tv This Is America With Dennis Wholey PBS July 15, 2012 10:00am-10:30am EDT
>> our guest is ebrahim rasool, ambassador of the republic of south africa, former member parliament in the national assembly, and formerly the premier of the western cape province in south africa. thank you so much for joining pleasure be on the legendary show like this. >> freedom day just celebrated for south africa. tell us a bit about it. >> freedom day comes as a hard
one for the overwhelming majority who, by definition, are the black party. it comes as the result of a long hard stratifies and struggles. it comes after long years of imprisonment for nelson mandela. it comes for -- comes after 50 years of exile for many south africans. and it comes after years of arkansas association, of national unity, and forgiveness. -- years of segregation, working for national unity and forgiveness. >> turn the clock back a little bit for us and tell us a little bit about growing up in south africa in the 1960's and 1970's. >> my recollections are far more
in the 1970's. but i can into south africa in the 1970's were my parents had been absolutely distant. is the ticket in which nelson mandela would go to jail. -- is the decade in which nelson mandela would go to jail. when many would go into exile. there is the killing of people in places like soweto. the assassination of the president of the african national congress. people go into the 1970's in a very fearful moment. the generation i come from have no direct memory of the repression of the 1960's. i go to high school in 1976 in
soweto. the township's out of your johannesburg, you have students who take to the streets rejecting the system of apartheid not knowing the fear of the 1960's, having absolute fearlessness as they go about their business. ever since, there is this revival and the struggle of an idea called black consciousness, that an affirmation that black is not something to be discussed it at, but that black is something that is beautiful and that we can live with this black identity. so the new unity for just outside of the apartheid state. so that lays the foundation through 1976 through the 1980's with young people largely showing their fearlessness. >> and you were a teenager, a
student activist yourself, leading boycotts, protests and such. >> yes. it is not a job description you go looking for. i happened to enter high school in the year 1976. by 1980, the second wave of uprisings happened. and student leaders were leading those kinds of boycotts. by 1983, was elected into the executive of the united democratic front, which becomes the incarnation of the african national congress which is banned. by 1985, i've had my first stint in prison. then i know what life is all about. >> what did the government have in mind in 1948-1949 with this whole idea of apartheid? >> their goals were largely inspired by the kind of
arianism, the purity of the white race, the idea that they were the chosen people brought to africa to bring civilization to the continent, to christianize the continent. within not only happy with the idea of supporting the different races from the other, but perfecting the art and science of that separation. if you can imagine segregation, multiple that by 10. in south africa, they worked out which group you could live-in could they worked out which schools you could go to. so blacks, for example, were not allowed to learn math and science. we are still reaping that decision. they decided who could marry and who could not. they turned it into an absolute science of separation. but not only separation, but this position. >> so it was greatly different
than what was happening here in the united states. >> i think it made segregation almost looked like a simple affair. whereas, in south africa, it was a fair part in science and something that what students could study at universities. >> before we go to the break, you mentioned nelson mandela. you mentioned the african national congress. how do you will come together, the two of you? >> i went to high school at the school which was known much more for its left-leanings and its trust he is -- and its trotsky ist understanding. i focused on activism. i enjoyed the way -- joyfully understood the way the struggle
had life-and-death risk involved and we were able to celebrate our humanity and not give it up at all. in 1980, my great conversion to the politics of the african national congress happened. but i remain ever thankful that i learned from the trustyist -- trostskyist movement. i think this is absolutely significant and comes at the moment of great introspection and reflection for us as we understand the lessons of the liberation movement and becoming a government. >> let's take a little break. we're talking with the ambassador from the republic of south africa. sit tight. we will come back on the other
side. this is the america." >> "this is america" is made possible by the national education association, the nation's largest advocate for children and public education. punsan corporation, forging a higher global standard. the ctc foundation, afl communications, and the rotondaro family trust. >> americans know very little about africa and south africa. what is the size of the country? is it a big country? >> it is probably a bit of the subcontinent.
i think it could easily be a third of europe. but that is the massive size of the african continent. as massive as the land mass is the opportunity that opens across africa and getting the impression that americans are learning more and more about africa because they understand that the economic salvation lies on that last frontier that the u.s. has been shying away from. >> why do you think we have shied away from it? >> i think the u.s. has always seen in africa, and sometimes justifiably, as a continent that needs assistance rather than can be a partner and create investment and tourism. america has often seemed the continent of africa as a place troubled by the absence of democracy, the absence of the rule block, the absence of human rights and those are the preconditions before entering into economic partnerships.
africa has cleaned up much of its act in the currentp period. >> do you think that we have had some feelings, too, because of our race problems here in america? >> they felt that the discourse would be one of reparations, reparations for the slave trade that happened over 400 years ago, reparations of the segregation problem where blacks were discriminated against in the u.s. south africa has transcended some of those issues. the best way to make things right is to continue very important programs like the anti-its program, the equal opportunities act that allows african goods to come into the market duty free. but most importantly, we can find a way to operate equitably with each other through good
trade, a good investment, and, for the first time, africa has something to put on the table. >> what is the population of south attacks >> it is about 50 million people. >> what is the racial breakdown of south africa? >> we have almost 75% what we call black african. then one is dealing with about 10% to 50% of whites. the rest would be coloreds and indians -- 10% to 15% of whites. the rest would be colored and indians. people like myself are of the malay region. >> what about religion? is it a christian area? >> i think that 50% of africans would identify with one or another denomination within the
christian faith. the community i come from, the muslim community, is about 3%. there is a good size of atheists appeared there hindus. there are significant population of jews. and there others that you could find in the world which would be in the great mosaic of africa appeared >> with such a small percentage of people who follow islam, you have been in the forefront to bring people together, have interfaced conversations. what is your motivation? >> i think it is a responsibility i have as opposed to a motivation. when a small 3% muslim minority can find peace with itself, at peace with its fellow citizens in a country like south africa, there should be a model in there somewhere for the troubled minorities that find themselves all over europe, united states and other places of the world. we don't have to be perpetual strangers with dinner host
countries. we don't have to -- within our host countries. we don't have to seek an islamic system where we live. we can live where we don't break the rules. we can live with in the values and objectives of our faith without insisting that every rule and regulation should be inscribed in that country. and africa has reaped and african muslims particularly have reaped the benefits of democracy by subscribing to the rule of law and increasing every other variety in the country -- and embracing every other friday in the country. we find ourselves at peace with their neighbors. that is the model that the muslim world is looking for. that is the model that western countries are looking for and trying to understand this phenomenon of the other which happened to be muslim and coming
to live with them. >> many languages in south africa? many different cultures? >> south africa has an enormous number of tribes. each has their own traditions and cultures south africa has 11 official languages. it is officials because we vowed to ourselves that never again will someone be excluded on the basis of language. if you happen to be in trouble in court, you have the right to defend yourself in the language that you choose. if you're lying in bed in hospital, you have the right to demand that someone treat you can communicate with you. and if you speak in parliament, you have the right to have a simultaneous translation based on the language that you choose so you're not misunderstood. so much of the tragedy of our past comes from the simple fact of not understanding each other. the south african flag is a flag with six colors, the most of any in the world. it is shaped in a way to
converge the colors of the liberation movement, the colors of the old national party, the colors of the left, the colors of the right, all into one flag. and we have an anthem that encapsulates the for your or five of our languages in order to -- encapsulates for five of our languages in order to be inclusive rather than to be minimalist and hurt our country. >> how many countries are in africa? >> 54 countries. >> and south africa has the largest economy? or one of the more successful economies? >> south africa has the most diversified economy. it has far more products than any other african country. it is much more industrialized than any other african economy. its growth rate is much less
than nigeria or angola, but that is because we are in a world that is in recession. if you have a single product like oil, you can grow phenomenally. i think that speaks about the power and the diversification of the south african continent. >> were the leading exports? >> sawtelle burqa exports what everybody knows -- south africa exports what everybody knows -- gold and diamonds. what people don't know is that every seacrest mercedes benz and every bmw driven in the united states is manufactured in africa. some of the finest lines are exported from south africa. we supply the u.s. market and every shopping center in the off-season citrus and other
fruit. we do that, but we do very sophisticated stuff, such as, for example, we're the only country that has destroyed our own nuclear weapons. we put it to peaceful use. it now comes as nuclear isotopes that treat cancers in the united states of america. so those are the variety of exports and many more. >> did buried someplace that the united states still owes a trip -- did i read someplace that the united states still as a trip over there to pick up some nuclear waste? >> we have told them, that unlike the united states, we have destroyed our nuclear weapons and you can trust us to take care of the nuclear waste. >> so we do not have to pick it up? >> no. we use them as medical isotopes.
>> a hero who came from very humble beginnings, a guerrilla fighter himself, also very controversial, what are his challenges? what are the challenges of south africa? >> i think we would love to have the united states unemployment rate of under 9%. ours is probably closer to 50%. we would love to have our young people really skilled, really educated on top of math and science and being able to contribute to the technological age and to the knowledge economy. unfortunately, the past, or young black students -- where young black students could not compete with math and science and welcome it takes two generations.
it takes the first generation to teach it and it takes the second generation to get the product of math and science into the university and into the economy. so we have long goals with our shortages. >> so there is poverty in the country. >> there is a significant amount of poverty. that poverty -- income poverty, meaning people who do not earn at the same time, we have diseases that we need to combat like hiv and tuberculosis. in some places, there are neglected tropical diseases. but there are problems of a first world nature cardiac disease. president zuma's challenge is how to make sure we get the right skills so our country continues to grow and for the
very poor and there is a safety net. how to stop the bottom of the world from falling out. but some have considered investment. i know you have a background in economic investment and finance. because of infrastructure and crime, that sometimes scare people off from investment. do you think that is a fair statement? >> i think people are surprised when they come to south africa and find that we have some of the most post-modern airports. certainly, after the world cup 2010, our airports are better than what i have d seen thatulles or jfk -- then when i have seen at dulles or at jfk. we did not put our money only to
building stadiums. we put our money into our route .etwork, our real network bea -- our rail network. so i think people are surprised by the amount of infrastructure they have seen. on the level of crime, the statistics are terrible and unfortunately a lot of it is the inner city as opposed to in between. >> my sister-in-law was there within the last year and said it is a beautiful country with very welcoming people. >> absolutely. that is the story of world cup 2010. the biggest chunk of business came from the u.s.a. and they were presently -- they were pleasantly surprised. >> the relationship between
suffolk and the united states, is it good? >> it is favorable enough for us to be seen as a friend of the usa. but it is critically enough to not be seen as applying with the usa. we can go into negotiations with the u.s. under any number of issues. we prefer sanctions to work rather than another war like iraq in the middle east. we insure that there are no blood diamonds from south africa on the market. i think we would retain efficient independent and and economy so as not to endorse military actions. >> these are more words --
you're not there as somebody who is necessarily a client of the united states. actually, the trade percentages very small. it is big, but it is fairly small. some of your trading partners go all over the place. >> the tree proportion is probably proportional to what south africa has to offer the usa and what the usa is willing to offer south africa. but the moment of opportunity will come when africa follows up on the growing democracy, the rouleau law and all of those kinds of things with a kind of -- the rule of law and all of those kinds of things with a kind of economic architecture. >> what kind of a timetable to uc for that? >> there are three regions. east africa, central africa, and
south africa. we will get that market going. west africa will join fairly soon. we are speaking about a method of two years or so for that to be in place. and for a common market to be offered to the usa. >> does it help that president obama is the president of the united states right now with the relationship? >> ironically, there is a very favorable reaction even to president bush because he really kept the issue of the african growth under table. but that relationship has multiplied with the emotional pull that comes from somebody who can trace his rich to africa, in kenya. for the united states, that has been a wonderful thing because it does not have to take
billions of u.s. dollars to insure south africa, to put down terror that could emerge in africa. i think there is a nice and secure atmosphere. the u.s. can be thankful for it. >> we are down to the last 30 seconds. what one thing -- like folks were listening to us to take away from our conversation? >> among the export products that south africa has, the most important one is those that relate to the life legacy of nelson mandela. we know -- we need someone who is a peacemaker. we need a world that is gentler. we need a world that is far more aware of the human instinct between people. and that is what we will be doing as our diplomacy in the u.s.a., around the statue of nelson mandela in washington. >> thank you, mr. ambassador. >> thank you pick it has been an
absolute pleasure. >> thank you. >> for information about my new book, "the chance of a lifetime ," and online video for all "thisisamerica.net" programs, visit our web site thisisamerica.net.net. this is america is made possible by the national education association, the nation's largest advocate for children and public education. punsan corporation, forging a higher global standard. the ctc foundation, afo communications, and the rotondaro family trust. rotondaro family trust.
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