Cape Town, South Africa Executive Mayor Nomaindia Mfeketo
Mayors of the World Share Same Problems, Possess Leadership Abilities To Successfully Meet Challenges
By Kay Scrimger
July 12, 2004
In her address to the Sunday Plenary Session, Cape Town, South Africa, Executive Mayor Nomaindia Mfeketo acknowledged the strong similarities in mayoral responsibilities, regardless of country.
Mfeketo thanked Conference President Hempstead (NY) Mayor James A. Garner for bringing the Conference of Mayors delegation to South Africa, Namibia, Uganda, and Swaziland in September 2003. The nine-member mayoral delegation met Mfeketo on several occasions in Cape Town, learning about the city's government, economy, and social structure, as well as about the impact of HIV/AIDS, especially upon local businesses and corporations.
"We were left much wiser by your visit," she said. "We well understood the mission you were about in Africa" to bring U.S. and African mayors together to discuss the challenge of the HIV/AIDS pandemic.
Cape Town Mayor Thanks Conference for Fighting Against Apartheid in Earlier Decades
Reviewing the history of apartheid in South Africa, Mfeketo said, "The Conference of Mayors was part of the great global contribution to our fight for freedom in South Africa. Thank you for all you did as an organization of mayors to dramatize what was going on in South Africa and to help us achieve our freedom from apartheid.
"We have achieved so much as a country in the last ten years [since Nelson Mandela was elected President in 1994]our decade of freedom and democracy in South Africa. Ten years later we have forgiven but not forgotten where we came from."
"We have laid a solid foundation for the transformation of South Africa, with a strong constitution and democratic government, and we continue to seek a balance to address the imbalance of the past. This is not an easy task.
Celebrating First Decade of Freedom, 1994 to 2004, South Africa Seeks Reconciliation
"We chose the path of reconciliation rather than revenge. We are always conscious that our former jailor and persecutor is our fellow citizen and countryman. In short, this is a balancing dance, our present partners having been our former jailors."
Mfeketo knows firsthand about jailors, having been arrested and detained a number of times during the 1980's because of her political activism and role as an African National Congress (ANC) party underground operative.
She once was imprisoned with her newborn baby son. Speaking of that time, the mayor noted in an interview that she had no books nor anything in the cell, except for her baby boy and a Bible.
"My son spent the first two years of his life in prison," she said. "He is 16 years old now. Am I bitter? No, I am not, because I cannot govern my city with bitterness and revenge. I have a responsibility to all our people."
Continuing Achievements and Challenges
Mfeketo also described how South Africa has retired its debt and has sought to build inclusion and reconciliation into its governmental structure and operation. The government has also sought fairness in land reform. She pointed out that the ANC received two-thirds of the vote in the April 2004 national elections, including majorities in all major cities and all other local governments and district councils.
With regard to the challenge of HIV/AIDS, she noted that, "This challenge can only be met successfully if all of us work together and have strong leadership at the top." She called for a comprehensive approach, with education, counseling, care, and support, and efforts to educate and reduce the stigma of AIDS.
Mfeketo noted that she is working to maintain and sustain the beauty of Cape Town, a number one tourist destination in the world, while seeking to eradicate poverty, improve housing opportunities, and improve the standard of living of her citizens.
"We must strengthen and support our fragile but buoyant economy. Overwhelmingly, the majority of South Africans want peace, prosperity, and a democratic country they can be proud of," she emphasized.