It is a good time to remind ourselves of the values of Nelson Mandela, as South Africa emerges from a period of rampant corruption so antithetical to them, anti-apartheid campaigner Lord Peter Hain told Rondebosch schoolchildren last week.
Lord Hain was in Cape Town last week to launch his new book, Mandela: His Essential Life.
His book tour included visits to Usasazo High School in Khayelitsha and later Westerford High School.
According to Lord Hain, his latest book tells how Mr Mandela went from his remote rural roots to city lawyer, freedom fighter, and then political leader.
It also touches on Mr Mandela’s later life and his campaigns for human rights, Aids awareness and freedom from poverty.
Lord Hain’s parents, Walter and Adelaine Hain, met Nelson Mandela in the late 1950s and early 1960s when they were anti-apartheid activists.
Lord Hain moved from South Africa to the UK as a teenager.
He, himself, met Mr Mandela when the former South African president visited the UK in 1991, when Mr Hain was still a British member of parliament.
Lord Hain spoke to pupils and staff at Westerford and Usasazo about his interaction with Mr Mandela, and he answered questions about his book and his life.
He said 500 copies of his book would be donated to schools supported by the Mellon Educate charity, which includes Usasazo High School, Ummangaliso Primary School and Sosebenza Primary School in Khayelitsha, and Silversands High School and Happy Valley Primary School in Kuils River.
Westerford High School Grade 11 Nadia Odendaal was thrilled to meet Lord Hain. “I think that having someone in South Africa with Lord Hain’s credentials is really great because he really has a truly unique insight based on his positionality. His own political career and his work as an activist is so valuable for us as young people to learn from,” she said.
Bruce Robinson, who teaches English and history at Westerford, said it was fantastic to get a direct account from someone who had been very involved in the anti-apartheid struggle.
Lord Hain has written 20 books, including titles such as Don’t Play with Apartheid, Mistaken Identity and A Putney Plot?. He said it had been a great privilege to write a book about Mr Mandela.
“The value of it is that it reminds people of his value, his commitment to integrity, equality, social justice, human rights, democracy and media freedom. And all of those are undercut in the world at large with Trump and Putin but also in South Africa.
“We had this period of rampant corruption, which is completely against Mandela values and it is important for young people to know their history,” said Lord Hain. “Some are criticising Mandela for not being radical enough. I think it is important to understand the history and how tough it was, how hard the anti-apartheid struggle was and how crucial his leadership was to keeping South Africa on a stable path rather than being plunged into a civil war.”
Mandela: His Essential Life is available in book stores, though Lord Hain hopes to see it available in government and school libraries.