REMARKS BY THE HONOURABLE JEFF RADEBE, MP, MINISTER IN THE PRESIDENCY RESPONSIBLE FOR PLANNING, MONITORING AND EVALUATION; AT THE INTERNATIONAL NELSON MANDELA DAY EVENT; THEKWANI NORTH COMMUNITY HALL, KANYAMAZANE, MPUMALANGA PROVINCE
20 JULY 2017
Councillors present here
Ladies and Gentlemen
It is an honour and a privilege for me to stand before you and pay tribute to tata Madiba, shortly after the International Nelson Mandela Day. It is highly inspiring to observe that our icon is not only celebrated here at home, but the whole world continues to honour President Mandela’s legacy years after his passing.
The popular saying that a prophet is not celebrated in his community is not applicable in Madiba’s case. We celebrated him while he was still alive and we will continue celebrating him in years to come. Madiba is a patriot that put South Africa on the global map for his humanity and sense of goodwill.
In 2009, the United Nations (UN) General Assembly declared the 18th of July as International Nelson Mandela Day in honour of our global icon. The UN noted that marking the day recognises Mandela's "values and his dedication to the service of humanity" and acknowledging his contribution "to the struggle for democracy internationally and the promotion of a culture of peace throughout the world." It was Madiba’s invocation that:
“What counts in life is not the mere fact that we have lived. It is what difference we have made to the lives of others that will determine the significance of the life we lead.”
Madiba devoted his life to the struggle for a free and democratic South Africa. He left us a legacy of selflessness, resilience and devotion. To celebrate Mandela Day is to honour the principles and the values that Madiba cherished. This day commemorates the lifetime service Madiba gave to South Africa and the world at large. In a true Madiba spirit, the theme for Mandela Day this year is #ActionAgainstPoverty. Putting an end to hunger and starvation in the world was one of Madiba’s visions.
Mandela Day is a day of goodwill. It implores us all to make the world a better place. Of course, it would be most ideal to make every day Mandela Day. We don’t need to wait until the 18th of July to perform acts of goodwill. The appeal is for all of us to heighten our efforts, to honour Madiba by promoting some of his core values. It is through such efforts that we can bring about enduring change to society. Each one of us has got the ability and the responsibility to make the world a better place.
It was truly inspirational to see people from different walks of life doing acts of goodwill over the past couple of days. This gesture affirms our conviction as expressed in the popular liberation song that: “Akekho ofana naye”— there is no one like him. Madiba was indeed one of a kind. Those of us who have had the privilege of being in the company of Madiba can attest to the assertion that each and every encounter with him was an unforgettable experience. He had incomparable presence.
It is not every day that humanity is blessed with a man of Madiba’s stature, a man who epitomises the true meaning of selflessness and dedication. Madiba has touched the lives of so many people all over the world, but it is his compatriots, we South Africans, who are the ultimate benefactors of his selflessness. Whenever we visit other countries or interact with foreign visitors, we thump our chests with pride that Madiba was one of us. This also places on our shoulders the responsibility to uphold Madiba’s ideals. We must cherish Madiba’s sense of goodwill, peace and human justice.
We must learn from Madiba’s visionary leadership and emulate his positive attributes. He became a global icon because of his selflessness and passion for peace, freedom and human justice. He dedicated his life to the service of the people of South Africa and the world. The personal sacrifices that Madiba and those of us who were incarcerated on Robben Island and other prisons across the country have left deep scars in our lives and in the lives of our loved ones. The life of Madiba should be a salient reminder that our freedom was not brought on a silver platter.
During our transitional period of the early 1990s, the threat of a civil war was real. Many of us had to sleep with one eye open— watchful of the imminent attacks from those who resisted transformation and undermined the will of the people. There were conflicts, skirmishes, assassinations and other kinds of brutal attacks, but our country never degenerated into war zone that many commentators predicted. President Mandela stood firm through trying times and never lost sight of his vision of a free and democratic South Africa.
The people of South Africa turned out in their numbers on 27 April 1994, and voted for the ANC to lead us into the new democratic society. The world watched in awe as Madiba was inaugurated as the first President of a democratic South Africa. When he took oath of office in 1994, President Mandela must have been aware of the challenges of leading and rebuilding a nation freshly out of oppression.
Peace, reconciliation and human dignity were at the core of his agenda and remain paramount in our society today. In his inaugural speech on 10 May 1994, President Nelson Mandela gave an injunction to all of us:
“The time for healing of the wounds has come. The moment to bridge the chasm that divides us has come. The time to build is upon us.”
When he embraced peace and reconciliation, as opposed to hatred and retribution, Madiba was neither naïve nor ignorant of the sufferings that the people of South Africa had been subjected to. As the leader of the government of national unity, which included the former oppressors, President Mandela brought together adversaries to work together towards the betterment of our society. He navigated our country through a tumultuous transitional period that was full of landmines. I was privileged to be part of this historic moment and to serve as one the Ministers in Madiba’s first cabinet.
Under President Mandela’s stewardship, South Africa developed to become one of the best constitutional democracies in the history of humanity. Our constitution, lauded as one of the best in the world, laid a solid foundation for our democratic society, which guaranteed the rule of law and human justice.
We owe it to Madiba’s visionary leadership that after 23 years of freedom and democracy, South Africa remains a stable country full of possibilities. This milestone is the affirmation of the triumph of human spirit. These achievements can be attributed to none other than the perceptive leadership of the founding father of our democratic nation – President Nelson Mandela.
I can freely wax lyrical about him today because I know if Madiba was still with us he would be opposed to my views. He always attributed his successes to the collective leadership of his organisation and government. He never took personal credit in all his achievements. He was with us in the trenches, and he was with us when we scaled the highest echelons of leadership in society. He was a man integrity. The humility with which Madiba lead the ANC and South Africa, is a vital ingredient that we need to instil in our society today.
Madiba ceased to breathe on 5 December 2013, but he will always be with us in spirit. As the government of South Africa, we are committed to upholding the legacy, the principles and values that President Mandela cherished throughout his lifetime. As South Africans, history has imposed on all of us the responsibility to fulfil Madiba’s vision of a better life for all.
We can do this by individually and collectively promoting some of Madiba’s values in our own environments. The overarching objective of Nelson Mandela International Day is to inspire individuals to take action to help change the world for the better, and in doing so build a global movement for good.
The focus for this year’s Mandela Day is to fight poverty as it is organised under the theme: #ActionAgianstPoverty. Poverty impacts the entire country and is the root cause of malnutrition, poor education, disease, skills deficit, and unemployment, loss of dignity and even anger and violence. The fight for the eradication of poverty was central in Mandela’s life both in the liberation struggle as well as when he was the head of state. Addressing the 49th session of the UN General assembly in October 1994, President Mandela said:
“We now undertake that we cannot rest while millions of our people suffer the pain and indignity of poverty in all its forms.”
Earlier today, we visited the home of the 96 year old mama Roslinah Mhlongo, who is partially blind and lives with two grandchildren. To mark Mandela Day, we assisted her family in painting their house. We are aware that the mere painting of the walls will not change much in their living conditions, but we embarked upon such an endeavour as a gesture of goodwill. The fresh paint will stand as a reminder that an act of goodwill was done in remembrance of Madiba. Every act of goodwill executed in honour of Madiba, should be replicated throughout the year whenever possible. If it were up to us, we would make every day Mandela Day.
This is also a clarion call to local communities, businesses and government officials in this region, to continue with acts of goodwill; to continue assisting and proving for those in need; to continue upholding Madiba’s values throughout the year. That is how we can ensure that our interventions are impactful and sustainable. We can change the world by assisting one person at a time. As the Chinese proverb says: “A journey of a thousand hills begins with a single step.” May the spirit of Madiba live on.
Viva Madiba, viva!
Long live tata Mandela, long live!