Tribute to Dr Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela, first president of a democratic and free South Africa by Mduduzi Mbada, special advisor to the Minister;Howard university, Washington DC
Director of the Programme
The Interim President of Howard University, Dr Wayne Frederick
Dr Jean Bailey and Professor Joseph Harris, ANC-USA Centenary co-Chairs
Former Leaders of the South African government; Mr Mahommed Bhabha, and Mr Roelf Meyer
My Colleague Mr Percy Mthimkhulu
Members of the Academia
Students and the Alumni of Howard University
Members of the diplomatic corps
Ladies and Gentlemen:
Today, the 15th of January 2014, marks exactly a month since we laid to rest the founding father of our democratic nation, a global icon and one of humanity’s best servants; Dr Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela.
As we laid Tata Madiba to rest in his village of Qunu in the Eastern Cape, we came to terms with the painful reality that; death has indeed robbed us of a fearless leader, an accomplished revolutionary and freedom fighter; a nation builder, a reconciler and a beacon of hope to all those fighting for a just and equitable world order.
We accepted that his long walk to freedom had come to an end and that he is now finally resting in peace in the good company of his comrades and friends.
We vowed never to abandon his struggle, and never to let go of the values he instilled in us.
These are the values of selflessness, hard work, honesty, integrity, humility, uBuntu, reconciliation and love for one another.
Even as we mourned Tata Madiba’s death we took the opportunity to celebrate his life; a life well lived in outstanding service to humanity.
We drew comfort from the reality that he had successfully run his race and that he made a massive contribution to the freedom of his country and his people.
We also drew strength in the knowledge that he greatly enriched our lives. We were indeed privileged to have lived in his lifetime and to call him one of our own.
We take this opportunity, once again, to acknowledge and express our appreciation to the peoples of the world who sent their condolences and stood by the Mandela family and the people of South Africa as we came to terms with losing one of our finest sons.
Ladies and Gentlemen, today also marks the birthday of another great icon, Dr Martin Luther King Junior.
Like Dr King, Tata Mandela believed in equality, dignity and freedom for all.
As a people, we are proud to stand on the shoulders of these great giants.
We will forever be inspired by their commitment to justice for all. We will follow in their footsteps.
Ladies and Gentlemen; in South Africa, one of the songs we sing about Nelson Mandela says; “Nelson Mandela there is no one like you.”
We continue to sing this song with passion and conviction because we truly believe that there is no one like former President Mandela.
We are yet to see another Nelson Mandela as much we are yet to see another Dr King.
Both these gallant heroes were driven by a firm belief that the goal of freedom for all is possible, even when at times the road ahead appeared steep, long and winding.
In this regard we are reminded of Dr King’s words when he said; “… go back to the slums and ghettos of our southern cities, knowing that this situation can and will be changed.”
Dr King went on to say: “Let us not wallow in the valley of despair, I say to you today, my friends. And so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream. I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed… we hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal”
Dr Nelson Mandela, during the most difficult period in his life, when faced with death, he said; “During my lifetime I have dedicated myself to this struggle of the African people. I have fought against white domination, and I have fought against black domination. I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is an ideal which I hope to live for and to achieve. But if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die”.
Therefore, gathered here we are called upon to carry forward, defend and deepen the legacies of these great leaders of our time.
We dare not fail them!
Dear friends as part of defending, promoting and preserving the legacy of Tata Madiba in particular, last year as the Department of Arts and Culture we supported an initiative of the Howard University, the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory and the Apartheid Museum to present an exhibition titled; “Nelson Mandela: Character, Comrade, Leader, Prisoner, Negotiator, and Statesmen” here at Howard University.
Through this exhibition we are sharing Madiba’s legacy with the people of the United States and indeed the people of the world.
More importantly, we are teaching future generations about the work of Madiba, so that we can produce many like him.
We are proud that the exhibition has received much attention and many people have been flocking to come and view it.
We will, going forward, ensure that the exhibition tours other parts of the United States of America.
We are doing this as part of strengthening our deep and historic bonds of friendship and solidarity with the sister people of the United States of America.
These bonds have their origins in our shared history and were cemented in our common struggle for human rights.
These bonds were also acknowledged and appreciated by Charlotte Manye Maxeke, a graduate of Wilberforce University and one of the delegates to the founding Conference of the African National Congress in 1912 who eventually became the first President of the ANC Women’s League, who said;
“I wish there were more of our people here (in the USA) to enjoy the privileges of Wilberforce (University) and then go back to teach our people so that our home can lose that awful name, ‘the Dark Continent’, and be properly called the continent of light.”
Also in honour of Tata Madiba’s legacy on the 16th of December last year, a day after Tata’s funeral, we unveiled his nine meter tall statue at the Union Buildings, now the seat of the democratic government.
This we did as part of our on-going commitment to writing a new and inclusive narrative of the South African history.
We also did this in order to cement the Union Building’s place as part of our country’s new and democratic symbols, embraced by all South Africans.
Equally, this year as we mark the historic milestone of the twentieth anniversary of our freedom and democracy, we will do so in honour of Tata Madiba and his generation of freedom fighters.
We will use this occasion to deepen the proud legacy they left for us and to ensure that the values they taught us find expression in all we do as we continue to build the South African nation.
Ladies and Gentlemen, as South Africa we remain committed to making our own contribution towards the goal of building Africa as a continent of light.
Part of this includes implementing the New Economic Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD), strengthening institutions of the African Union, as well as ensuring peace and democracy on the continent.
We believe that this work will be realised if we continue to strengthen partnerships with progressive institutions such as Howard University.
We must do this inspired by Tata Madiba whose struggle was also about building a Better Africa and a Better World.
In this regard he instructed us 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”
As we do this work, we have to ask questions individually and collectively; what am I doing to bring about change in my community and therefore in the world?
What are we doing to ensure that we build strong institutions of governance that can bring about change for the better?
What are we doing to reform and transform institutions such as the United Nations to ensure that they contribute towards a better world and a better future for all?
We are particularly pleased that the United Nations has declared July 18 as Nelson Mandela International Day.
As we know, this Day is about encouraging all of us to do good for the benefit of others, expecting nothing in return.
This Day is also about ensuring that we embrace and follow Tata Madiba’s teachings. It reminds us that we have a responsibility towards one another and calls on all of us to make every a Nelson Mandela Day.
Linked to this is the need to continue to advance peace, security and development across the world and in particular on the African Continent.
As Tata Madiba said; “Peace is the greatest weapon for development that any person can have.”
In particular, we must not rest until there is freedom and peace in Sudan and the South Sudan, in Mali, in the Democratic Republic of Congo, in the Middle East and in many other parts of the world.
We have a responsibility to work within structures such as the African Union and the United Nations to find lasting solutions in areas where conflict and instability exist.
We must do all of these things because, it is from Tata Madiba that we learned the value of peace, forgiveness and reconciliation in the place of conflict and destruction.
It was Tata Madiba who taught us the power of reaching out to one another, even to those who do not wish us well.
Ladies and Gentlemen, whilst the struggle for peace and development on the Continent continues and whilst we have made significant strides in abolishing slavery and colonialism, many of our people are still trapped in mental slavery, including in new forms of slavery and colonialism.
This includes lack of confidence in how we tackle issues as a people, in particular on the African Continent. It also includes our ability as Africans to find African solutions to African problems.
It is therefore incumbent upon us, individually and collectively, to systematically put in place sustainable and developmental programmes in schools that will produce competent, skilled and capable individuals that are conscious of the task at hand; to eradicate poverty and underdevelopment as well as to promote peace and stability on the African Continent.
This challenge is not only facing the African Continent, hence institutions like Howard University, must be able to answer the question: to what extend are we contributing the development of the kind of individuals required to ensure the resolution of challenges we have outlined above?
On the occasion of the twentieth anniversary of freedom and democracy in South Africa, we need as South Africans working together with institutions such as Howard University to ask the question; what can we do together to sustain the vision of Nelson Mandela; the vision of a united, non-racial, non-sexist and prosperous society founded on strong institutions of democracy.
Part of what we can do together in this regard is to continue to invest in the development of our young people, upon whose shoulders our future lies.
In particular we wish to, once again, propose the strengthening of existing and the development of new partnerships between ourselves in South Africa and Howard University.
These partnerships could take the form of exchange programmes focusing on a variety of areas targeting young people in both our countries.
They could also involve skills development initiatives and the sharing of best practise between ourselves.
We look forward to making progress in this important area of work.
As I conclude I wish to thank the community of Howard University and all those that have made this evening’s event possible. It was indeed a fitting tribute to one of humanity’s finest sons.
When we arrive home in South Africa we will report that the community of Howard University, a community that found it necessary in 1994 to confer an honorary doctorate to Tata Madiba, continues to pledge its support to the work we are doing to live up to Tata Madiba’s vision.
Long live the Spirit of Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela!
I thank you!