfeketo. “We want to recommit ourselves to bettering the lives of all South Africans.”
Since Mandela was admitted to a Pretoria hospital on June 8, the Parliament has opened its precinct to all who wish to lay flowers and to say their prayers for Madiba. “As public representatives, we are part of all organic initiatives to wish Madiba well,” Mfeketo said.
According to the latest official update issued on Thursday, Mandela continued to respond to treatment, although his condition remained critical. Mandela spent 27 years for fighting apartheid before being elected as president. His lung problem was the result of tuberculosis developed while in prison.