Three years on: Madiba’s death, reflections from Ramaphosa

On the third anniversary of the death of Nelson Mandela, the Nelson Mandela Foundation hosted “Mandela the Freedom Fighter and Mandela the Democracy Builder”. We’ve collected quotes from the speech Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa gave at the event.

South African Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa speaks at the Nelson Mandela Foundation in Johannesburg on 5 December 2016, the third anniversary of the death of Mandela. (Image: The Presidency, Facebook)
South African Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa speaks at the Nelson Mandela Foundation in Johannesburg on 5 December 2016, the third anniversary of the death of Mandela. (Image: The Presidency, Facebook)

Compiled by: Priya Pitamber

On the third anniversary of the death of Nelson Mandela, 5 December 2016, former freedom fighters, politicians and diplomats gathered at the Nelson Mandela Foundation in Johannesburg, where they marked the occasion with an event under the name “Mandela the Freedom Fighter and Mandela the Democracy Builder”.

Speakers included Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa, Deputy Public Service and Administration Minister Ayanda Dlodlo and Dr Leon Wessels, who served as Ramaphosa’s deputy chair of the Constitutional Assembly.

Mandela’s widow, Graça Machel, and his granddaughter, Ndileka Mandela, were also present.

“We are not living the reality of Madiba’s dream,” said Sello Hatang, the foundation CEO.

He believed that if Madiba had still been with us, he would have prioritised the challenges the country faced. If this was not done “the formal processes of democracy will lose the great majority of our people”, he said.

Watch Ramaphosa’s address:

Read quotes from his speech:

On recalling the past:

We are here to mark the anniversary of a profoundly painful moment in the life of our young democracy, the day on which our founding president, Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela, drew his last breath. Three years later, we are here to remember him, to celebrate him, to honour him and to reflect on his legacy.

On Mandela’s arrest:

It was on this day 60 years ago, in 1956, that Madiba and 155 other leaders of congress were arrested and charged with high treason. It was a moment of great uncertainty for our country and of great peril for the congress movement and its leaders. It was an audacious and cynical attempt by the apartheid regime to destroy the congress movement and define as treason the demand for those freedoms that are now enshrined in our Constitution.

On the signing of South Africa’s Constitution:

Later this week, we will mark the 20th anniversary of the signing into law by Madiba of our country’s democratic Constitution. It was a moment of jubilation, as the South African nation was born. The Constitution became our nation’s birth certificate.

On challenges and achievements:

Despite the progress of the last two decades, we must acknowledge that we have not transformed our economy to serve the interests of the majority. Although we have experienced periods of economic growth, we have not built up an industrial base of the scale and diversity required to extract optimal value from the natural resources we possess in abundance.

On learning from history:

We risk being diverted from the path we have chosen. It is at a time like this that we are called upon to look into our past. It is perhaps at moments like these that we should seek counsel from the lives of our forbearers. We are called upon to remember the legacies, the struggles, the values and the qualities of the great leaders of our people. We are called upon to reflect on the history of our movement, the principles for which it has stood and the ideals for which it has fought – and for which we continue to fight.

On unity:

The Constitution is not only the supreme law of the republic. It also informs who we are and what we want to be. The unity that we must work to build must be founded on the principles of non-racialism and non-sexism. It requires that we grapple directly with the attitudes, practices, institutions and material circumstances that perpetuate racism and sexism.

On an equal society:

For as long as the natural state of the black South African is poor and the natural state of the white South African is privileged, we will never succeed in building a non-racial society. For as long as the economic and social conditions of women are inferior to those of men, we will never succeed in building a non-sexist society. There is an urgent need – if we are to be a united nation – to redistribute the wealth of our country.
A united South Africa requires the restoration of the land to those who work it. It requires meaningful transfer of ownership and control over the country’s natural resources, over the means of production, to the people as a whole.

On the National Development Plan:

South Africans need to be committed to a common programme to achieve that vision. That vision and that programme is the National Development Plan. The actions it identifies for the eradication of poverty and the reduction of inequality by 2030 have largely been embraced by a broad cross section of South African society.

On listening to each other:

The most significant advances in our struggle – indeed in much of human endeavour – have been achieved through dialogue. But where there is no meaningful engagement, where those in positions of responsibility do not listen to the cries of the people, then the seeds of discontent, of instability, of conflict are sown.
This is a moment when we, as leaders, need to listen and be in conversation with our people. This is the time to listen. This is not the time to display a sense of arrogance. This is not the time to ignore our people.

On Mandela’s leadership:

For he embodied so much of what we seek in a leader. Although he was one of the most famous figures of the 20th century, he was humble to a fault, never arrogant and devoid of any sense of entitlement. He listened to those he disagreed with. The more he disagreed with someone, the more intently he listened. He was always a unifier, never a divider. Now more than ever, we need leaders of his quality and integrity, leaders who are committed to serve only the interests of the people.
We have to ask ourselves uncomfortable questions such as “Does South Africa today have such leaders?”. Does our movement have such leaders? Are we living up to the example that Madiba, (Oliver) Tambo, (Walter) Sisulu and (Albert) Luthuli set? Most importantly, are we living up to the expectations of our people?

In conclusion:

Let us remember how Madiba characterised his journey through life. Let us make Madiba’s journey our journey. Let us make Madiba’s long walk our own long walk.
I miss Madiba more when I remember his moving and touching words about his journey when he said:
“I have walked that long road to freedom.
I have tried not to falter.
I have made missteps along the way.
But I have discovered the secret that after climbing a great hill, one only finds that there are many more hills to climb.
I have taken a moment here to rest, to steal a view of the glorious vista that surrounds me, to look back on the distance I have come.
But I can rest only for a moment, for with freedom comes responsibilities, and I dare not linger, for my long walk is not yet ended.”
I too dare not linger for my long walk has not yet ended.

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