12 October 2018
The Thabo Mbeki Foundation has learnt with great sadness of the passing of veteran trade unionist, uMkhonto we Sizwe commander and Esteemed Member of the Order of Mendi for Bravery, Comrade Eric “Stalin” Mtshali, and former Minister of Foreign Affairs, Roelof Frederik “Pik” Botha.
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.
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.”
This outlook undoubtedly enabled Botha to play a positive role in the process before, during and after the negotiation of the end of apartheid rule as one of the leading members of the National Party.
We who remain behind are challenged to draw the necessary lessons from the example set by Mtshali and Botha – two who were committed to diametrically opposed values systems but whose paths converged in the national interest to produce a political settlement without which our country would have become a wasteland.
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.
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.
The Patron of the Thabo Mbeki Foundation, President Mbeki, the board and staff, would like to convey their deepest condolences to the families of Eric Mtshali and Pik Botha.
May their souls rest in eternal peace.
Issued by the Thabo Mbeki Foundation.
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