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Z. Mandela: Address to Africa Summit

Address to Africa Summit 2018, Cape Town, South Africa, Nov. 21–25, 2018


Good afternoon, Masters of Ceremonies, elders, mothers and fathers gathered here this afternoon, comrades and friends, distinguished guests, Your Majesties, Royal Highness, our traditional leaders, religious leaders, and members of the diplomatic corps. Earlier I was able to meet the ambassador to Western Sahara, the ambassador to Pakistan, the ambassador to Sudan, the ambassador to Qatar, and the ambassador to Saudi Arabia. If there are any others, please inform us so we can acknowledge their presence here in this Africa summit. The ambassador of Palestine and the ambassador of Algeria are also with us. We feel very proud that the ambassador of Angola is here with us.

These are the countries that Madiba [Mandela] was in solidarity with, committed to, and regarded as not just as comrades but as brothers in arms in the struggle for liberation throughout our continent and the world. So thank you for coming and gracing this Africa summit with your presence.

Distinguished guests, I am often asked to speak on the life and legacy of my grandfather, President Nelson Mandela. Many tend to see him as an individual and forget that he came out of a family.

Also my wife accompanied us as a royal family and is watching over me so that I don’t make a fool of myself in this session. She keeps slipping me notes saying, “You must say this right, pronounce this right.” So allow me to introduce Raabia Clarke.

Each time I have been asked to speak on the life and legacy of my grandfather, I do so with the fabric that intertwines our lives, with a tapestry of memories of varied hues and colors. Each time the story is told and retold and retold again and again, as if it were a story or a storybook. In essence, Madiba is all of us and in honoring him we honor what is best in each of us.

We set the bar of achievement ever higher and higher, and that reminds me of a song by Jackie Wilson, “Higher and Higher,” who in his wisdom reminds us that, “It always seems impossible until it’s done.” In the Greek epic “The Iliad,” Achilles says that, “Fate is the same for the man who holds back, and the same if he fights hard. We are all held in a single honor, the brave with the weakling. A man dies, still if he has done nothing, as one who has done much.”

From a young age Madiba led a full life and many have reflected on various dimensions of his life. There were those in the village who spoke of his childhood experiences, and those in the shimmering lights of the city of Johannesburg who remember the charismatic and striking figure of a young man. Others tell of his antics as a fierce lawyer, and yet others of the fearless rebel. Many shared his experiences of incarceration, jailed for periods shorter or longer than him. Yet others speak of the wily and razor-sharp mind of the negotiator who ushered in a new dawn.

Madiba, the freedom fighter, Madiba the negotiator, Madiba the campaigner, Madiba the victor, Madiba the president, Madiba the elder statesman, Madiba the icon, Madiba the saint—we honor him in all these ways as one whose life and legacy is always on the lips of millions, one whose life is a mirror of what is best in us and all humanity, one whose life holds lessons for all, regardless of status, stature, gender and social standing.

In honoring him we truly honor a giant that walked amongst us and whom many elevated to a level of sainthood, only to be gently let down by the man with these words: “Only if a saint is a sinner who keeps trying,” as he wrote in his book, Long Walk to Freedom. And try he did. For the humble beginnings of his pastoral life on the banks of Mbhashe River in a small rural village of Mvezo, he lived his life in a crucible of struggle and became the first president of a democratically free South Africa and a hero to millions around the world.

His name has reached the most unlikely and far-flung quarters of the earth, and he is held in the great esteem on all continents on the planet. I have been surrounded by kids in remote villages in Egypt, in the Faiyum desert, chanting his name. Also I have been informed by young Spanish students visiting a refugee camp in Western Sahara and overwhelmed by the excitement of young and old to meet his grandson on the streets of al-Khalil in Hebron in occupied Palestine, the resting place of the great patriarch Abraham.

His life has cut a colossal swarth and, as the speaker of the national assembly led us in a song this morning, we have to say Nelson Mandela, Nelson Mandela, there is no other human like you.  

He chose the path of carving out his own destiny. Ladies and gentlemen, distinguished guests, it’s never easy to navigate the part that tradition and legacy has bequeathed us in the midst of the pressure of transformation and innovation, and still seek new ways of doing things that modern life requires. Though removed from society in the prime of his life, for nearly three decades my grandfather never lost touch with his traditional values and that which essentially made him the man that he was.

I have never seen my grandfather more in his element as a regent and traditional leader in his own right than the day of my own coronation as chief of Mvezo in April of 2007. It had been a long journey to restore justice in a case that saw Madiba’s father Gadla Henry Mphakanyiswa, stripped of his chieftaincy and banished from his ancestral home, while Madiba was a child. Today I am proud to serve as chief of Mvezo, to honor his wish and restore his father’s humble kraal to Mqhekezweni, the “Great Place,” where he spent his formative years.

I always thought my grandfather honored me through appointing me as a chief, but in reality it did much more. He challenged me to rise above mediocrity and a life of material trappings, of the sleek life in Johannesburg, a life that he himself was not unfamiliar with. He taught me the unforgettable lesson that each of us must continue to challenge ourselves and be chiefs of our own destiny by leading full lives in service to humanity, and in pursuit of happiness and internal peace.

It has brought new meaning and fresh realization of what President Mandela meant when he said on the occasion of my coronation, “That my grandson has taken the chieftaincy I was supposed to have, that he is to rule here at Mvezo will make me sleep forever a happy man.”

Ladies and gentlemen, that pursuit of peace and happiness in and through social activism catapulted him into the pages of history and what he once described, “When a man has done what he considers to be his duty to his people and his country, he can rest in peace.”

I have often thought that the quest for peace, justice and freedom deprived us of a family, for a long time of a father, a husband, a grandfather and a great-grandfather. As I stand here before you today to honor his legacy, I can say without regret that was a life worth living and a legacy lived to its full potential.

The question then remains, how shall we honor him beyond this Africa Summit, and what shall we do so that further generations remember him and cherish the ideals for and by which he lived? How shall we remember him? We shall remember him in the cries and laughter of children. We shall indeed remember him in the song and dance of our youth. We shall remember him in the undying hope of our mothers. We shall remember him in the fighting spirit of our fathers. We shall indeed remember him in the wisdom and tales of our elders.

Why is it so important for us to reflect on his life and why is it important to honor his legacy? It is important because he represents all that we want to see in our children, in our future. On October 18, 1967, Comrade President Fidel Castro spoke before a crowd of over one million Cubans in the Plaza de la Revolucion in Havana. During the speech His Excellency President Castro uttered the immortal words, “What do we want our children to be like?” The response was, “We want them to be like El Che.”

Today we ask the question, what do we want our children to be like? The response is simple, ladies and gentlemen. We want them to be like Madiba, but more important, we want them to pursue the task of building their own destiny, and crafting their own legacy. We must carefully reflect on this profound dream because it forms the basis of a new South Africa, a new Africa, and a new world that is within our grasp.

Nelson Mandela’s legacy lives on and the dream shall never die. Today we all join together in asking how shall we remember and honor Nelson “Madiba” Mandela. How shall we honor the very special place that he occupies in all our hearts and minds? How shall we remember this great freedom fighter and the causes that he championed for human rights, for the struggle of the Palestinian people, the struggle for the liberation of the last colonial outpost on the African continent, the western Sahara, the struggle for the Kashmir people, and the struggle for dignity and freedom for all here in South Africa and the whole world?

My grandfather has been honored and praised by presidents, statesmen and activists for being a champion of human rights and in international solidarity with the poor, downtrodden and oppressed. We honor and remember him as a freedom fighter, a revolutionary, an activist, a global icon, and a father of our nation. Madiba cared deeply about all of us and held deep friendship and associations with many whom he cared for deeply.

He cared about the welfare of all in the world, their well-being and their diverse religious, cultural and political views that makes up our South African rainbow nation, our African continent and our world. We honor his legacy best by building our own as one family within one African continent, speaking with one voice and united under God.

This brings me to a question that was posed in the last session about the diversity of religion and the different views and perspectives of religions. Perhaps I should close with the last words that my grandfather spoke before he was incarcerated, standing on the dock during the Rivonia Trial. He stood and uttered these words, “I have fought against white domination and I have fought against black domination.” And many that speak about his legacy tend to focus on the first, “I have fought against white domination,” and never look at the latter of the message, “I have fought against black domination.”

Madiba represented the rights of the minorities, as well as still representing the rights of the majority. To us within his family we are often drawn to how he was able to reach out to those we thought were the worst of people during that time. One classic example is this: When Madiba was released, one of the most profound things I was ever to witness is that he requested to have lunch with the judge who prosecuted him and sentenced him to life incarceration on Robben Island.

This was very moving to us as a family, that he could go to a man that robbed us of a father, robbed us of a grandfather, and robbed us of a husband, and reach out to him because he understood the path that lay ahead.

Living under the same roof with this extraordinary man and sitting side by side with him, every day was truly a valuable lesson and a truly beneficial experience to us as a family. I want to say to you today during this Africa summit: we may have differing religious beliefs, we may represent different ideals, but if there is one thing that is intertwined within us, it is the fact that we all seek peace within ourselves, peace in our marriages, peace in our families, peace in our communities, peace in our provinces, peace in our countries, peace in our regions and peace in the African continent, and peace in the world at large.

My grandfather, Nelson Mandela, was a champion for peace. He stood boldly and spoke out against the oppressors for oppressed nations, for oppressed individuals. Many today want to honor him in statues but turn their back on his ideals and beliefs. Not long ago we witnessed Madiba being honored at the United Nations. Heads of state rallied to be there to see an African son being honored by the United Nations. And yet, the very same institution fails to uphold its own resolutions that it has undertaken in Palestine, where Madiba stood proudly in 1995 in Gaza and declared that our freedom is incomplete as South Africans until the freedom of the Palestinians is realized.

The United Nations prides itself with having Madiba’s statue, and yet it fails to implement the resolutions it has made in recognition of Western Sahara and, as all Africans are working for, ensure that the last colony of Africa is truly declared free and is able to realize its self-determination.

I ask of you today to look within yourselves and do not idealize my grandfather while forgetting what he represented. I thank you.



To go to the 2018 Africa Summit Schedule page, click here.