CELEBRATING MANDELA

The speech below was delivered by DA deputy provincial leader, Bobby Stevenson MPL, at a commemoration service by the party in honour of former President Nelson Mandela  in the Donkin Reserve in the Nelson Mandela Bay Metro this morning (Friday, 5 December 2014).

It is for me an honour to pay tribute to the memory of Nelson Mandela and what his legacy means for us today.

At a time like this it makes one reflect back to the time when I met Nelson Mandela. It was in 1990, one Sunday morning at about 07.30, when Khusta Jack, a long standing friend, phoned and said would I like to come and meet Madiba. Of course I jumped at the opportunity and rushed down to what was the then Elizabeth Hotel where he took me up to meet Nelson Mandela. He was in PE for his first welcome home rally.

As I entered into the room he walked towards me with his hand outstretched saying: “Hello I’m Nelson Mandela.” There was no doubt in my mind that I was standing in the presence of a great man. There was this aura about him.

On a day like this it is important that we remember the legacy of this renowned leader and humanitarian. What then is the legacy that he has left with us?

Nelson Mandela was a courageous man, he had the courage to lead and step ahead of his party. And I quote: “I learned that courage was not the absence of fear but the triumph over it.”   Politicians today need to display that same courage.

The second aspect of his legacy which I would like to highlight was that he was a driving force behind national reconciliation. He brought people together and didn’t divide them. Through him South Africa began the healing process from the wounds of the past.

We became the rainbow nation and he endearingly became known as the father of the nation. More importantly he created a South Africa that we could call our home, a place for everyone regardless of race, gender, colour and creed.

The third aspect of his legacy which I would like to highlight is that he taught us the value of compassion and the sheer resilience of the human spirit. He was never one to give up or accept defeat. Despite the numerous hardships and oppression he continued to endure. So powerful was his vision for a better future.

He also was a humble man where he espoused self sacrifice and service to others before himself.

He also never confused leadership with position, he led because of who he was and what he did. He led while he was in jail and when he was no longer president he continued to lead not only this country but in the world with his moral authority.

On a day such as this we should reflect on the achievements of this great man and we should pose the question to ourselves whether or not we are living up to the legacy he left behind?

Have we in fact lived up to his values especially those of accountability and integrity? Should we not fight harder to live up to his legacy?

The struggle against inequality, intolerance and poverty continues. The gap between rich and poor still exists.  Hence we find ourselves in a new kind of struggle: for jobs, decent education, for health care and corruption-free government.

Let us too have the same belief that he possessed — the belief in a better South Africa where inequality and social ills cease to exist.

Let us not forget the inequalities of the past but let us use his legacy as the beacon of hope to signpost our way to a brighter future.

In conclusion, as the late Nelson Mandela once said, it always seems impossible until it’s done. Let us not be discouraged by the seemingly impossible, together it can be done.

Long may we strive to be the proud rainbow nation that he dreamed of and fought for.