Nozizwe Madlala-Routledge is a Quaker South African politician and activist. She was the deputy minister of defense from 1999 to 2004 and deputy minister of health from April 2004 to August 2007. She is currently in Philadelphia as the Friend in Residence at Haverford College.
Here is the second part of our conversation with Nozizwe
As a community, how do we respond to fellow humans in need?
“What makes us a community is shared humanity, realizing that we are interconnected and interdependent. This calls for action to reach out to those in need.
Quakers do not have doctrines or creed. Instead, we have advice and queries. This creates the opportunity for each individual, in silence and in community, to reflect on social issues and fellow humans in need.
President Mandela reminds us of the gift of giving. He says, “There can be no greater gift than that of giving one’s time and energy to helping others without expecting anything in return.”
What does the truth and reconciliation process mean to you as a Quaker, and what did it mean as a formal process after Apartheid?
“The negotiated peace settlement would not have been complete without establishing the truth of the horrible deeds that happened during Apartheid. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission had a huge mandate of contributing to national reconciliation and healing.
As a Quaker, I believe peace is a process that begins with us taking individual accountability for our actions and asking for forgiveness.
However, I believe that those who gave the orders and did not come before the TRC should not be let off the hook and that those who benefited from Apartheid must acknowledge their role in nation-building and the reconstruction of a just and peaceful South African nation.”
How did you engage in this within South Africa?
“After years of racially motivated political conflict and the international agreement that Apartheid was a crime against humanity, South Africans agreed to sit around the table to negotiate peace.
The Truth and Reconciliation Commission was one of many mechanisms that came out of the negotiated settlement, including the setting up of a new and democratically elected non-racial, non-sexist parliament. The adoption of a new constitution guaranteeing basic human rights and the setting up of a government-led reconstruction and development program.”
Was truth and reconciliation enough?
“The TRC was a symbolic process established by an act of parliament as one of the necessary steps in the healing and reconciliation process. As acknowledged in its final report, the truth revealed at the TRC was only the tip of an iceberg.
In the course that I am teaching, we are aware of its limitations – due in part to the inadequate interpretation of its mandate and its limited definition of the concert of gross violation of human rights. The TRC, for example, did not include detention without trial, farm imprisonment, and forced labor as acts of gross violation of human rights.
It also limited its focus to acts committed by individual perpetrators and not the institutional framework that allowed and justified such violations to occur. It did not hold the leaders who gave the orders accountable. It also did not focus on the bystanders who were benefited from the system.”
How is long-term healing and change best facilitated?
“For long-term healing and change to occur, individuals need to be healed, especially in a situation like ours, where the trauma was severe and prolonged. Some of the trauma has become transgenerational. Violence had become endemic and institutionalized.
For long-term healing to occur, we need to continue the dialogues across color and generations. People need to see the change working for them in their own lives. We, therefore, need an inclusive process of social transformation and economic justice that addresses the impact of the racialized economic and social exclusion that occurred over the years, not only during Apartheid but also earlier, during the colonial period.
South Africa has a good constitution that recognizes fundamental human rights. For these rights to become real in people’s lives, we need a national program of reconstruction and development that brings together all the different sectors of society together, behind a common agenda.”
What about here in the USA? What can we learn from South Africa?
“It is possible to overcome hatred, racism, and fear through strong exemplary leadership and political will. Mandela showed us the way in South Africa and united our country while acknowledging its diversity.
At the top, institutions were created to defend people’s human rights and to implement restorative and transformative justice, such as the Constitutional Court, the Equality Court, the Land Claims Court, the Public Protector, the Commission for Gender Equality and the Human Rights Commission.
While racism and transgenerational trauma continue at a personal level, programs aimed at the healing of memories, the transgenerational dialogue provides a safe space for victims of violence to tell their stories and be heard without judgment.
The Institute for the Healing of Memories was founded in 1998 by Fr. Michael Lapsley, SSM, who lost both hands and an eye in a letter bomb attack in Zimbabwe 1990. The Healing of Memories Workshop was first developed to run in parallel to South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission (1996-1997), creating additional platforms for those who wished to share their experiences and be heard compassionately.
Civil society organizations in South Africa continue to organize and to hold leaders accountable. They continue to defend their rights through litigation and protest actively. South Africans value the right to vote and the power of the ballot for ensuring accountability and a vibrant democracy.”
Nozizwe shares an essential message of the continuing fight around the world for human rights. During her time as the deputy minister, she challenged the denial of the HIV and AIDS crisis in her home country and deputy speaker of the National Assembly. She is also the founder and Executive Director of Embrace Dignity, a nonprofit campaigning for legal reform to abolish the exploitative system of prostitution and support women wanting to leave the sex industry.
To connect with Nozizwe through Haverford College, contact Walter Sullivan, Director of Quaker Affairs.
Friends in Fellowship Lecture
Thursday, May 28, 2020, 7:30 p.m. at Friends Center
Philadelphia Yearly Meeting is hosting a Friends in Fellowship event with Nozizwe, Stories of Hope and Courage — Quakers from South Africa