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The Unfinished Work Of South African Women -- Mandela's Elusive RDP of the Soul

How can South African women link efforts to the unrealised dream of a Reconstruction and Development Plan of the Soul that Nelson Mandela left?

08/03/2017 04:58 SAST | Updated 08/03/2017 09:40 SAST
Siegfried Modola / Reuters

A global clarion call has gone out for women to "wear red, down tools and buy local for International Women's Day". The "one day without a woman" campaign urges women in every corner of the world to show solidarity with the global women's movement on March 8, by taking the day as a day off "from paid and unpaid labour" in order to highlight the value that women add to society, and to demand equality in all spheres of life.

Should we not take up tools, rather than down tools?

The World Women Are Downing Tools to Participate In

We are living through a particularly gruelling moment of planetary history that has been referred to as the "Correcting Time" in some spiritual traditions. Much of what seemed secure and certain is in the process of falling apart. At a time when humanity has finally committed itself to some corrective measures towards future sustainability, we are transiting through what may well prove to be the least sustainable of times...

Some scientists have dared to suggest that the circumstances in which we find ourselves, not all of our own making, (ecosystem breakdown, climate change, mass die-offs of species, hunger and drought, continuing poverty and inequality due to a profoundly unsustainable macroeconomic framework, disease, war, crime, terrorism, mass migrations of people, alcoholism, drug abuse, sexual violence and broken family structures) are capable of leading to the decimation of the human species during our lifetime.

What needs to be done to bend our whole planetary civilisation towards more materially and socially sustainable outcomes? What role can South African women, in all their diversity, and in partnership and in support of men, play in suggesting strategies of greater resilience during these last 4 years of the African Decade of Women? How can South African women link their efforts to the still unrealised dream of a Reconstruction and Development Plan of the Soul that Nelson Mandela left us as a visionary legacy?

The Tools Women are Taking Up to Elaborate the Elusive RDP of the Soul Agenda

At an intergenerational South African Women in Dialogue event in August 2014, a grown man wept after listening to doyenne of indigenous wisdom Ma Grace Masuku explain that sex is sacred in African tradition because sex leads to procreation, and when two people conspire to co-create, they are engaging Spirit in that act, as they are potentially co-creating a being that they are committing Spirit to indwell with an eternal soul... His tearful comment, "Where I live, nobody knows what you have just said..." does not surprise us.

Through the personal decisions of billions of us, we have managed to design a world almost entirely devoid of the sacred. Even Nelson Mandela, the father of the still unrealised dream of an "RDP of the Soul" in South Africa, famously kept his Methodist Christian beliefs discreet "in favour of his great life work of reconciliation," fearing that speaking publicly about his own faith would cause division or be construed as proof that he was "using religion as a political tool, as the apartheid regime did."

On International Women's Day, let this be an invitation to women to reframe the future sustainability of the planet not only in terms of the African value of Ubuntu, but also in terms of the Reconstruction and Development Plan of the Soul.

Despite the fact that almost all wisdom traditions hold some doctrine of an "enduring entity" that survives death, the notion that we are the possessors of an undying and eternal human soul is not one that has universal currency. Buddhism, the one world religion without a God or a doctrine of the soul, is paradoxically the religion that comes closest to advocating a God-like path by teaching that the solutions to our problems are within ourselves, and that simplicity of needs and compassion will lead to wisdom and enlightenment.

What knowledge is needed to convince an increasingly secular people to prioritise soul-growth? Who can be trusted with elaborating the tantalising "Reconstruction and Development Plan of the Soul" that Nelson Mandela so hoped to leave us as a legacy?

A Proposed Agenda Towards the Implementation of an RDP of the Soul

The organisation known as South African Women in Dialogue dedicated the first 13 years of its existence towards gathering and amplifying the voices of African women. A generation of South African women leaders, some now in their eighties, have guided the work of SAWID towards the elaboration of the necessary tools to nurture the equal growth of souls.

The SAWID ethos is personified by this generation of older women: SAWID founder and patron Zanele Mbeki explained that "women cannot eradicate poverty for themselves, because they would still have poor husbands and poor children," while Dr. Brigalia Bam repeatedly shared her insight that "we are here to be of service to others," and Dr. Frene Ginwala often cautioned that "democracy does not eradicate poverty."

These are the proposed tools:

1. A focus on the family as unit of analysis, and the training and employment of family development workers, while exploring the use of the Poverty Stoplight tool of family self-diagnosis to measure and ensure equal growth from cradle to grave, and to equally coordinate and distribute available resources that serve the restoration of the family. The family acts as the first peace-building unit of society, and the place where men and women learn to "adjust their antagonisms." Social cohesion cannot take place in the absence of family cohesion.

2. Small healing dialogue circles and co-creative design teams at ward level for personal and societal healing, to articulate local priorities, and to ensure inclusive local solution-formation. (Dr. Mamphela Ramphele has additionally cautioned that we need to balance the political settlement that took place since 1994 with an emotional settlement of apartheid, since "the contestation of the 1994 dream stems from our failure to acknowledge that our diverse heritage was purchased at a heavy cost.")

3. A tool to link local decisions and solutions to municipal budgeting processes, and outcomes of these per geographic area to the SALGA Municipal Barometer and Stats SA censuses, as well as to available assets, budgets, and resources in civil society, the private sector and all levels of government, to ensure equal growth.

On International Women's Day, let this be an invitation to women to reframe the future sustainability of the planet not only in terms of the African value of ubuntu, the practice of human kindness based on the understanding that a person is only a person because of other people, but also in terms of the Reconstruction and Development Plan of the Soul. Women, time to take up tools.