REMARKS BY PRESIDENT AT THE UNVEILING OF THE STATUE OF FORMER PRESIDENT MANDELA

Programme Director,

Mama Graça Machel,

Minister of Sports, Arts and Culture, Mr. Zizi Kodwa

Deputy Minister of Sports, Arts and Culture, Ms. Nocawe Mafu,

Premier of the Eastern Cape, Mr. Lubabalo Oscar Mabuyane,

Your Majesties Kings and Queens,

Other traditional leaders present,

MEC for Sports, Recreation, Arts and Culture, Ms. Nonceba Kontsiwe,

Executive Mayor of the OR Tambo District Municipality, Cllr. Mesuli Ngqondwana,

Executive Mayor of the King Sabata Dalindyebo Local Municipality, Cllr. Nyaniso Nelani,

Chief Executive Officer of the Nelson Mandela Museum, Dr. Vuyani Booi,

Guests,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Fellow South Africans.

Molweni. Sanibonani. Dumelang, Goeie more, Kgotsong, Lotjhani, Ndi matsheloni, Nhlekanhi. Good Morning.

I greet you all wherever you may be on this Nelson Mandela Day.

To be here, eQunu where Tata grew up and that is his final resting place, is a great honour.

Qunu had a special place in Madiba’s heart.

This was where he spent his boyhood being cared for by his family, tending cattle and listening to the stories of the elders about the bravery of his people.

It has been said that the two most important days in your life are the day you are born – and the day you find out why.

It was here in Qunu that the first seeds of his political consciousness were planted, where Madiba’s imagination was first stirred, and where his great mind began to be shaped.

Madiba later said of this place that:

“It was there in the hills and valleys of Qunu, in the rolling hills of KwaDlangezwa, in the Genadendal settlement, and long the Gariep, the Lekoa and the Luvuvhu rivers, that we first understood that we are not free.”

In Long Walk to Freedom, he wrote that as he listened to the stories of the elders, he hoped to someday have the opportunity to serve his people, and to make his own humble contribution to the struggle for freedom.

Madiba’s was no humble contribution. He led our nation to freedom, and even today, many years since his passing, his legacy lives on.

There are many monuments paying tribute to Madiba across South Africa, across Africa and in many parts of the world, from Palestine to the United Kingdom, Seychelles, Senegal, Cuba, the US, Brazil, China, France, and many other places.

But for us to be able to honour the father of our nation at this place that meant so much to him is something we have been working towards for some time.

Since 2021 the Eastern Cape Provincial Heritage Resource Agency, the Mandela family, the Nelson Mandela Museum and the Department of Sports, Arts and Culture have been driving this process – a process that included public consultation.

As human beings we are the sum of many parts, and Madiba was no different.

Our upbringing, our culture, and many other factors shape our lived experiences.

The statue we unveiled earlier today in Mthatha depicts Madiba in the role for which he was most well-known, that of a statesman.

The statue here in Qunu depicts him in the attire of his Xhosa-Tembu culture, reminding us of the traditional values he lived by and that shaped his consciousness.

It is our hope that this homage to Madiba in his final resting place will serve as an inspiration especially to the young people in the community.

It is to remind you that the seeds of greatness lie dormant within each one of us, and that it is up to us to make them germinate and bloom.

It is to remind you that being born in a rural area, or having humble beginnings, is no obstacle to achieving greatness, and to fulfilling your destiny.

It is to remind us of all our duty to do what we can to make the world a better place.

Monuments, statues, and museums have a key role to play in the political and cultural life of any country.

They are a means of giving recognition to those who suffered hardship, repression, exile, or death in pursuit of universal ideals such as human freedom.

Monuments such as this one are the struggle of memory against forgetting.

These statues of Madiba are beacons of hope to individuals and communities that are still suffering from the evils of marginalisation, and the scourges of poverty, inequality and underdevelopment.

This statue should serve as reminder to those of us elected to serve the South African people that we must redouble our efforts to build a better South Africa that leaves no-one behind.

To quote Madiba’s own words, as long as poverty, injustice and gross inequality still exist in our world, none of us can truly rest.

I would like to thank you, Mama Graça Machel, and members of the family for agreeing to collaborate with the Department of Sports, Arts and Culture on this project.

Earlier today in Mthatha a library was handed over to the Zingisa Comprehensive School. I am told that the library project was sparked by a letter written to the authorities by a learner at the school requesting assistance, and I want to thank the provincial government for acceding to this request.

I call upon the people of Qunu to protect and look after these sites of memorialization and commemoration. I have no doubt they have the potential to attract tourists which will in turn support business and job creation.

Every Nelson Mandela Day we are called upon to dedicate 67 minutes to performing acts of goodwill towards others as part of making our world a better place.

If you have not yet done so, I encourage each South African to do their bit of good today, wherever they may be.

Madiba built bridges of peace, and mobilised people of the world to fight against social injustice and oppression.

Let us strive to emulate his example, today and every day. I wish you all a Happy Nelson Mandela Day.

I thank you.

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