Stay true to liberation while honouring Madiba – Magashule’s speech in Madeira, Portugal

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Anc Secretary General Ace Magashule delivered a lecture at the unveiling of a monument in honour of former president Nelson Mandela in Madeira, Portugal. Magashule discussed the icon status of the liberation leader, but also looked at his life, his legacy and lessons we should all take from his sacrifice for the liberation of his people.

It is our greatest honour and a privilege, to be part of this
historic occasion, of the unveiling of this beautiful
monument, in memory of our legendary internationalist
figure and the father of the South African nation, Tata
Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela. We bring our fraternal warm
greetings from the people of our country and the African
continent.

The monument, made in ANC colours, in honour of former president Nelson Mandela on the island of Madeira, Portugal. Picture: Supplied

We cherish the generosity of the people of the republic of
Portugal and the regional government of the Island of
Madeira in particular. This ceremony is a living testimony,
that humanity is emboldened by the hallmark of the
footprints of this great revolutionary of our life time.

The event takes place during an important year, of the
centenary anniversary celebrations, of two outstanding
leaders, who have left an indelible mark, in the struggle of
the people of our country and the whole of the international
community, Tata Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela and Mama
Albertina Sisulu. The two have spent the rest of their lifes,
fighting for the rights of the freedom and dignity, of the
millions of the suffering people of the world.

In Tata Mandela and Mama Sisulu, humanity has seen how
the new comes out of the old and how the old comes out of
the new. We have seen the new world and the future world
to come.
Their exemplary leadership role to strive for a better world
of peace and prosperity, has taught humanity that ideas are
more powerful than weapons.

 

Our father Nelson Mandela
and our Mother Albertina Sisulu, have become become the
epitome of reconciliation, nation building and formation.
The unveiling of this monument is an illustration of the
growing bonds between the people of our country and the
regional government of the Island of Madeira and the whole
of the Portuguese community.

This is a demonstration of
how great strides of solidarity and internationalism can
contribute towards the development of human society.
The flower festivals of the Island of Madeira and the
province of the Free State, are such unique encounters of
the frontiers of human solidarity and internationalism.

The two festivals which take place annually, here in the Island
of Madeira and the province of the Free State, have not just
fostered people to people relationships, but more
importantly, the prospects and possibilities, for both the
human and material development of our society
through this unique encounter between our two people, we
have in the past few years, increased our student bursary
and scholarship programmes in the field of IT, maths,
science, technology and hospitality. We are also looking at
other possibilities to expand our collective efforts against
scourge of poverty, disease and underdevelopment.

This is what the blue print document of the freedom charter,
of which Mandela and Sisulu are both its architects, speaks
about the opening of the doors of learning and culture to all
people and creating a better world of peace and stability.
This is what we all have to achieve, for the fulfillment of
their great contribution, towards the wishes and the
aspirations of the people of the world.

ANC Secretary General Ace Magashule with other dignitaries from Madeira at the monument, made in ANC colours, in honour of former president Nelson Mandela on the island of Madeira, Portugal. Picture: Supplied

The question we need to ask ourselves is who is this big
elephant called Nelson Mandela, who is this gigantic
philanthropist of the present modern world of humanity?.
Was he an earthly God or a Saint?. No: he was not an
earthly God or a Saint, but an ordinary son of man, a humble
servant of the people from the humble beginnings. He was
indeed a product of the ANC and a martyr of the struggle of
the people of the world against apartheid colonial
oppression.

The contribution of Madiba to our struggle for the liberation
of mankind far surpasses our imaginations. His was an
extraordinary leadership with the highest forms of respect
of human freedom and dignity.

In the early mornings of the 10th of December 1993, when
he was to receive the Nobel Peace Prize award at the Oslo
City Hall in Norway, the hotel manager of the Grand Hotel
where Madiba was accommodated, was met with what was
for him the most extraordinary glimpse of his life. As he
checked at the Presidential Suite, if all was well with his
important guest, he found Madiba, the Nobel Peace Prize
Laureate, making his own bed.

The hotel manager stuttered his embarrassment, that the
chamber-maid had not come early enough to make the bed.
Only to be met by a stretched-out hand and that famous
beaming smile, and the assurance by Madiba, that nothing
was wrong because he always made up his own bed, no
matter where he was.

For 26 years in prison Madiba was forced to make his bed
and clean his small three by four-meter cell. This was the
tradition and practice he continued with beyond his
incarceration, after his release from Victor Verster Prison
in the Paarl.

He continued to do so because for the whole of
his life, he did not find it improper to make his own bed.
After the staggering revelation, he invited the astonished
manager to sit down and enjoy with him his first cup of tea
of the day.

As he would always do with all his guests, he
insisted on pouring the tea for the startled manager, and then
proceeded not to discuss about the illustrious Nobel Peace
Prize Ceremony, that was to commence a few hours later in
the day, but instead, to enquire about his family.
His much interest was whether his wife was working, how
many children they had, and what their names were.
Madiba expressed an interest in meeting them and
suggested that he should bring them along after the Nobel
Peace Prize ceremony, later during the day.

Twenty years later, after the fateful event of his passing
away, the retired hotel manager, who had the honour to host
many of the Nobel Prize Laureates at the posh Grand Hotel,
recalled the episode in an interview, as the most
extraordinary experience ever in his life. He proudly
displayed the photo Madiba took with the whole of his
family, same photo he has the pride to place in his bedroom,
next to the fire place.

The last apartheid President of South Africa, Mr. FW de
Klerk, who jointly received the Nobel Peace Prize with
Madiba, was also a guest in the hotel that same night. When
pressed by the interviewer if he had any recollection of Mr
FW de Klerk, the manager acknowledged that indeed he
indeed stayed there, but then shook his head and said he had
no memories or impression about the man.

Mr. President, your Excellencies, honoured guests
I am consciously recalling this story because in a very
special way, it reveals the essence of the great, but humble
personality of this great Father of the South African nation.
In his lifetime Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela received many
honours and made many great speeches.

The speech that he made later that same day after meeting
with the hotel manager, of when he jointly received the
Noble Peace Prize with Mr. FW de Klerk, is held together
with the speech he made on the 10th of May 1994, during
the historic occasion of his inauguration as the
first democratically elected President of the republic of
South Africa. The two are included in an anthology of the
100 Greatest Speeches that have changed our world.
Today, Madiba is probably one of the most quoted people
in history, his quotes can be found all over the Internet and
adorns many buildings and public places.

However, important and inspiring as these speeches and quotes maybe,
they draw their meaning, strength and integrity from
Madiba’s actions. The life of Nelson Mandela is the living
proof of how actions speak louder than words.
I am sure that when asked about what Madiba said at the
Nobel Peace Prize ceremony, the hotel manager would
probably not be able to recall a word, but yet he,
in a fundamental sense, experienced in an undeniable
profound way, the central message from Madiba, which is
all about reaching out to all of common humanity, for peace
and prosperity.

One of those famous quotes by Madiba, which I have heard
repeatedly being recalled last week on Mandela Day, when
we celebrated his 100th birthday on the 18th of a July, was
“ If you want to make peace with your enemy, you have to
work with your enemy. Then he becomes your partner.”

The profound expression in this quote is universal and
speaks to all of humanity through out the ages. Yet, its
profundity, can only be tested by our ability to analyse the
concrete material conditions of each and every particular
historical period. Without a historical context, this
revolutionary phrase, can easily become the syrupy words
of sweet nothings, leaving the unpalatable after-taste of
compromise and selling out.

In South Africa, the enemy that Nelson Mandela had
worked with, was clearly defined by their actions. It was the
apartheid regime that through its systematic
institutionalised racist policies, dehumanised and destroyed
the lifes of millions of black South Africans. The very same
enemy that imprisoned Nelson Mandela and his fellow
comrades for life in Robben Island.
The enemy which incarcerated Madiba and his own
comrades despite their declarations that they are committed
towards the peaceful resolution of the South African
national question. Madiba himself in the dock, during his
marathon trial, declared before the judge, that he was
against black domination or white domination.

This enemy was not abstract or intangible, the enemy was
personified by the prison warders, who shouted abuse at
Madiba and hurled insults at his fellow political prisoners,
when they routinely woke them up every morning, to
inspect and check
whether they had cleaned their tiny cells and made their
iron strong prison beds properly.

The very same enemy, that prevented Madiba for more than
15 years to see his own children, not even for one minute,
the same enemy which while Madiba was in prison, and
helpless, detained and abused his wife, Winnie Nomzamo
Mandela, and banished her away from her people and
family, to an isolated and poverty-stricken life in a small
rural town of Brandfort, in the Free State, which is my home
province.

When we speak about this, we are not just talking about
what we have read in history books, as a young political
activist, we have often visited the late Ms Winnie Mandela,
in her small house there in Bradfort, where she was banished.

We have seen the pitiful conditions and the
terrible loneliness so brutally imposed on her.
Many decades later, after our liberation, and when I became
Premier of the Free State province, through the collective
decision of the executive authority of the provincial
administration, took a decision that the house in that town
of Brandfort, where Winnie Mandela suffered so much, be
preserved and made into a monument, so that we would
never forget the pain and struggles of our liberation history,
and what the racist apartheid regime was all about.

Years ago, at a banquet in Stockholm, the capital city of
Sweden, in the presence of Mr. FW de Klerk, with whom
he jointly received the Nobel Peace Prize, Madiba recalled
the terrible things that had been done to the black people of
South Africa in general, and more specifically to himself,
his wife and his family. That evening Madiba also recalled
how he, and fellow political prisoners, were forced to do
hard labour in a lime quarry on Robben Island, where they
were given the senseless sole destroying and back-breaking
work, to mine lime stone and grind it into lime dust.

The fine lime dust got into their eyes, and several prisoners,
including Madiba, suffered permanent and painful damage
to their eye sight. Madiba also shockingly recalled how, at
that very same lime quarry, the white prison warders, forced
the prisoners to dig holes which they had to get into up to
the shoulder level, and the holes were then filled up so that
only the prisoner’s heads were above the soil and they were
left like that in the scorching sun for hours, and when they
became dehydrated and pleaded for water, the warders
would urinate on them.

I do not think that during that night, Madiba told the silent
and shocked banquet guests in Stockholm, the untold
stories in order to be sensational, and I am firmly convinced
that Madiba had no intention to be sensational when he
spoke about this unspeakable truth of human torture. He
was not a man who was ever partial to theatrics and
complicit to cheap sensationalism, but I do so because I
know Madiba wanted to make it clear, that he had no
illusions about the nature of the enemy that he was
negotiating with.

After having talked about these terrible things, Madiba
turned to Mr FW de Klerk, who was sitting at the same
table with him, with a beautiful smile, and reaching out to
shake his hand, he said to the audience that none the less,
he was prepared to work with Mr de Klerk, for the sake of
achieving peace and justice, for the people of his country
and the world.

De Klerk showed his own limitations and selfish nature that
night, by complaining after the banquet to Madiba, that he
felt humiliated and insulted because he shared such painful
events in a foreign country, where he would have liked to
be presented as honourable and respectable. Sadly, the
significance of what Mandela was saying went right over
his head. Because of incidents like these, Mandela never
had any illusions about the very real limitations of the man
he was negotiating with, but yet he persisted with the
negotiations, because he had to accomplish the historic
mission of attaining a non racial, non sexist, democratic and
prosperous society.

Madiba never perused this goal for the liberation of the
people of our country as an individual. He always saw
himself as being part of the collective of his political party,
the African National Congress and our Alliance Partners,
the South African Communist Party and the trade union
movement.

Madiba understood that he has over the years, became the
symbol of the struggle of the people of our country against
imperialism and apartheid colonialism. He had a strong
personality and strong convictions, but never moved ahead
of the collective will, policies and programmes of his
organisation, the ANC.

Madiba was prepared to collaborate with the apartheid
forces to bring about a peaceful transition for our country,
but he would always do so, within the framework of the
mandate of his own organization. He has always presented
himself as the leader of the ANC, representing the views of
the majority of its members and the overwhelming majority
of the people of our country.

We recall the painful times when the apartheid government,
under the leadership of former President de Klerk,
unleashed the ‘ Third Force’ against the black people as a
strategy to undermine the strength of the ANC at the
negotiating table. The leadership of the ANC jointly
decided to suspend the negotiations and Madiba himself
made that announcement as the President of the ANC.
It was indeed the strength of the ANC, as the real leader of
all the South Africans, both black and white, that forced the
Nationalist Party, to meet the preconditions that the ANC
set to curb the violence, and to resume the negotiations
under more favourable conditions. This fundamentally
forced the apartheid regime to usher our country into the
first historic national general elections.

Engaging with your enemy in a principled manner, never to
get ahead of yourself and leave your constituency behind,
was indeed the foundation of Nelson Mandela’s success as
a leader, and what led to the achievement of a negotiated
settlement with the forces of the apartheid regime. The
partnership that was achieved through that process was real
and with clear objectives, without any illusions about who
the partner was.

Madiba did not only become an exemplary leader to his
own people, but throughout the whole world. When some
in the international community wanted him to distance
himself and the ANC from our long trusted allies such as
Colonel Muammar al Gaddafi, of the republic of Libya, el
Commandante Fidel Castro of the republic of Cuba, and
Yassar Arafat and the Palestinian Liberation Organization,
Madiba stood resolute and made it abundantly clear that the
ANC will never betray those who stood with us during the
difficult times of our struggle.

Anyone who watched the incredible Town Hall meeting
that Madiba had at City College in New York on the 21st of
June 1990, cannot but be hugely impressed by the firm
manner in which he resisted the tantalizing pressure from
the moderator, the renowned Ted Kopple of ABC News, to
distance himself from Castro, Gaddafi and Arafat. This
meeting saw Madiba at his best, humane and diplomatic,
but resolute in his conviction that the ANC will not betray
their longstanding international partners and friends.
Furthermore, Madiba in an astute and stoic sense resisted
any attempt to drive a wedge between himself and the ANC.
All the time he spoke in the collective “we”, and referred to
the ANC as “us”, and “my party”.

Since Madiba passed away on the 5 December 2013, his understandable iconisation proceeded apace, and in this year of his centenary, it is proceeding with
even more impetus to the extent that it recognises the huge
achievements, of a fellow human being (as Madiba himself
said, in one of his other famous quotes: “A saint, who is a
sinner, who keeps on trying”), as South Africans, we are
deeply honoured by your recognition and respect accorded Mandela and the role he played in the struggle for the liberation of humanity.

However, there is also a reason for concern for as far as
there are attempts to remove Madiba out of the context of
the liberation struggle and to try and isolate him from his
political home, and beloved liberation movement, the ANC.
No matter how well it is meant, Nelson Mandela can never
be appreciated, nor understood, in splendid isolation, so to
speak, apart from the ANC. To try to do so marks not only
a huge disservice to Madiba, but it equally disrespects the
unwavering commitment and achievements of the people of
South Africa, in their struggle for liberation.

Some of these attempts are no-doubt well meant, but some
of them are unfortunately also very malicious because by
appropriating Madiba as an individual the deity of a saint,
whose cause has apparently already been fully achieved,
counter revolutionary forces are trying to prevent us in the
ANC, and the people of South Africa, from continuing to
struggle for our full liberation for freedom and equality.

In this context we are again reminded of his words when he
addressed the Natal Peace Conference in 1953, on the
subject of Africa, colonialism and war. He warned that the
events now taking place in Africa constitute the most
serious threat to the peace, security and the freedom of the
people of the Continent. …People throughout the world are
coming to understand how closely the struggle for peace
and against the menace of war is linked with the
preservation of the right of the nation and the individual to
a peaceful existence.

His caution still today rings true.
Please allow me to again lean on Madiba for one last time
with this citation: “After climbing a great hill, one only
finds that there are many more hills to climb.” Thus, we in
the ANC know that Nelson Mandela would be the first to
urge us never to forget our liberation ideals and roots, nor
forget our people. Together with the ANC, he brought us
after a long climb to the great hill of achieving our nonracial
democracy, but now there is another great hill to
climb for full economic justice and liberation of our people.

That is why the ANC resolved at our 54th National
Conference, which was held in December last year, to
proceed with a programme of Radical Economic
Transformation, which its foundation, is our determination
to expropriation of land without compensation.

We have to ensure that the people of South Africa, the sons and
daughters of Nelson Mandela, the Father of our Nation, are
no longer reduced to a paupers status, bereft of land or
property ownership in their own country of birth, but
rightfully become the owners of the land thus, determining
their own destiny.

For us there can be no pause, and no sense of having
arrived. The great journey, the long walk to freedom, on
which Madiba led us as a collective for part of the way,
must continue unabated. The greatest counter revolutionary
insult to the memory of Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela will be
an attempt to sanitize, white-wash and abuse his memory to
try get us to pause, or to stop us from continuing our long
march to freedom.

Prisoner number 46664, who in his small prison cell on
Robben Island, with dignified discipline made his own bed,
and after his release never stopped doing so, even when he
was lauded by the whole world and received accolades from
Presidents, Kings and Queens, knew where he came from
and was rooted in the people – both in his beloved South
Africa, and throughout the world.

In this year of Madiba’s centenary, when we celebrate the
great lessons and example of his life, let us never rob him
of his essential humanity, his true liberation identity. Let us
never ever do him the disservice to place him on a pedestal
so high that his people can no longer reach him. Let us
challenge those who seek to reduce him into a marshmellow
grandad whose entire life is only defined in the 5
years he led a SA government.

As we cross through the great canals of the Atlantic Ocean
and the Mediterranean Sea to reach each other, to hold the
people of our two countries together, on our long walk to
freedom and prosperity, less not forget what Madiba has
taught us, that a ship does not sink as a result of the water
around it, but it sinks as a result of the water getting
through the singing holes of its bowl.

Our future is about the unity and cohesion of our people,
unity for the achievement of a better life for humanity. Our
future is about solidarity and internationalism, about
making our mother earth a better place for all of us.
Let us honour Madiba through our actions, that must
underpin his words, to continue the struggle for justice,
human dignity and full liberation. As he so aptly told us: “It
is in our hands”.