The idea of the new SA has always been to unite all the people of this country, to have them stride ahead with a common purpose while respecting each other’s differences. It is a project that’s largely been accomplished but, as in many other countries, it remains a work in progress.

The dream — and the costs involved — were summed up by Nelson Mandela at the Rivonia trial more than half a century ago: “I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is an ideal which I hope to achieve. But if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die.”

Of course, there are those quick to pooh-pooh these sentiments even as they enjoy the fruits of what Mandela and his ilk gave so much for. They were brave words. Mandela and his comrades faced the real possibility of being sent to the gallows. Mercifully that didn’t happen, but instead they were sentenced to life on Robben Island.

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