NELSON MANDELA: ICONS NEVER DIE
Prof. PLO – Lumumba, LL.D, D. Litt (hc), FCPS (K), MKIM
DELIVERED DURING NELSON MANDELA MEMORIAL LECTURE AT THE
WALTER SISULU UNIVERSITY, SOUTH AFRICA
ON TUESDAY 17TH JULY, 2018
“During my lifetime I have dedicated myself to this struggle of the African people. I have fought against white domination, and I have foughtagainst black domination. I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is an ideal which I hope to live for and to achieve. But if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die.” 20th April 1964 at the Rivonia Trial
First, I take this opportunity to express my profound and heartfelt gratitude to the people of the Oliver Reginald Tambo Area in Umtata the
birth place of Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela in whose honor we are gathered here today on the occasion of his centenary being the 18th day of July 2018. It is gratifying that while many activities are being held in different parts of South Africa and the world, I have the honor and privilege of delivering this lecture in his place of birth and at the University named after his ‘comrade-in-arms’, the late Walter Sisulu who history records as having invited him into the struggle. Today, we commemorate the centenary of a man, who at the risk of being
melodramatic, was larger than life, almost as large as death -Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela, fondly known as Madiba.
This land, which you fondly call “Mzantsi” in which I have the privilege and honor of speaking in memory of Madiba is great for many reasons which it would remiss for me not to mention on a momentous occasion such as this.
It produced the great Shaka of the Zulu and did not stop there.
It gave birth to a man who should be spoken more often Pixley Ka Isaka Seme but did not stop there. It produced Albert Luthuli, Robert Mangaliso Sobukwe, Walter Sisulu, [Oliver Reginald Tambo] Govan Mbeki, Peter Mokaba, Tiro Ongopotse, Bantu Stephen Biko, Chris Hani, Tokyo Seswale, Albertina Sisulu, Winnie Madikizela Mandela, Ahmed Kathrada, Thabo Mbeki, Jacob Zuma and many others alive and departed including President Cyril Ramaphosa, some departed and some still serving this great nation.
So on this historic day, I am reminded of great men and women and another great man who sojourned on this land without being its aborigine, Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi popularly known to the world as Mahatma Gandhi. In the dramatization of his life, in a motion picture eponymously named, the English film maker Richard Attenborough says of the Mahatma;
…The next generations will scarce believe that such a one as this ever in flesh and blood walked the surface of this earth… In the continent of Africa, if there’s a man to whom these hyperbolic words may be applied, it is
Nelson Mandela. I am therefore humbled and titillated at once that I am standing before you to deliver this lecture.
What deserves focus is the life and times of Madiba and the lessons we can
draw from it.
- If I had come here to praise Madiba,
- I would have said how he abandoned Legal Practice to join the struggle against Apartheid.
- I would have said how he spent twenty seven (27) years in privation at the notorious Robben Island.
- I would have said how he sacrificed personal comfort for the general good,
- but I will say none of those because enough commentators and
Historians have immortalized those deeds in books and documentaries.
Today, I come here to celebrate Madiba as an icon whose life and times will eternally serve as a beacon of hope to all the suffering peoples of the world and Africa. So comrades join me in imagining what Madiba would have said today if he stood in this place of his birth and looked at the pain and suffering that still abounds in the world amidst joy and revelry in some parts of the
I think Madiba would have surveyed the African terrain from Cape Town to Cairo and from Addis Ababa to Free Town in Sierra Leone.
- He would have asked himself whether the promises made by African leaders in May 1963 in Addis Ababa have been fulfilled.
- He would have asked whether the unity proposed by Kwame Nkurumah and his compatriots had been achieved.
- He would have asked whether Africa is free from violence.
- He would have asked whether Africa exploits her resources for the benefit of her sons and daughters.
- He would have asked whether Africa sits among the comity of Nations as an equal partner. He would have asked whether the cradle of human civilization protects her sons and daughters.
- He would have asked whether the men and women who preside over Africa as her leaders consider themselves trustees of their people or their overloads.
Comrades, if Madiba were to be candid he would say that: save for a few pockets of success, Africa still toils and moils under great difficulties.
- He would have applauded Rwanda for emerging from the genocide of 1994 and would not have forgotten the economic successes of Botswana, Namibia, Mauritius and The Seychelles among others.
- In the same vein, he would have saluted the on going rapprochement between Eritrea and Ethiopia.
- The positive developments changes in Zimbabwe, Ghana and Tanzania would not have escaped his attention.
- But I have no doubt he would have reprimanded the political leaders of South Sudan and exhorted them to sacrifice personal ambition for the general good.
- Returning back to his home in South Africa, he would have reminded the leaders and the people that the long standing issue of land must not be postponed any longer but must be resolved in a manner that does not disrupt the Nation and in the spirit of Ubuntu.
- He would have noted that his Mother Africa still bleeds in Somalia, in Democratic Republic of Congo, in Northern Mali, in Northern Mauritania, in Northern Nigeria, in Niger, the Cameroons, in Central Africa Republic and in South Sudan.
- He would have also noted that his motherland is not at ease in many other countries.
- But he would not have stopped at lamentations, he would have prescribed a solution.
- He would have beseeched the leaders of Africa to take a solemn vow that they would govern selflessly to create comfort and opportunity for young Africans to dissuade them from running away to Europe and America to become latter day slaves.
- He would have dissuaded African leaders from engaging in primitive accumulation of material wealth.
- To drive the point home, he would have reminded them of deathbed directions of Alexander the Great on futility and vanity of power and riches.
- He would have told them the story thus: On his deathbed, Alexander summoned his army generals and told them his three ultimate wishes:
- The best doctors should carry his coffin...
- The wealth he has accumulated (money, gold, precious stones) should be scattered along the procession to the cemetery...
- His hands should be let loose, so they hang outside the coffin for all to see!!
- One of his generals who was surprised by these unusual requests asked Alexander to explain.
- Here is what Alexander the Great had to say:
- "I want the best doctors to carry my coffin to demonstrate that in the face of death, even the best doctors in the world have no power to heal ..."
- "I want the road to be covered with my treasure so that everybody sees that material wealth acquired on earth, will stay on earth...”
- I want my hands to swing in the wind, so that people understand that we come to this world empty handed and we leave this world empty handed after the most precious treasure of all is exhausted, and that is: TIME.
- We do not take to our grave any material wealth.
- TIME is our most precious treasure because it is LIMITED.
- We can produce more wealth, but we cannot produce more time.
To reiterate the story of Alexander, he would have reminded them of the observation of Solomon son of David that chasing material things is like chasing the wind.
- He would have told us Africans in our diversity that we should focus more on ‘what unites us rather than what divides us.’
- He would have reminded we Africans to learn from the piano whose black and white keys properly choreographed produces melodious music.
- He would have borrowed the words of Ali Mazrui and said that diversity is not a Tower of Babel but a Power of Babel.
- Amidst the gloom he would have reminded Africa and the world that ‘there is no way to peace-peace is the way.’
- He would have reminded the world, in memory of Mahatma Gandhi, that an eye for an eye only makes the world blind and that there is enough for everyone’s needs in the world but not for anybody’s greed.
- He would have told his audience of that evergreen story of the Good Samaritan made so famous by Jesus Christ.
- He would have told Africa and the world to remember him not only through speeches, festivals, symposia and transient activities but instead to give value to his long held vision that the world can be made a better place when words and actions are wedded.
But Madiba would have not spoken for too long, he would have urged us to stop now and to remind the people of Africa that the true guarantors of peace and prosperity is people’s vigilance.
- He would have exhorted the people in the clarion calls that this great land gave to the world.
Long live Madiba!
Long live South Africa!
Long live Africa!
Long live the world!