As the world commemorates the legacy of one of the most industrious sons of our time, the revered Nelson Mandela on July 18, I am privileged to pay tribute to a man who led the foundation for equality, justice and democracy. His loss is a great one, and the world will continue to brood over as long as his name remains in the books of world history.
December 5, 2013 marked a sad day for the People of South Africa, for Africa and, for the World at large as news of the death of Madiba reverberated across the globe. Today, we should stand together as a global community to continue living the legacy and memory of Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela. It is therefore, through the tenacious work of South Africans and the relentless efforts of the international community dismantled the heinous system of Apartheid.
It is obvious that Africa’s leadership role at the helm of the UN Special Committee Against Apartheid sealed the African consensus in the international campaign against the then apartheid regime in South Africa.
I recalled that on December 13, 2013 The African Group celebrated this illustrious Son of Africa at a Special Meeting of the African Group. This was indeed a tangible demonstration of moral obligation, and duty to preserve the unique legacy of “Our Madiba.” This culminated in a decision to name the conference Hall at the Permanent Observer Mission of the African Union as MANDELA HALL.
As we pay tribute to late President Mandela, no amount of time will be adequate for us today to chronicle the tremendous lessons that can be drawn from his inspiring and rich life. In life, he represented a global symbol of justice, peace, reconciliation, integrity and courage. We mourn Mandela's demise, but celebrate his inspiring journey in this life.
To paraphrase a well-known line, as parting is the lot of humankind, come we have, and depart we must. Therefore, we must learn to live well, and depart well. Indeed, Madiba has departed well. In the wake of his departure, South Africa has lost a dear patriot, and Africans have lost a pride of the continent. Importantly, however, the world has lost a global citizen and icon, and humanity has lost a genuinely humane international statesman.
When I addressed my colleagues of the African Group in December 2013 during the Group’s Special Meeting honouring the life and legacy of President Mandela, I reminded them that “our Madiba” had fought a good fight on the road to freedom. The freedom he so ardently yearned for his beloved people stood the test of times.
As global Citizens, we take consolation in the realisation that Madiba’s spirit lives on, and so does his legacy. His footprints will forever remain indelible for generations to trace. His image will linger on to inspire us, and his thoughts will remain to school us. In consequence, his actions should help us restrain ourselves in times of crisis. Yet, together, we will have to move on, united in dignity as one people of a common origin and resolved in the quest to better the lot of humankind.
We mourn Mandela’s demise, but celebrate his life.
“Mas Vale Morir de pie, que vivir de rodillas!” said a great Latin American leader.
“It is better to die on one’s feet than to live on one’s knees.”
All Madiba was yearning for is to see all human beings live in a free and dignified manner.
Mandela epitomised the qualities of a true liberator. For many, he was an objective strategist or tactician with a high degree of discipline, patience, tolerance and tactfulness, which the youth and all the leaders can learn from. Fascinatingly, his optimism, tender nature and compromising tendencies did not in any way undermine his steadfastness and attachment to the oppressed and the despondent. Rather, his courage, determination, commitment and persistence to break the shackles of oppression and authoritarianism, whilst dispelling and diffusing all forms of arrogance and false airs of supremacy remained ingrained in him throughout his life. Arguably, all these should serve as guiding tenets for all despondent and oppressed people.
In conclusion, allow me to lift excerpts from his autobiography.
“For to be free is not merely to cast off one’s chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others…..I have walked that long road to freedom. I have tried not to falter; I have made missteps along the way. But I have discovered the secret that after climbing a great hill, one only finds that there are many more hills to climb. I have taken a moment here to rest, to steal a view of the glorious vista that surrounds me, to look back on the distance I have come. But I can rest only for a moment, for with freedom come responsibilities, and I dare not linger, for my long walk is not yet ended. End of Quote
The man we are honouring today on July 18, 2021 was a relentless freedom fighter whose spirit will forever live on in our hearts and minds.
Therefore, in unison we say to him: Adieu, Madiba. We pray that you are raised to an elevated position among those on high.