On Monday 7 August Zelda La Grange engaged with students on critical conversations South Africans need to have.
Nelson Mandela’s former private secretary was speaking at the Stellenbosch University Discourse Cafe. She was asked about the expropriation of land, her support for the motion of no confidence brought against President Jacob Zuma and her personal growth as a former NP supporter turned staffer for one of the darlings of the ANC.
“What does it mean to remove the president of South Africa and who owns the land of South Africa?” asked BA Theology, student Sfiso Zungu. This was asked in response to La Grange’s support of the no confidence motion against President Jacob Zuma.
La Grange responded by saying that she always refers back to the Freedom Charter and the Constitution . She elaborated by saying that she is not against land expropriation. However, she does feel that it needs to be within the bounds of the constitution.
“The corruption is so deep it is almost institutionalised and leaves us with a dysfunctional state,” said La Grange. She said that it is her constitutional right to voice her opinion about the country and how it is run, hence her participation in the No Confidence March.
Speaking to MatieMedia after the event, Zunga said he felt that La Grange ran away from his question. “I asked who owns the land but she ran away by referring to the Freedom Charter and the Constitution.”
Zungu believes that the Freedom Charter is there theoretically but is not as impactful in practice. According to Zungu, many people in Kayamandi live “without basic needs, but those people (who march against Zuma) will not protest and march for Kayamandi”.
The fact that La Grange acknowledged how her privilege limits her ability to discuss issues such as #feesmustfall and the student debt crisis. Zungu feels that removing Zuma does not mean that the inequality will be solved tomorrow.
La Grange recalled the story of how Mandela once wanted to call Jackie Selebi, then chief of police, after something from his hotel bathroom in Kuwait had been stolen. La Grange described how, after one of the hotel soaps went missing, Mandela insisted on it being returned because he felt there was no need to use the hotel’s stuff if he and those in his entourage had brought their own toiletries.
La Grange confessed that she had initially voted for and supported the National Party and her Boksburg upbringing. She told the audience about how her father had said in reference to Mandela’s release from prison, “a terrorist has just been released”.
“We have a huge burden as White-Afrikaners to continue this discussion,” said La Grange. She mentioned the recent alleged racial attack at KFC, saying that it needs to be condemned in the strongest terms possible.
“I do think that my association with Mandela comes with some sort of responsibility,” she said. La Grange added that Mandela had taught her to allow other people to embark on their own journey of self-discovery by leading through example.
La Grange spoke at the Stellenbosch University Museum as part of the Discourse Cafe, hosted by the Frederik Van Zyl Slabbert Institute and the Konrad Adenauer Stiftung, where she was also launching her book, Good Morning Mr Mandela. – Aydn Parrott