Jacob Zuma braves booing to deliver address at Mandela memorial

2013-12-10 17:23

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President Jacob Zuma brushed off an embarrassing booing brigade to bid farewell to former president Nelson Mandela and make a promise to honour his legacy through the African Union.

ANC deputy president Cyril Ramaphosa had to appeal to the crowd to be disciplined several times in the build-up to Zuma’s address before the booing ceased – as international guests, including numerous heads of state, looked on.

According to Zuma, every person had had their “Mandela moment”.

He said: “His passing has marked an unprecedented outpouring of grief across the world. Yet, it is grief, tinged with admiration and celebration.

“Everyone has had a Mandela moment, when this world icon has touched their lives.”

Mandela, said Zuma, was not referred to as the “father of the rainbow nation” for the sake of political expediency.

“We do so because he laid a firm foundation for the South Africa of our dreams – one that is united, nonracial, nonsexist, democratic and prosperous,” said Zuma.

Mandela was a “courageous” leader who sacrificed his own wellbeing for the good of others, he said.

“Courageous leaders are able to abandon their narrow concerns for bigger and all-embracing dreams, even if those dreams come at a huge price.

“Madiba embodied this trait. He was a fearless freedom fighter who refused to allow the brutality of the apartheid state to stand in the way of the struggle for the liberation of his people,” said Zuma, adding that Mandela’s legal background helped him understand the possible consequences of his actions.

Zuma said of Mandela’s release from prison: “The emotions and feelings we felt on that day are difficult to express in human language. A downtrodden people who had been dehumanised and made to feel like pariahs in the land of their birth, suddenly saw signs that freedom would be attained in their lifetime,” said Zuma, who also remembered Mandela’s “sharp tongue”.

Zuma’s speech, which will largely be remembered for the booing he received on more than five occasions prior to his address, also touched on the role Mandela played in the political transition that unfolded after his release.

Zuma spoke about the political wars that followed in the early 1990s, such as the Boipatong massacre, which threatened to derail the country into an all-out war.

“It is at these times that Madiba restored a sense of calm and purpose and brought us back on the road to freedom.

“South Africa’s first democratic elections were largely peaceful because of this leadership that he displayed,” said Zuma who also sent his condolences to the Mandela family.

Zuma echoed US President Barack Obama’s sentiments, saying: “There is no one like Madiba. He was one of a kind.”

Mandela, who received his Nobel peace prize 20 years ago today (December 10 1993), will be remembered as a freedom fighter who “had always stated that the ANC had resorted to arms because of the intransigence of the apartheid regime which responded with violence, bannings and detentions to simple demands for equal citizenship, human rights and justice”.

Mandela would be remembered for managing the fears of both blacks and whites, said Zuma.

“He told us that the promises of democracy would not be met overnight and that the fears of the few would not be allowed to derail the newly won freedom.

“We all agreed with him, as Madiba never hesitated to speak his mind when it was necessary to do so, regardless of how uncomfortable the words may be to recipients,” said Zuma.

The South Africa of today was “a reflection of Madiba and many others like him, who sacrificed their lives for a free nation”, said Zuma.

Mandela will be celebrated across the world as a unifier and a hero.

“Most importantly, he leaves behind a deeply entrenched legacy of freedom, human rights and democracy in our country.

“In his honour, we commit ourselves to continue building a nation based on the democratic values of human dignity, equality and freedom,” said Zuma.

Meanwhile, the ANC said those who booed during the memorial service did the country a disservice, Sapa reports.

“Whatever the motivation for this behaviour, the behaviour still remains condemned,” said ANC spokesperson Jackson Mthembu.

“Whoever was party to that did us, as a country, a disservice. It did the Madiba family, who are mourning, and also Mama Graça [Mandela’s widow Graça Machel] and Mama Winnie [his ex-wife Winnie Madikizela-Mandela] ... a terrible disservice.”

Mthembu said the memorial was not the platform to air political views.


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