Fatima Meer, once a confidante of Nelson Mandela and a social movement activist for Durban’s poor, passed this Friday, March 12. (In this video she talks about the present struggles of black and Indian traders in Durban’s downtown]
Hamba Kahle Comrade Meer.
What did she think about the present government, and the ruling ANC, when she was alive?
Here’s some excerpts from an interview conducted with the Nelson Mandela Foundation (to talk about Nelson Mandela of course):
Do you see the future leadership coming from the poor?
FM: No, I can’t say that I see the future leadership coming from there. My assessment is that our Constitution, which we boast so much about, is flawed to the extent that it gives power to the parties, not to the people. The people haven’t achieved democracy in this country. Democracy has been achieved by the party. People nominate nobody, they cannot nominate their officials, they cannot nominate their leaders, the people remain powerless.
I work in Chatsworth, which is an Indian township, and I’ve tried very hard to get the leadership to emerge from the people; we even put up candidates at the last election. It’s impossible to put up candidates outside the party. Now if you don’t like the party, you’re upset with the party, you can’t be in the party.
Where do you see South Africa going forward?
FM: The Constitution will have to change, for one, and I don’t know how that can happen. We have to give more power to the people so that they can be involved in electing their own leaders. You can’t enter an election without some financial resources. Now as things stand, the parties are financed but the people aren’t. If there is a civic organisation that wants to put up a candidate, that civic organisation will not get any financial support to do so.
… my criticism of Mandela. Mandela has not left us with a firm foundation. He was the first president of democratic South Africa [but] his influence did not go far enough. I think that what the Nationalists did in imprisoning him is that a fine man and a wonderful leader that we as a country were blessed with was wasted in prison. When he was released he was already too old and too tired to really lead us in the way that he ought to have led us, that is according to the Freedom Charter. He left things to his deputy, Mbeki, and when his term was completed, he felt obligated to support Mbeki and as a result the best man was not elected as the second president of South Africa.
Here’s some more links where you get a sense of her life and contribution to the struggle against racism and exploitation of poor people: