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Mandela was not silent when his son died of AIDS, says Gates!

bill gates
Philanthropist. Bill Gates delivered an astounding lecture at the University of Pretoria, on the eve of international Mandela Day.

Ahead of Gates’visit to the country, hostess and University of Pretoria Principal and Vice Chancellor, Cheryl de la Rey had spoken of how he would inspire students, staff and academics at the university and went on to acknowledge how the American’s dedication and commitment to improving the lives of the poor set a remarkable example to all of us.

Attended by an array of people from every walk of life including Mamelodi families who’ve lost loved ones in the anti-apartheid struggle, Graca Machel, Dali Tambo, Sipho Mabuse, Professor Njabulo Ndebele, amongst numerous notable others – the lecture witnessed gridlock along the Solomon Mahlangu traffic node leading into the university’s campus.

Delivering his address in a fully-packed hall, Gates began by acknowledging the presence of members of the Mamelodi families and Madiba’s widow, Graca Machel.

With the fourteenth edition of the annual lecture themed, “living together”, the philanthropist noted how the theme was fitting because in many ways, “living together” was also the theme of Nelson Mandela’s life.

Gates, now 60, mentioned that he was a mere 9 years old when Mandela went to Robben Island and how he learned about him whilst at school and remembered seeing reports about the anti-Apartheid movement on the evening news.

On a 1997 trip to South Africa, Gates recalled how a visit to a community center in Soweto where Microsoft had donated computers which were powered by a diesel generator – owing to the center not having electricity – taught him how much he had to learn about the world outside the comfortable bubble he’d lived in all his life.  Computers, he added, helped people do important things, and in fact they have revolutionized life on the African continent in many ways.

Touching expansively on issues ranging from health, education, technology and energy, the bespectacled innovator also delved into an issue very much South Africa’s Archiles Heel, AIDS and the 21st International Aids Conference in Durban this week, by mentioning how he remembered clearly when Mandela’s son succumbed to the disease in 2005.

“Rather than stay silent about the cause of his son’s death, Nelson Mandela announced it publicly, because he knew that stopping the disease required breaking down the walls of fear and shame that surrounded it”, commended Gates.

“When the global AIDS community last met there in 2000, only a few thousand Africans were receiving antiretroviral drugs.  Today, more than 12 million Africans are on treatment – more than a quarter of them living here in South Africa,” said Gates.

On another subject resonating with the country’s state of the nation, he noted how last year’s Nelson Mandela Annual Lecture, the French economist Thomas Picketty pointed out that income inequality in South Africa is, quote, “higher than pretty much anywhere else in the world.”

Expounding on the issues of health and nutrition, he mentioned how when he and Melinda, his wife, started their foundation 15 years ago, it became immediately clear that investing in health was at the top of their list – adding that in the ensuing period, their foundation has invested more than $9 billion in Africa and are committed to keep on investing to help the continent to the extent of investing a further $5 billion in the next five years.

He went on to quote African Development Bank President Akin Adesina who recently said that the greatest contributor to Africa’s economic growth was not physical infrastructure , but “gray matter infrastructure” – people’s brainpower and added that the best way to build that infrastructure was with proper nutrition.

Following an array of esteemed world figures such as former US president, Bill Clinton, Kofi Annan, Liberian President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, amongst other, Gates also touched on youth, productivity and governance.

Students amongst the gathered attendees listened attentively as Gates noted how South Africa is blessed with some of the best universities on the continent – institutions his foundation relied upon as partners in important health and agricultural research, whilst pointing out how the maintenance of the quality of the country’s higher education system while expanding access to more students would not be easy – but was critical to South Africa’s future.

He got angry, he let the audience know, when he saw Africa suffering from the worst effects of climate change although Africans had almost nothing to do with causing it.  “The countries leading Mission Innovation need to create energy breakthroughs that are applicable globally – and they need to do so urgently”, intoned Gates.

Citing the case of a 30 year old Nigerian named Oluseun Onigbinde who gave up a career in banking in order to devote himself fulltime to pulling back the curtain on his country’s federal expenditures by founding a website that provides facts and figures the average person can understand – Gates made the point of how sometimes, it became incumbent on citizens to lead the way and adding that to him, Onigbinde was an example of what one person could do to make a difference.

One of the world’s wealthiest persons concluded his delivery by quoting Nelson Mandela when the late statesman said, “Young people are capable, when aroused, of bringing down the towers of oppression and raising the banners of freedom.”  “Let’s do everything within our power right now to help them build the future that Nelson Mandela dreamed of – and the future that we will achieve together”, he urged the assembly.

Later at a press conference, the billionaire was gifted two books by the Nelson Mandela Foundation’s CEO, Sello Hatang titled, Hunger for Freedom, personally signed by Madiba and another curiously titled, ‘The Great South African Cookbook’ which instantly elicited a boyish grin from Gates and a chuckle from members of the fourth estate.

Members of the audience, who numbered in the thousands, meanwhile, had retreated to a large marquee juxtaposed to the auditorium for wining and dining, as well as people-watching and networking.

This observation done to the sounds of Mamelodi resident, Vusi Mahlasela who enthusiastically serenaded them with familiar standards.

 

 

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2 comments

Rosemary "Big O" Swan July 19, 2016 at 6:26 pm

Glad to know that the International AIDS Conference is celebrating 20 years. I attended the first one, held in Atlanta, Georgia in 1990, while a student at The Atlanta University School of Social Work. I pledge my support by contnuing to do research and personal financing.

Reply
Sydney MORWENG July 21, 2016 at 11:14 am

hi R.
its actually 21st.
we look forward hearing from you as well on projects you working on.
thank you.
Ed.

Reply

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