Monday, June 29, 2009

Anecdote from UNESCO's History

Source: "South Africa: Zapiro - 'Zapping' for Democracy," Annar Cassam, Pambazuka News via, 4 June 2009.

In 1993, the Nobel Peace Prize was awarded jointly to Nelson Mandela and F.W. de Klerk.
The exact logic behind this type of tandem awarding is difficult to understand for such gestures place the aggressors and their victims on the same level. They also degrade the achievements and the sacrifices of the victims while glorifying their former oppressors for doing nothing more than bowing to the inevitable.

It was Roelf 'Pik' Botha, de Klerk's foreign minister, who in a BBC documentary about the end of apartheid shown in 1996, related the friendly advice given to his government by their erstwhile Western allies: 'You people stink! Get rid of that bad smell of apartheid and then we can associate with you.'

In the case of the Mandela/de Klerk prize, the joint award caused real confusion in the minds of many outside South Africa who were not privy to the intricacies of the political negotiations between the ANC and the white government which went on for four long years before the first democratic elections were held in April 1994.

Many members of the international community were led to imagine that Mandela and de Klerk had descended hand-in-hand from on high on a pink cloud which had landed in South Africa where, magically, the aged freedom-fighter was welcomed home by the big-hearted boer so that they could together live in peace, love and harmony for ever after.

In October 1993, six months before the uhuru elections of April 1994, a high-level ANC delegation, led by Nelson Mandela, came to UNESCO headquarters in Paris to address the executive board, the organisation's policy -making body. The delegation, which included Thabo Mbeki and Bantu Holomisa among others, was very warmly welcomed by the UNESCO audience - but all eyes were on Mandela. He was in excellent form, as elegant, dignified and courteous as ever, but now very much the president-to-be, bearing a palpable aura of calm authority.

In a speech of just 15 minutes, he put to rest the 'pink cloud ' theory in the first sentence and then went on to to explain the changes that were underway and in simple language described where the ANC had come from, the reasons for, and strategy behind its negotiating position and, above all, the ANC's priorities for a post-apartheid society in South Africa. This is what he said:
Editorial Comment: One of UNESCO's key functions is to provide a forum forum for discussion. Sometimes UNESCO's discussions deal with education, science, culture or communications and information, but sometimes, as in this case, UNESCO can provide an international forum for discussions focusing on the peaceful resolution of conflicts. JAD

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