Hon Speaker of the National Assembly Mr Max Sisulu, hon Chairperson of the National Council of Provinces Mr Mninwa Mahlangu, the Acting Chief Justice, Judge Dikgang Moseneke, hon members of the National Assembly and the NCOP, hon premiers here present, the Sisulu and Mandela families, fellow South Africans, I am at once deeply honoured and sad to stand in this Joint Sitting of Parliament today, to give tribute to a leader whose name fires up human imagination with images of heroism, deep convictions and consistent striving for high ideals, our former President, Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela.
Remarkably, a week ago our nation buried Mr Reginald September, another liberation struggle luminary and former Member of Parliament. Today, we are also laying to rest the remains of yet another former Member of Parliament and a man with deep roots in South African liberalism, Mr Colin Eglin.
It would seem as if Madiba said to both Mr Eglin and Mr September, "you will never walk alone; I am right behind you". Now we hear that our nation has suffered yet another loss, the death of boxing legend, Jacob "Baby Jake" Matlala. Similarly, Baby Jake's passing on seems to point in the same direction, with him saying to Madiba, "you will never walk alone; I am right behind you".
I would rather view the deaths of all these South African giants in a positive light, not because this is the best way to lessen the effects of mortality, but because the four have made emphatic contributions to our nation that has left us the richer for it. We thank them for lives well lived.
The sheer weight of current historical experience is daunting; reflecting on the full sweep of history covering the life of Nelson Mandela is almost impossible. What is possible and desirable is to look at the meaning of Mandela's life for us as South Africans, Africans and indeed the whole world on which he has left a deep and enduring impression.
At this very moment our nation, and indeed the world, is undergoing an epochal experience where history-ending and history-making intersect in ways rarely seen before. As the one chapter is closing on the life of this lovable revolutionary, another is opening, prefaced by the question whether Mandela's remarkable contribution to human progress will simply pass into historical memory like that of great men and women before him, or whether it will occasion a leap of faith in those with the power to make a difference to the abject social experience of the overwhelming number of the world's people in whom Mandela's life was bedded.
This new chapter imposes imperatives on all of us, governments, continental and world bodies as well as private capital and all individuals who have the means, to work for a meaningful social emancipation of the peoples of the world.
Clearly the instinctual global outpouring of raw passion of sorrow, anguish, eulogies, encomiums, laurels and love unleashed by the death of Nelson Mandela has reaffirmed the deep common yearnings shared by humanity across the spatio-temporal divide.
As a global figure, Nelson Mandela's vision transcended the physical borders of our country. It permeated the fabric of global society, and is as true of our nation as it is of the entire world.
It was Mandela himself who taught us that: No one is born hating another person because of the colour of his skin, or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.
This transcendent universality unfolding at this point in history resonates with the poignant contention of yet another great freedom fighter and one of the inspiring figures of the 20th century, Dr Martin Luther King Jr, who reminded us that "our loyalties must transcend our race, our tribe, our class, and our nation; and this means we must develop a world perspective".
Nowhere is this world perspective in clearer evidence than right now, when global pathos is loosened in memory of the unifying figure of Nelson Mandela. In the true sense of the word, he belongs to all humanity, for to claim his ideals only for ourselves, to the exclusion of the rest of the world, would be an exercise in provincialism. Mandela's ideals saturate the face of the earth.
I am therefore honoured to stand here today to say my piece on the life of a man of whom the poet would have said, "in the modern sense of an old- fashioned word, he was a saint".
In equal measure, I am sad to have to bid farewell to this saintly being who considered himself "not a saint but a sinner who keeps on trying". While fallible as flesh and blood like the rest of us, he exhibited an inimitable human personality that defied the limitations of his age.
Looking back, we know now that it is within the realm of possibility to push back the frontiers of atavism, ignorance, prejudice and resentment as well as racialised and gendered poverty that cast the lot of many into misery.
The world over, his name has evolved into a metaphor; the name Nelson Mandela has entered the pantheon of history's sages, becoming a short hand for imperishable, trans-historical values that define human progress. This would explain why people of all backgrounds, nationalities, gender, age and regions of the world have suddenly succumbed to a sweeping feeling of sorrow that comes with the loss of a life that enriched the human experience.
In an age where "the best lack all conviction and the worst are full of passionate intensity", the figure of Nelson Mandela emerged in history, along with others, driven by a conviction to reclaim human dignity for the oppressed in a nation where history had imposed a common destiny among its people.
As mortality takes a hand in the matter, reminding us once again of the fragility of the human condition, the immortality of Nelson Mandela coevally thrusts itself forth with defiance, etching into historical consciousness the force of the meaning of his life. This immortality will echo down the ages.
So, I stand here aware that no language on earth is capacious enough to capture faithfully the depths of the pain fate has inflicted on us. It is a pain we all knew would come. Yet, not even the possession of foreknowledge could prepare us for the force with which this actuality has struck us. Equally though, it is the measure of Nelson Mandela's mystique that the same reason that engenders sorrow in us for his passing away equally fills us up with happiness for having shared a life with him.
Indeed we have a reason to be happy, as the spontaneity with which thousands across the globe celebrating Mandela's life shows. It is not in every generation that a figure of mythic proportions emerges from relatively unremarkable social conditions to stamp his imprint on the course of history.
As a metaphor his life mirrors a Copernican Revolution; a sense of Copernican Revolution that represents the path of reason and Enlightenment in the face of a primeval climate of racial oppression which, among other things, expressed itself in insufferable economic conditions for the majority of South Africans.
Yet, while historiography may struggle with issues such as whether it is individuals or the masses of people who make history, we, whose lives were lived through the historical events of the 20th century South Africa, know that the Mandela phenomenon is unthinkable outside its historical setting.
We know that Nelson Mandela was forged by the social conditions in which he was born and that his political consciousness was forged by the furnace of historical experience.
James Baldwin may very well have been anticipating the Mandela phenomenon when he memorably contended: "I am what time, circumstance, history, have made of me, certainly, but I am also, much more than that. So are we all."
Nelson Mandela's dream neither ended with the 1994 democratic breakthrough in our country, nor has it ended with his passing away. His dream of building unity, democracy, nonracialism and nonsexism only started to gain traction when for the first time all South Africans exercised the right to vote for the government based on their will.
The litmus test, however, is whether inheritors of his dream, heirs to his vision and adherents of his philosophy, will be able to make the dream for which he lived come to pass in the fullness of time. After the outpouring of grief, the celebration of and reflection on Nelson Mandela's life, we will have to answer the question as to how we advance towards that dream. If we succeed in bringing his dream to fruition as we should, that will inspire the rest of the world along the same path. A legitimate expectation that the world has of us is that if we can produce a Nelson Mandela we can bring about a progressive historical period where all the ills of the past recede into distant memory.
In consequence it is the obligation of all South Africans aspiring to lead society to ensure that on their watch the Mandela experience does not fizzle out into an episode without consequence, or a flash in the pan, but rather becomes a turning point in how the world advances social change.
Ultimately, as we move forward to the future the most enduring monument we can build to his memory is to strive for unity and human solidarity, to conquer the hidebound thought systems such as racism and sexism, to eradicate social inequalities, educate the masses, make health accessible to all, and uphold a human rights culture.
For us in South Africa, the challenge looms even larger when one considers the inevitable possibility that posterity will always look at us in the light of the Mandela experience. If we fail it will not make sense to future generations that while Mandela emerged from the mist of history to evolve into a rugged moral force that edged humanity a notch higher on the plane of civilisation, those who followed him either failed to live up to the dictates of the philosophy he advocated or simply destroyed his dream. A post-Mandela South Africa will be looked at in terms of how it fares in uprooting the legacy of the apartheid system at both the material and metaphysical level, while mindful of the symbiotic relationship between the historical material underpinnings of the apartheid legacy, and correspondingly, its ideological justification.
History will impose judgment on us in terms of whether we uphold the laws of the land, and fight scourges that rob the masses of our country to whose sociopolitical freedom Nelson Mandela had committed his life. This means showing intolerance to pathological conditions such as theft of public resources through corruption, abuse of political power and a host of other underhand means that rob everyday people of the meaning of freedom.
At another level, Mandela's uncompromising stance on the sanctity of our system of democracy, the primacy of the law, ethical orientation to governance, and generally carrying ourselves as models of propriety will continue to be a hard act to follow, but must nonetheless be followed to the letter.
There can only be two ways about moving our nation forward. A nation that adheres to the dictates of conscience, the dictates that put human beings at the centre of existence or the regressive form of existence in which all that came before dissolves into nothingness. In a classical sense we cannot have our cake and eat it. For most of his life, Nelson Mandela led and inspired millions to action, so that all South Africans could have access to this very Parliament in which we are sitting, to pass just laws which govern the lives of our people. The meaning of Nelson Mandela's legacy speaks to the conditions of the African people on the rest of our beloved continent with the same force.
Nelson Mandela represented progressive African nationalism that sought to give form and content to the aspirations of millions of poor African peasants, working classes and underclasses that face the enormity of social existence day by day.
The brand of African nationalism he represented sought to reclaim the African centre, to thrust the African to the pedestal of progress through self-reliance, through observing the principles that underpin modernity and through harvesting such principles for African progress.
The task that faces our continent is to let ordinary Africans lead the historical process, to define their destiny in social conditions ideal for progress.
It should revolt the rest of our continent and offend our sense of common decency, when the disproportionate number of humanity trapped in ignorance, poverty, squalor and beggarly conditions, and occupying an ontologically precarious state remain African, across generations.
At the centre of Mandela consciousness is the African claim to historical agency, a subjective will to recast social existence in terms that affirm our own development as a people with a great potential to contribute to the march of progress.
If we as Africans across the length and breadth of our continent are at all inspired by Nelson Mandela's life, it means a conscious and continued effort to entrench ideals of democracy in the African soil, so that democratic experience becomes second nature to the African mind.
There is enough under the soil and on the soil of our continent to provide for the needs of all Africans. All it takes to build a monument to the Mandela experience is to prevent African children from sinking into the depths of hopelessness by empowering them with freedom, a culture of human rights, education, access to health and space for their creative prowess to take full flight.
I would argue that the same level of Mandela consciousness needs to infuse the global thought systems. I would argue that at this level upholding Nelson Mandela's legacy should shake up those charged with the responsibility to assist with bettering life in the developing world. After scores of conferences over many years by august bodies of governance on the global level, we have to ask the question why many across the globe continue to wallow in conditions of misery.
After multinational companies have made stupendous profits from their commercial efforts on the African continent, a legitimate question arises as to why Africans remain sweated labour, pedestrians on matters of global commerce and frozen outside the global business mainstream, when their continent bears countless minerals beneath its soil. This may be the moment to rethink our ways and the nature of the challenges we face. It may well be so, if humanity is to take Nelson Mandela's journey a step further.
To consider Mandela's legacy on the global stage is to confront askew global power relations, the insidious insincerity that has numbed the senses of many men and women who command the type of power that can banish poverty from the midst of human life.
Why then do the majority of the world's people, the great unwashed, live in abject poverty when a fair distribution of the world's resources would not even lessen the material comfort of those who wallow in luxury at the top of social articulation?
I would submit that we cannot claim to follow in the footsteps of this inspiring leader when we have these shocking levels of poverty sitting cheek by jowl with the most fabulously dazzling material riches known to human history.
Just as we are all united in a frenzy of the Mandela experience, we can, if men and women of vision issue forth, change these odious conditions that face the rest of the world, to enable the emergence of a new human experience.
In conclusion, I wish to remind members of Milan Kundera's view that "the struggle of humanity against power, is the struggle of memory against forgetting". Our struggle is against forgetting as well as the approach we need to embrace to ensure that neither our generation nor subsequent generations forget our noxious past even as they work for social change. Going forward, the struggle of memory against forgetting entails not forgetting the need to change the political, social and economic character and how we relate with each other. Indeed, forgetting about the lessons of history leads to repetition of history's errors.
While Mandela's place in historical memory is cemented, we should never forget the meaning of the life he lived, a life that set a standard. Notably, we should never forget that his life was about the people above everything else.
Among the critical lessons we should draw from his life is that history is made by common people, of whom he was one. Never one for self- aggrandisement, he never attributed to his person any achievements, despite the catalytic role he always played.
Another distinguished South African, Peter Abrahams, captured Nelson Mandela's life with uncanny precision when he contended:
You can't walk alone. Many have given the illusion, but none have really walked alone. Man is not made that way. Each man is bedded in his people, their history, their culture, and their values.
Let me also express a word of gratitude to the Mandela family for having shared Nelson Mandela with South Africa, Africa and the rest of the world. We thank you for bearing the brunt of history with such fortitude, letting go of a loving husband, a doting father, a grandfather and an uncle, which in turn negatively affected your family in ways irrevocable. For all this, we thank you.
I thank you, hon Speaker, for this honour to address the Joint Sitting of Parliament to pay tribute to a human being that represented all that is lovely in human existence!
Hamba kahle, Madiba! Hamba kahle, Dalibhunga! Gorha lomzi wakwaMtirara! Delakufa lakwaNgubengcuka! [Farewell, Madiba! Farewell, Dalibhunga! Hero of Mtirara family! A valiant man of Ngubengcuka!]
It has been a life, such a life! I thank you for your attention. [Applause.]