Thank you Programme Director, Ms Unathi Msengana
Our keynote speaker this evening, General Bantu Holomisa
The CEO of the Nelson Mandela Foundation, Sello Hatang
Board Chairperson, Prof Njabulo Ndebele and other Board Members of the Nelson Mandela Foundation present here
Graca Machel, Ndileka Mandela and other representatives of the Mandela Family
Ladies and Gentlemen
We are gathered here at the tail end of what was declared and celebrated as the Year of OR Tambo. We used this period to reflect on the legacy of this gallant leader of our liberation struggle. I had the singular honour of chairing the Inter-Ministerial Committee (IMC) on the OR Tambo Centenary celebrations.
It is almost impossible to speak of OR Tambo without mentioning his close friend and comrade, Nelson Mandela. Tambo and Mandela met on the soccer field as students at the University of Fort Hare in 1940. They struck a friendship that would last a lifetime. They joined the African National Congress (ANC) and played an instrumental role in the founding of the ANC Youth League in 1944. Outside the political arena, they were also the pioneers in the legal field as they established the first black-owned legal firm in South Africa in 1952.
Tambo was succeeded by Nelson Mandela as the President of the ANC in 1991. It is such a coincidence that these close companions succeed each other even in their years of birth. As we conclude the OR Tambo centenary, we begin the Nelson Mandela centenary. The whole world has been celebrating Nelson Mandela Day for a number of years, but next year’s installment has to be something special, as the 18th of July 2018 marks what would have been Madiba’s 100th birthday. It is an honour and a privilege that I have been appointed by President Jacob Zuma to serve as the chairperson of the IMC for the centenary of the late President Mandela.
When President Mandela ceased to breathe on this day — the 5th of December 2013, he left indelible footprints in his wake. Madiba left us a legacy of selflessness, resilience and devotion. Although the popular revolutionary song, “Akekho ofana naye”, intimates that there is no one like him, it also implores us to emulate his selflessness.
As the government of South Africa, we are committed to upholding the legacy, the principles and values that President Mandela cherished as the founding father of our democratic society. Those of us who had the privilege of working closely with Madiba know that he always insisted that as a leader he was part of a collective — his successes were the successes of the people. When we celebrate his legacy, we must reflect on his different dimensions as truthfully as possible. In 1998, Madiba made one of the most profound observations about the distortion of his life and legacy:
“One issue that deeply worried me in prison was the false image that I unwittingly projected to the outside world: of being regarded as a saint. I never was one, even on the basis of an earthly definition of a saint as a sinner who keeps trying.”
I was privileged to serve as a Minister in the first cabinet that Madiba appointed as the first President of a democratic South Africa in 1994. Under President Mandela’s stewardship, South Africa adopted one of the best constitutions in the history of humanity. We owe it to President Mandela’s visionary leadership that today South Africa is a constitutional democracy well into twenty-three years of freedom and democracy.
I trust that as we honour the Nelson Mandela centenary in 2018, the whole world will join hands with us in celebrating this global icon. This will present us with a wonderful opportunity to reflect on the legacy of Nelson Mandela. We will use this opportunity to promote peace, deepen democracy and fight to protect human rights as some of the values that Madiba espoused.
Madiba meant different things to different people, and we would like to reflect on the various aspects that Madiba represented. The Nelson Mandela centenary IMC will be responsible for planning and coordinating the centenary programme befitting the legacy and heritage of President Mandela. The IMC is comprised of Ministers from relevant government departments including:
- Arts and Culture
- Basic Education
- Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs
- Defense and Military Veterans
- Higher Education and Training
- International Relations and Cooperation
- Public Works
- Sport and Recreation
- Water and Sanitation
These Ministers will be supported by senior officials from the respective departments as well as the Technical Committee chaired by the Director General in the Presidency, Dr. Cassius Lubisi. The IMC will be working in close collaboration with the Nelson Mandela Foundation to ensure that we develop a programme appropriate for someone of Madiba’s stature. We have begun with our engagements with the Foundation and I must say the programme is indeed promising to be a great one.
As you can see, Ladies and Gentlemen, we have quite a comprehensive plan for the centenary. Madiba belonged to all of us and it is our objective to ensure that the national programme is as inclusive as possible. The plans for the launch of the Nelson Mandela centenary as well as the details of the programme will be announced in due course.
As I conclude, Programme Director, the ancients say when a big tree falls the earth is bound to shake. This rings true of what we witnessed on that fateful day, four years ago. The passing of Nelson Mandela four years ago shook South Africa, the African continent and the whole world. It is fitting that as we reflect on the legacy of Madiba, the whole world joins us in honouring this global icon. This is a clarion call to all South Africans and the world over to honour Madiba in his centenary.
The celebration of Madiba’s legacy is the celebration of the triumph of the human spirit over the greatest travesties served on humanity. Let us make 2018 the Year of Nelson Mandela.