21 July 2008
President Thabo Mbeki has praised Nelson Mandela for his role in South Africa’s transition to democracy, describing the famous 90-year-old as “an iconic son of the people of South Africa whom we have also surrendered to the nations as a citizen of the world.”
Addressing a gathering of family members and friends in Qunu near Mthatha at a function to mark Nelson Mandela’s 90th birthday on Saturday, Mbeki said Mandela had always been a man of his word, as was evident when he and his comrades in the Rivonia Trial faced the threat of death, where he made his most famous statement.
“I have fought against white domination, and I have fought against black domination. I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and will equal opportunities,” Mbeki quoted Mandela as saying back then.
“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.”
This noble vision, Mbeki said, confirmed in the words of Mandela, gave birth to South Africa’s transition from apartheid to democracy, which many in the world had saluted as a miracle.
That miracle, Mbeki said, was informed by the things that South Africans did to avoid a racial war, while agreeing on a Constitution that prescribed a South Africa that belongs all, black and white.
“All these define the South Africa of today, serving as the fundamental basis we need to guarantee the success and development of the new Republic of South Africa,” Mbeki said.
“For everything Nelson Mandela did to build our new democracy, all focused on achieving the coal of creating a new South Africa that belongs to all, we say, many thanks Madiba, happy birthday.”
Committed to Mandela’s goals
Mbeki further said that South Africa committed itself to always striving to advance the goals to which Mandela dedicated his life – of a democratic, non-racial, non-sexist and prosperous South Africa.
“We will continue to work hard to eradicate poverty that continues to afflict millions of our people,” he said. “We will work for the unity and upliftment of the people of Africa, the renaissance of our continent and the building a better world.”
Mbeki also congratulated Mandela on his 10th wedding anniversary with his wife, Grace Machel.
“Madiba and Graca Machel, on behalf of our nation and our government, many happy returns on your 10th anniversary, and to you, Madiba, Happy 90th birthday, may you have more. Ukhule Ukhokhobe!”