Barack Obama. Picture: REUTERS/EVAN VUCCI
Barack Obama. Picture: REUTERS/EVAN VUCCI

How apt that Barack Obama, the first black US president, will be speaking at an event in Johannesburg next week in honour of Nelson Mandela, the first black president of SA.

These two honourable men had to take the reins in countries with divided societies flowing from generations of discrimination against the communities from which they came. Painfully aware of deep-rooted prejudice against black people, they governed with wisdom and insight. Both devoted their energy to nation building and breaking down prejudice. Ironically, later presidents reopened the divides in both countries.

Jacob Zuma, with the power base of his black "tribe", took us backwards and rekindled faction politics, something Madiba was strongly opposed to. In the US, Donald Trump is doing the same, with the support of his white "tribe" power base, his ambition being to undo Obama’s legacy.

SA now finds itself in a painful rebuilding phase in the areas of nation building, international business confidence and socioeconomic realities after the Zuma era. The US in turn finds itself in a downward spiral in respect of nation building, international business confidence and socioeconomic realities under Trump.

Given the balance of numbers in our country, it would not be possible to rekindle official policies discriminating against people who look different, something that is rearing its ugly head in the US.

Obama’s speech here will take place at a very important moment in the histories of SA and the US, and in fact, of world events. I believe it will resonate far and wide, also given the symbolic significance of it taking place on African soil.

Dawie Jacobs

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