The speakers and the audience analysed the recent election results and looked at the opportunities they present, as well as the challenges facing the country and the new government under president Cyril Ramaphosa. In his opening remarks, Hanns Buehler, regional representative of the Hanns Seidel Foundation in Southern Africa, had also remarked on the importance of president Cyril Ramaphosa's rallying call "Thuma Mina", "Send me", from the song by legendary musician Hugh Masekela. It touched people's hearts and energised many into action to personally contribute more towards bettering the country.
Gauteng Education MEC Panyaza Lesufi exuded resolve and reasoned optimism, and he was frank in speaking about his party's struggle to root out corrupt elements - "South Africa is too precious to fail". The popular minister for education and deputy chair of the governing party ANC in Gauteng - South Africa's province with the largest population and the economic powerhouse of the country - acknowledged failures of the education system to achieve outcomes needed and gave specific examples of policies and initiatives to improve the situation with the urgency required. The MEC described intense efforts to tackle poverty and inequality and to grow social cohesion. He also spoke of a "second chance to dream" the country had now been given under the new leadership of president Cyril Ramaphosa.
South Africa is an important partner for the European Union, the only member of the G20 from Africa, and one of only ten strategic country partners globally - the only one on the African continent. The EU is SOuth Africa's first investment, trade and development partner, accounting for a quarter of South Africa's trade and three quarters of its direct foreign investment. Isabelle Delattre, head of the Southern African unit at DG Development Cooperation of the European Commission, outlined current programs of collaboration of European Union institutions with South Africa, and plans for the upcoming next cycle currently being made.
Sello Hatang, CEO of the Nelson Mandela Foundation, shared some of his organisation's recent experience in facilitating cross sector collaboration between government and the public service, the business sector and civil society, including academia, NGOs and grassroots organisations. With its unique convening power, the Foundation has increasingly been using the strategy of being a catalyst for long term collaborations of this kind.
This approach, which can also impact on policy development in specific, productive ways to achieve systemic changes, is increasingly seen as crucial to tackle "wicked problems" internationally - it was praised as innovative and important by high level representatives of the European Union.
A quarter of a century after South Africa's first democratic elections, audience and speakers were in agreement that everything must be done to keep Nelson Mandela's legacy alive, and that, together with its partners, South Africa does truly have the potential to make "the dream deferred" come true.