2 July 2013
Former president Nelson Mandela continues to unite South Africa, even from his hospital bed, says Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu.
“Even stricken as he is in hospital, Madiba is uniting the nation again – this time in prayer,” Tutu said at the opening of the Nelson Mandela Legacy Exhibition at the Cape Town Civic Centre on Sunday.
Messages of support and prayers have been pouring in since the elder statesman was admitted to hospital in Pretoria on 8 June with a recurring lung infection. His doctors say his condition is stable but critical.
Tutu said: “We come here not to lament … but to remember some of our most precious moments. We come here to honour.”
Thanking God for the incredible person that Nelson Mandela is, Tutu said: “We pray for his comfort and dignity.”
Also present at Sunday’s opening was National Planning Minister Trevor Manuel, who served as finance minister during Mandela’s administration from 1994 to 1999.
Manuel recalled the times when Mandela called in members of his Cabinet for a talk. The experience, he said, was not like that of a president disciplining a minister, but more like a father talking to a son or daughter.
Manuel told the gathering that he did not want to go down memory lane, but would rather talk about some of Mandela’s trademark characteristics: being cool, calm and collected; caring about people; nation-building; understanding leadership; and being a loyal and dedicated member of the African National Congress.
“Nation-building is what he woke up to and spoke of every day,” Manuel said.
On the cool and calm Mandela, Manuel recalled the day of Mandela’s release from Victor Verster Prison, 11 February 1990, and how the newly released political prisoner had become separated from his convoy.
Somehow they had “fetched and lost” Madiba, Manuel said, until the police told them where he was having tea. When Mandela saw them, he said: “I was getting worried about you chaps. What took you so long?”
Sunday’s opening was attended by a cross-section of politicians and civil society activists. Manuel, Tutu and other speakers made a special point of thanking Cape Town Mayor Patricia de Lille and the City of Cape Town for conceiving and holding the exhibition, which they said represented Mandela’s vision of unity in diversity.
De Lille said that South Africans were free today because “of the strong sense of freedom that lives so freely in him”.
She said she wanted to celebrate Mandela in his lifetime, adding: “There is a reason we are here today: it is because Madiba is part of all of us and he gave a part of himself to all of us.”
On 18 July, Mandela’s 95th birthday, South Africa and the rest of the world will celebrate Nelson Mandela International Day, which encourages people to spend 67 minutes doing something of benefit to others.