My Mandela, my inspiration - Lindiwe Mazibuko

DA PL on what the late president means for her generation, and the duties he has bestowed on them

Madiba's legacy lives on in each and every one of us

Note to editors: This is the speech that was delivered by DA Parliamentary Leader, Lindiwe Mazibuko MP, during the special Joint Sitting of Parliament in honour of former President Nelson Mandela.

Mr Speaker,

Honourable Deputy-President,

Honourable Members,

Fellow South Africans,

President Nelson Mandela, uTata uMadiba, the father of our young nation has passed on.

Last week Friday, when South Africa awoke to the news of his departure, we felt the world stand still in solidarity with us. Yet no one is feeling the loss as deeply as South Africans are. It is a loss with which we are grappling as we would the death of a beloved parent.

We all know that the last year was very, very difficult for President Mandela. For all 84 days in winter, during which he was hospitalized this year, we held our breath and wondered how we would continue without him. We prayed, we meditated, we stood vigil outside his home and his hospital ward, and we laid flowers to honour the great man who led the founding of a great nation.

I can't help but think that this was Madiba's way of giving us time, letting us know in advance - in his generous way - that we must begin to prepare ourselves for his departure.

Because of his generosity, we are able both to grieve his loss and celebrate his life, his leadership, and the tireless work he did to build our nation. In the early hours of Friday morning, images of South Africans dancing and singing in celebration were beamed around the world. The sound of vuvuzelas pierced the early morning air from Mamelodi to Houghton, and all the way to South Africa House in London.

Today we are grateful that he is no longer suffering or in pain. uTata has gone home. He is finally at peace.

Uselidlozi lethu elihle.

President Mandela may have died, but his legacy lives on in each and every one of us.

He has transcended his own body of bones and flesh. Today his name is a symbol of all we hope for in South Africa.

Unlike the vast majority of the honourable members in this House today, I never had the privilege of meeting President Mandela. I was still a teenager when - flanked by the Honourable Albertina Sisulu, Hon. Thabo Mbeki, Hon. Trevor Manuel, and Hon. Kader Asmal - he was sworn in as a Member of Parliament, and then elected by the House as the first president of a democratic South Africa.

But I do have one small memory of Madiba which I may call my own.

On Sunday the 25th of February in 1990 - when I was 9 years old - my family travelled from Umlazi to Virginia Airport in Durban North to see Madiba's plane landing ahead of his King's Park address to the people of KwaZulu-Natal. That was the morning he would deliver this famous injunction to the people of a province torn apart by political strife: 

"My message to those of you involved in this battle of brother against brother is this: take your guns, your knives, and your pangas, and throw them into the sea!"

I remember watching Nelson Mandela disembark from a small aircraft - stooping as he exited the plane - and walk towards the airport building. Only a handful of journalists were there to meet him and there were virtually no other members of the public. Although I was only 9 years old, I knew that I was standing in the middle of a page in history, watching it being written before my eyes.

As he walked over from the tarmac, Nelson Mandela looked straight at our small family and raised his fist in the air. And then an extraordinary thing happened: I watched my father respond by raising his own fist in the air. That small act was the first time I saw my father express himself politically and in public. 

Because of the violence and political strife in my home-province, my father would never live to see the dawn of our democracy, or cast his vote in a free election, that moment remains indelibly etched in my memory, and on my heart.

Mr Speaker,

I am from a generation which bore witness to South Africa's transition from oppression to freedom, but was not old enough to participate in it. We knew President Mandela from countless images of him on television and in the media; from his speeches which we listened to on the radio; from archived footage which told the story of a fearless intellectual, leader and visionary. For us, Madiba is truly an icon - a powerful symbol of all that is best about South Africa. 

Most importantly, Mr Speaker, we are the grateful beneficiaries of all that President Mandela stood for.

The challenge for young South Africans now is to work to protect and build on Mandela's vision for a non-racial society. His compassion for the poor and the weak is now our responsibility. His devotion to the children of our country is now our exemplar. As the foremost beneficiaries of his life's work, we have a duty to take President Mandela's vision and make it a reality across South Africa.

The American poet, Maya Angelou has written a tribute to Madiba and to South Africa, which best encapsulates the weight of responsibility which now rests upon our shoulders. She says:

Yes, Mandela's day is done
Yet we, his inheritors;
Will open the gates wider;
For reconciliation, and we will respond;
Generously to the cries;
Of Blacks and Whites;
Asians, Hispanics;
The poor who live piteously;
On the floor of our planet
He has offered us understanding;
We will not withhold forgiveness;
Even from those who do not ask;
Nelson Mandela's day is done.

In the coming weeks, much will be said about which Mandela we must remember. Who is the Mandela we must love? Which Mandela should we cherish?

Is it Mandela the fierce intellectual, entrepreneur and partner in South Africa's first black law firm?

Is it the Ghandian Mandela, who advocated the pacifist action of boycotts and strikes against the Apartheid regime?

Is it Madiba the prince, Mandela the athlete, or Mandela the young lion, who took his party in a radical direction when he co-founded Umkhonto weSizwe?

Or is it President Mandela the Statesman, who commanded the world stage with an unquestioned sense of morality, and a keen understanding of the power of symbols and how they can draw together a divided people.

I draw inspiration from the Mandela who stirred up his organization from within. Who when he was my age, became leader of the ANC Youth League and took his place on the ANC National Executive. He pressed his colleagues for more drastic action and challenged the status quo. 

That is my Mandela, my inspiration.

I say to my fellow South Africans, look to your Mandela at this difficult time. Cherish the memory of the Mandela you hold dear; who spoke to your heart and your mind. Never let him go.

Mr Speaker,

In the coming weeks South Africans across our country will mourn, commemorate and celebrate Mandela. We may have lost the father of our nation, but we must hold in our hearts the Mandela family, which has lost a father, a grandfather and a great-grandfather.

To Mrs Graca Machel and to the Honourable Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, I extend the deepest sympathies of the Democratic Alliance (DA). To the Mandela children and grandchildren - thank you for your generosity; thank for sharing your father with our nation and with the world. South Africa has lost a founding father, but you have lost so much more than that. We cannot imagine your pain and your loss. Our hearts are with you.

Honourable Speaker,

We have lost the father of our nation at the tender age of 19 years old. Like every child who loses a parent at a young age, this means that we must grow up faster than we expected. 

We must take up the responsibilities with which we have been left behind. 

We must take courage and show leadership. 

We must take up the cause of our most vulnerable fellow-citizens, and realize the dream that Madiba had for us.

Lala ngoxolo, Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela.

Kumndeni wakho, sithi, akwehlanga lungehlanga.

Lalani ngenxeba, nina bakwa-Mandela.

Long live Nelson Mandela, long live.

Thank you.

Issued by the DA, December 9 2013

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