Speech by Minister Lulu Xingwana at the launch gala concert for Opera SA in celebration of Nelson Mandela Week at the State Theatre

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16 Jul 2010

Programme Director,
Members of the Mandela Family,
Chief Mandlesizwe Mandela MP,
Prince Unathi Mtirara, CEO of Opera SA,
Members of the Diplomatic Corps,
Members of the State Theatre,
Members of SAMRO,
Distinguished Guests,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

We meet here today both as art lovers and as a freedom-loving people to pay tribute to an extraordinary leader and a remarkable man.

We are here to celebrate the achievements of Madiba and to encourage others to learn from this example.

Above all we are here to demonstrate our commitment and to show our respect and honour through the medium of music and song because it is only through art that we can effectively create an awareness of our history and a passion for the present.

We are here today in this very theatre only as the beneficiaries of those who have come before us and paved the way for our freedom.

We are the beneficiaries of those who gave their lives and spent the best years of their lives in prison so that we today can bask in the sunshine of a democracy and so that we have the right to sit in the well-lit and well-equipped opera house of the State Theatre.

As the beneficiaries of so many sacrifices, as the inheritors of a freedom and democracy bequeathed by freedom fighters who fought tirelessly for three hundred years or more, we too need to play our part to make this country flourish.

This is why Nelson Mandela Day should take root in the heart of all South Africans and why everyone should find at least 67 minutes of their times to do good deeds and perform selfless work for others.

Our Struggle for democracy, facing a most brutal and savage system of race rule that the world has ever known, has thrown up remarkable and impressive leaders.

We need to count our blessings because we in South Africa are truly blessed to have great leaders of the stature of Tata Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela.

We are the inheritors of a great legacy and our task now is through education to pass this on to new generations.

Being our first Democratic President he worked untiringly and ceaselessly on bringing all South Africans together, both black and white.

Tata Mandela was not imprisoned because of a personal defiance of apartheid but because he asserted the claims and aspirations of a whole oppressed people. What he and many leaders sought was noble and was normal in many other parts of the world – yet they all suffered severely for this.

Yet their actions and those of our Elders and Veterans laid the foundations for a non-racial and no-sexist South Africa. And I think that this entire concert tonight is in honour of them.

Tonight Opera SA have chosen to launch themselves with a concert in honour of Tata Mandela who is celebrating his 92nd birthday day after tomorrow. This is a week after the highly successful World Cup.

I think that all of you would agree that we also need to thank Tata for being highly instrumental in South Africa’s hosting of the 2010 FIFA World Cup.

Each and every South Africa ensured that a spectacular tournament took place in this beautiful, country of ours. It was a truly an African world cup and indeed we felt pride to be of this soil and from this part of the world.

The energies that we galvanized now need to be directed into a bigger battle to end poverty and underdevelopment, to encourage social cohesion and to fight against racism and xenophobia.

The Arts can play a part in this new and intensified campaign.

Thus I am proud that Opera SA is presenting an “African Songbook: A Musical Tribute to the Life of Nelson Mandela”.

Let us pay tribute to all those who have made tonight’s event possible.

We acknowledge Michael Williams, the general manager of Cape Town Opera who wrote the Libretto. Opera SA also recruited three composers to write the music for the work which was divided into three parts covering three phases in Tata Mandela’s life. The first part was composed by Allen Stephenson, which deals with Tata Mandela’s youth up to his initiation, the second part composed by Mike Campbell, deals with his life as a young professional and an activist I Johannesburg and the third and last part composed by Roelof Temmingh, deals with his incarceration, freedom and revolution and his life as a mature statesman.

Opera SA was founded by Prince Unathi Mtirara, supported by Koos and Sidwell Mhlongo. Let us also acknowledge that this is South Africa’s first 100% community black owned and managed opera company.

I am pleased that Opera SA has set up a Music Education Trust Fund to provide bursaries to prospective applicants and an Artist and Audience Development wing to encourage this art form.

We would also like to acknowledge all the artists performing from the Johannesburg Philarmonic Orchestra. There are also artists participating in tonight’s event who have flown back to South Africa to perform in this prestigious show like Fikile Mvinjelwa and Pretty Yende.

And let us also give praise to one of our greatest Divas, the ever popular Sibongile Khumalo, who is also performing tonight. We are in for a great performance in honour of a great man. We look forward to the show.

Thank you.