Sat 07 Dec. 2013, 14:00 CAT
All men must die, but death can vary in its significance.
The ancient Chinese writer Szuma Chien said, "Though death befalls all men alike, it may be weightier than Mount Tai or lighter than a feather."
"If your attitude is to do things which are going to please the community and human beings," as Nelson Mandela said and did, then your death may be weightier than Mount Tai. And there is no doubt Madiba's death is weightier than Mount Tai.
Madiba's whole life was one of absolute dedication to the service of his people, to the whole of humanity. It is not hard for one to do a bit of good. What is hard is to do good all one's life and never to do anything bad, to act consistently in the interest of the broad masses and to engage in arduous struggle for decades on end. That is the hardest thing of all! This is what Madiba did. And this is what earned him the respect, admiration of all humanity.
The journey of Madiba was long and hard. Madiba was a revolutionary and the founder of Umkhonto we Sizwe, the Spear of the Nation, the military wing of the African National Congress. And arguing his case for the formation of Umkhonto we Sizwe, he said: "Sebatana ha se bokwe ka diatla" (The attacks of a wild beast cannot be averted with only bare hands).
Those who are pouring praise on him today were not very long ago part of his worst enemies, part of those who labelled him and his followers in the African National Congress and Umkhonto we Sizwe as terrorists. There can be no greater measure of greatness than the respect one is accorded by his enemies. Madiba was a genuine, compassionate and far-seeing leader; a man utterly devoted to his people and to humanity.
Madiba was clearly an extraordinary ordinary human being. Of course, Madiba never saw himself as an extraordinary man or a messiah. "I was not a messiah, but an ordinary man who became a leader because of extraordinary circumstances. I seem to arrive more firmly at the conclusion that my own life struggle has had meaning only because, dimly and perhaps incoherently, it has sought to achieve the supreme objective of ensuring that each, without regard to race, colour, gender or social status, could have the possibility to reach for the skies," Madiba explains the meaning and purpose of his life and struggle. This is the man, the revolutionary fighter, the founder and commander of Umkhonto we Sizwe the world is today mourning.
"If a man fights back, he is really likely to get more respect than he would if he capitulated," Madiba told a press conference on February 15, 1990, his first after his release from twenty-seven years' imprisonment. "I wanted South Africa to see that I loved even my enemies while I hated the system that turned us against one another."
Madiba's presidency was notable for the efforts he made towards reconciliation - including taking tea in the all-white Boer enclave of Oranje.
There is no doubt Madiba will always stand out as a leader. And as Raul Castro aptly puts it, Madiba will always be spoken in the present - "As for Mandela, we will never be able to speak of him in the past."
In the last few years, we have been through such bereavements with greater frequency, bidding farewell to the veterans of our continents, our people's liberators, paying our last respects to the fallen spears of our world from a generation now reaching the end of a long and heroic struggle. The few from that generation, like comrades Kenneth Kaunda, Robert Mugabe, among a few others, who are singled out to stay the longest, have to bear the pain of seeing their comrades go.
Madiba, and his comrades, fought a noble battle and lived their lives in pursuit of a better life for all of us who follow. The lives we live today is the sweet fruit of their life of struggle and sacrifice.
And on a day like this, we remember what Madiba himself said in his valedictory address to the closing session of the historic 50th national conference of the African National Congress on December 20, 1997: "The time has come to hand over the baton in a relay that started more than 85 years ago in Mangaung; nay more, centuries ago when the warriors of Autshumanyo, Makhanda, Mzilikazi, Moshweshwe, Khama, Sekkukkuni, Lobatsibeni, Cetshwayo, Nghunghunyane, Uithalder and Ramabulana, laid down their lives to defend the dignity and integrity of their being as a people. Here are the reins of the movement - protect and guard its precious legacy…I know that the love and respect that I have enjoyed is love and respect for the ANC and its ideals. The time has come for me to take leave." As the speech drew to its conclusion, Madiba had tears in his eyes.
Madiba deserves respect and honour. And in respecting and honouring him, we respect and honour the best in ourselves. His thoughts, his ideas, his conviction, and his courage will always provide an inspiration to all those who seek the best for their people and for humanity.
Madiba wasn't shy about telling society, the world where it was going wrong. His words, his voice, his vision, his story of struggle will live on forever. It will always become part of us in a journey to wholeness. We must never forget the challenge Madiba issued to us to live together in justice and love.
Our young people, the young and future generations, must be made aware of the conviction, dedication and sacrifices Madiba made on behalf of his faith in humanity, his hatred for colonialism and imperialism and his mission to unite humanity, certain of our inherent right to our own destiny as a continent.
Madiba was a man of his word - he said it, meant it, and lived it. Madiba had the political integrity to simply stand for something because it is right - we owe Madiba.
It is not often that the western world, especially the United States, honours those who embody a whole and uncompromised truth. But Thursday night was one such rare occasion. The United States President Barack Obama paid glowing tribute to Madiba. We heard similar messages from other western capitals. There was a race for them to praise Madiba. And we should keep it in our hearts for the rest of our lives.
We will always remain proud of a cause and a heartbeat that was a metronome for us long before the crossover considered them, these ANC, Umkhonto we Sizwe, terrorists, worthy of praise. This is a reminder to all of us that there comes a time when unwavering will, a strong belief, and endless prayers bring great visions to realisation.
There are some people who, by pursuing their own convictions and without being self-conscious about it, touch the lives of millions of others. Such has been Madiba's life. We urge all our politicians and other leaders to ponder over Madiba's example. Madiba lived to serve - initially a specific people, then a nation, and eventually all people of the world.
Although Madiba was locked away in prison for 27 years, when he came out, he was always able to respond practically and dynamically to changing circumstances. He had the courage of his convictions, spelling out the implications of new situations which sometimes his comrades found hard to admit.
We are extremely fortunate to have such an extraordinary ordinary revolutionary on our continent. Madiba's contribution is so large that his loss has to be perceived as not only a loss for the South Africans, for the Africans, but as a loss to all humanity. He will always remain an outstanding example of courage, coherence and dedication. With his death, one of the last giants of a certain generation has disappeared, a generation which sacrificed itself to its very end for the cause of the liberation of the African continent - Eduardo Mondlane, Patrice Lumumba, Amilcar Cabral, Agostinho Neto, Samora Machel, Julius Nyerere and Oliver Tambo. Now the time for Madiba has arrived: the world has lost a freedom fighter, a revolutionary.
Madiba has an enormous moral and political stature which cannot be claimed only by South Africa. It belongs to us more widely. He belonged to this period, to a certain period of struggle and politics, of which we are also part. As a political person, his contribution was so large that his loss has to be perceived as not only for South Africans, of Africans, but as a loss to all humanity.
Madiba has left the world with a grand legacy of words and deeds. His personal example and his teachings, his faith and firmness, his sincerity and cordiality will linger, always bringing benefit to all who learn from his life. Madiba will always remain a symbol of commitment and dedication in the struggle to achieve a better life for our people. Words to describe how we feel about Madiba will never end. All we can say for now is Hamba Kahle, comrade Madiba!
Labels: NELSON MANDELA