At this defining moment in the colourful history of our blessed country, we mourn and celebrate the life of the father of a nation, a true leader and servant of the people, an intellectual heavyweight and a courageous dreamer. A political icon, no name conjures up as much emotion and passion as Nelson Mandela. This great man represents a communal South African pride, hope to our continent and humanity in a world tainted by prejudice, inequality and revenge. Yes, there is no doubting the greatness and prominence of Madiba, although greatness, power, prestige, fame and fortune are ideals from which Mr Mandela happily distanced himself. These are the signs of a truly selfless and inspirational man.
One of the character traits I admired and appreciated so immensely in Tata, was his universal humility and the ease with which he deflected the attention from himself to those many issues plaguing our country which demanded consideration. As such, with the world firmly focused on Qunu and Mr Mandela occupying the headlines, I choose to acknowledge the thousands of people who fought alongside Madiba, sacrificing their lives, their families, their friendships and their freedom, for a cause so profound and just, in the face of stifling discrimination and adversity. It would be remiss of us to mourn our Father and forget those South African heroes he represents: those nameless comrades, those tortured detainees, those persecuted families, those incarcerated legends, those buried in shallow graves and those not afforded the pomp and ceremony of a state funeral, a 21 gun salute and the glamour of unprecedented media attention. These are the unsung heroes behind a man with the personality, dedication, charisma and foresight to spearhead a remarkable “revolution”.
Countless ‘normal’ South Africans were united and inspired by an extraordinary golden generation of protagonists to question authority, facilitate consciousness and demand change. Amongst many others, Walter and Albertina Sisulu, Oliver Tambo, Joe Slovo, Govan Mbeki, Albert Luthuli, Lilian Ngoyi and Nelson Mandela captained this ship through treacherous, unchartered waters while relying on simple, modest deckhands. In the process, these workers transcended their humble statuses and were elevated to champions of the downtrodden and heroes of the struggle. At this time of national pride, compassion and awareness, my thanks and appreciation goes out to those patriotic South Africans who had the courage to stand up for what is right and who risked everything for a better, inclusive South Africa.
I applaud those black people, coloured people, Indian people and white people, male and female, young and old, representing various religions and various cultures, speaking any one of our official languages, of any sexual orientation and any political affiliation who played a constructive role in liberating South Africa. Thank you.
To those who resisted apartheid through the Defiance Campaign, those who went on strike and flouted fickle law, those who demonstrated and those who encouraged boycotts, to those who toyi-toyi’d so vibrantly and passionately under such oppression and harassment, thank you.
To the multiracial, multi-party, cooperative South African Congress Alliance, who penned and adopted the ‘radical’ (at the time) Freedom Charter in 1955, I thank you. This document, brilliant in its simplicity, demonstrates the acceptance which forms the basis of our constitution, revered and respected the world over, and born out of forgiveness and compassion. Thank you to those who promoted it and who, in so doing, were inexplicably arrested for treason.
To the thousands of people protesting pass laws who descended on Sharpeville, to Hector Petersen and the concerned youth protesting (against Afrikaans as their medium of instruction in schools) during the Soweto Uprising, those who convened at Shell House and those involved at Boipatong, thank you for your contribution to our freedom. To the men, women and children gunned down so callously by brainwashed, gun-toting agents, you will never be forgotten. Through this ultimate sacrifice, our people were mobilised and galvanised and the world’s attention was drawn to the atrocities being committed in South Africa. Thank you.
To all of those South Africans forced into exile by a ruthless regime, leaving behind your country of birth, your homeland and your context, I thank you for your selfless sacrifice. Thank you for being controversial enough to be deemed worthy of banishing and thank you for continuing the cause from abroad, rallying international support and raising awareness about our country’s plight.
To those forced underground by ludicrous legislation, thank you for your dedication to the cause and for continuing the fight in the face of arrest, torture and death. To those labelled terrorists, saboteurs and guerrillas, in a country for whose best interests you were prepared to die, thank you. To those who decided to abandon the peaceful uprising and arm yourselves against a ruthless enemy, I understand the method in your madness, I accept the desperation that drove you to such lengths, I mourn the innocent bystanders killed and I pray for violent protest to be imprisoned in the history books. Thank you, Umkhonto we Sizwe, for this commitment.
To Mr Biko and the Black Consciousness Movement, who stepped into the void created by the banning of the ANC and PAC, thank you for assuming the responsibility of the struggle when South Africa so desperately needed competent guidance from upstanding role-models, providing a voice of reason amidst the turmoil of Apartheid.
To the UDF and the countless fathers and mothers, brothers and sisters, sons and daughters, uncles, aunts and cousins, friends and colleagues across the spectrum of South Africa who made their stand for justice in our beautiful land, I thank you.
To those who loved and befriended across racial lines, who saw people as people and not as colours, who accepted and cared for their fellow South Africans, to those who waved placards and shouted slogans so fervently, thank you.
To the Black Sash, who represented a friendly, understanding and concerned partner to the oppressed and a thorn in the side of the officials, thank you for enduring public ridicule and for mourning the death of human rights in South Africa so visibly, thank you for empowering women and for thrusting women to the forefront of the liberation struggle.
To those who read newspapers with a pinch of salt, watched television with a healthy dose of scepticism and recognised propaganda for what it was, those who saw through thinly veiled lies and preposterous explanations and justifications, those who questioned the norm and sought their own answers through reasoned, rational thought, thank you.
Yes, we are a land of heroes, stalwarts and patriots. Normal people doing what comes naturally, doing what is right and standing up for a beautiful cause. One man lent his face to the multiracial army of millions he commanded. That man no longer fights on the battlefront, but his memory, legacy, humility and example defined the war and should inspire all South Africans to even greater heights. There is a Nelson Mandela inside every one of us. It’s high time we realised our potential. There are new battles to fight.
"I was not a Messiah, but an ordinary man who had become a leader because of extraordinary circumstances." Nelson MandelaI was not a messiah, but an ordinary man who had become a leader because of extraordinary circumstances.
Read more at http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/authors/n/nelson_mandela_2.html#lahQEQhxfJ452gMX.99I was not a messiah, but an ordinary man who had become a leader because of extraordinary circumstances.
Read more at http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/authors/n/nelson_mandela_2.html#lahQEQhxfJ452gMX.99
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