His Excellency South African Ambassador Ebahim Rasool gave a lecture on November 6 entitled, “An Ambivalent Relationship? Reflections on the Political, Cultural and Economic Interactions between Post-Apartheid South Africa and the United States of America.” The event was well attended as many professors, students and staff members filled Persson auditorium.
Last semester at the annual Model African Union conference, the group of Colgate students representing South Africa had the opportunity to visit the South African Embassy and meet the ambassador. The students impressed the ambassador so much that he offered to come to Colgate and speak.
“There is an umbilical cord between the people of the United States and the people of South Africa,” Rasool said. He said that the connection between the citizens of both nations went beyond the official positions of the governments to isolate South Africa, contributing to the end of apartheid. He stated his position as an ambassador was to maintain the umbilical cord that keeps the nations morally bound to each other. As South Africa’s system of democracy is young, Rasool says South Africa and other countries with young democracies can look to the United States as an example. However, he noted that there is always room for improvement.
“How can the United States constitutional app be upgraded?” Rasool said to the audience, using the computer application as a way of talking about how governing documents fuction.
In posing this metaphorical question, he hoped to bring to light areas where “the student had a lesson to teach the master.” If the enduring legacy of the United States is the ideology of freedom, South Africa has upgraded the “app” through social and economic policies that connect and support personal and political freedoms.
“When in doubt, be inclusive,” Rasool said, stressing the importance of Ubuntu and Ubuntu Diplomacy translated by Nelson Mandela as “I am, because we are.”
Rasool spoke of the inclusivity of the South African model of democracy, opposed to the assimilation model of other democracies that at its core perpetuates the idea of becoming the same. Instead, South Africa embraces the diversity that comes with demolishing the false identities of apartheid, and instilling integrity through integration, not assimilation. This idea that inclusivity and freedom is implanted constitutionally to restore and promote dignity among its citizens is the lesson South Africa has to teach the United States.
“Take words like negotiate, reconcile and forgiveness that have been made to sound weak, and reinvent them with strength,” Rasool said.
“The one who refuses to compromise, standing on principle; that’s not strength it’s foolishness,” he said, as he spoke about a triangulation process of problem solving instead of the “strangulation” process employed by many western powers.
Rasool argued that the role of the United States should be to use its influence and power not for constant intervention, but for support in order to give the principle of Ubuntu diplomacy a chance.
“I really enjoyed the lecture,” senior Renyelle Jimenez said. “It was interesting to hear a different perspective on domestic and international affairs regarding the United States from a country that is not a client nor a sponsor.”
Contact Jamari Hysaw at [email protected]