LENASIA, South Africa – A day after attending the state funeral of his longtime friend, Winnie Madikizela-Mandela – “the mother of the nation” – Rev. Jesse L. Jackson, Sr., met privately with the head of the country, South Africa President Cyril Ramaphosa.
Still wearing the green t-shirts they donned before leading thousands of people here in the blazing morning sun on a “going green” environmental awareness walk, Rev. Jackson and President Ramaphosa huddled on Sunday at the end of the route to discuss economic development and strengthening ties between the United States and South Africa.
“President Ramaphosa has a real commitment to expanding and democratizing economic opportunity,” Rev. Jackson said. “We will be working together more closely.”
President Ramaphosa will send “a strong delegation” from the South African government to Chicago for the 47th Annual Rainbow PUSH Coalition International Convention, June 13 through June 16.
Rev. Jackson, the founder and president of the Rainbow PUSH Coalition, and President
Ramaphosa have known each other for years. Rev. Jackson first visited South Africa in 1979, during some of the darkest days of apartheid.
“I first met President Ramaphosa when he headed the federation of labor and was a strong anti-apartheid activist,” Rev. Jackson said. “He never left South Africa, he stayed in the eye of the struggle. Now he is the head of state. He worked his way through the ranks, from labor to business to now.”
Before their meeting Sunday, the African American civil rights icon and the president of Africa’s most powerful nation led hundreds of people – black, white and Indian – through the streets of this formerly segregated township on a walk, honoring the memory of Mahatma Gandhi.
As people waved small South African flags at the starting line of the 33rd annual “Gandhi Walk,” Rev. Jackson reminded the crowd that Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., had been a disciple of Gandhi’s nonviolent tactics and philosophy, adding, “We will march until justice is done and freedom won.”
“We thank God,” he said, “for a new and noble South Africa. Let nothing break your spirit. Keep hope alive.”
Later Sunday evening, Rev. Jackson was the special guest at a dinner hosted by an organization of South African entrepreneurs and business executives, Kingdom Business Network. The theme of the evening was, “Entrepreneurship as a form of social activism.”
The group’s leader, Faith Mangope, said the goal of the organization is to help its members “go from survival to success, from success to significance.”
As she introduced Rev. Jackson, Mangope said she was surprised that the two-time American presidential candidate did not also have a South African passport because he had been to the country so many times and had stood with “generations” of South Africans in the long struggle against apartheid.
She said he was one of “the individuals who paved the way for a free South Africa.”
Rev. Jackson told the roomful of business owners and executives that when he first visited South Africa, the only blacks he saw in the airport were pushing brooms or slinging mops.
“We never turned South Africa loose because it’s so much like South Carolina,” Rev. Jackson said, referring to his native state. “I grew up in apartheid, too. We called it segregation.”
James Gomez, Jr.
Rainbow PUSH Coalition is a multi-racial, multi-issue, progressive, international organization that was formed in December 1996 by the Reverend Jesse L. Jackson, Sr. through merging of two organizations he founded Operation PUSH People United to Serve Humanity (estab. 1971) and the Rainbow Coalition (estab. 1984). With headquarters in Chicago and offices in Washington, D.C., Atlanta, Detroit, Houston, Los Angeles, New York and Oakland, the organization works to make the American Dream a reality for all citizens while advocating for peace and justice around the world. RPC is dedicated to improving the lives of all people by serving as a voice for the voiceless. Its mission is to protect, defend and gain civil rights by leveling the economic and educational playing fields while promoting peace and justicearound the world.
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