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December 2019
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Speeches

Z. Mandela: Address to Africa Summit: Session 9

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

 

Dr. Walsh, international president of Universal Peace Federation, Kathy Rigney, Africa president for UPF, as well as the founding figure for UPF, Mother Moon, and the entire UPF leadership, this for us as the Royal House of Mandela has been an outstanding and really a humbling experience to see people across the landscape of our continent and from the international community gathering to honor the life and legacy of my grandfather.

Many of you will journey back home to your countries without having had a chance to really walk in the footsteps of Madiba. I often tell a story of how I met the father of our nation and this African statesman and our global icon. It was in this very city, the mother city, Cape Town, when I was a nine-year-old boy. I would hear a lot of people shouting in Soweto, particularly young people, Amaja, and I would think that I was a very popular kid because they were shouting my name.

But what was more profound than that was that in this very same crowd they would then say, “Viva, Mandela, viva!” Then I would be forced to take a step back. My name, my surname, called in one count! I must be a very popular person. Like any ordinary kid, I would run home to tell this to my father. And you can imagine like yourselves having a chuckle, my father would laugh.

One day he arranged for me to meet the man behind the name. I was brought to these shores and received by Dala Oma and his lovely wife. They took me to Pollsmoor Prison, which was the second prison Madiba went to serve his incarceration. He had been on Robbin Island for 18 years and was then transferred to Pollsmoor Prison.

I arrived as a young boy at that prison, seeing the size of the building and the bars on each and every window, and door spelled out that we were in a prison.  A series of questions ran in my head as to what we were doing in a prison. I became very reserved and very aware of the space I was in. 

While we were waiting in the waiting room, we heard the voice of a man who appeared to be very inquisitive and probing into people's lives. “How are you? It's been a while since I've seen you. How's the family? What happened to that legal matter I was assisting you in?” This voice came closer and closer to the door, and a giant leaped into the room. It was very emotional. After a while the man turned around and said, “You must be my grandson.”

The utterance of those words had me reserved and taken aback. Did I hear correctly? Did this man just call me his grandson? I became very angry and bitter because for a nine-year-old, a prison is for people who have done wrong in society. I thought to myself, this man has shamed our family. So sitting in a room for 45 minutes with someone that I regarded as someone who had shamed our family became a most difficult chapter in my life.

I went back home. My father realized that the journey didn't serve its purpose because I was supposed to discover the real Mandela. But being an elder in our family, my grandfather he saw instantly what was happening in those 45 minutes. He said in a letter to his comrade, Helen Joseph, “Dear Helen, I just had a visit from my grandson, who is the heir of the family. I'm rather concerned his English was backward. Please assist in developing him.”

So Helen Joseph invited me to her house, handed me this letter, and said, “What do you make of this letter?” Ashamed, I said, “My grandfather thinks my English is backward.” She said, “Let me tell you what this letter says. You went to visit your grandfather, having no knowledge of who he is and the ideals and the policies that he stood for and represented. He has asked me as his comrade and friend to educate you about the man that he is.”

The irony and the power in that letter! Here was a man incarcerated for life on Robbin Island by what appeared to be the white minority of South Africa. But in this letter he was reaching out to a white woman to educate his own blood. I've forever been grateful to Helen Joseph for that, and the many friends and comrades of my grandfather who made me realize who Nelson Mandela was, not only to us as a family but to the entire African continent and the global community.

It is not generally known that before he was sentenced to life imprisonment, my grandfather traveled to over 16 countries on the African continent and was able to mobilize our struggle for liberation. Stories are told of his trips in Tanzania, his trip to Ethiopia, his trip to Egypt to study its military advancement, seeking to understand what kind of military strategy we could adopt for our struggle for liberation. It was the Egyptians who pointed him to Algeria.

In Algeria he was given military training. He visited Mali, Senegal, and a number of other African countries before ending his journey in London. That created a foundation for our struggle for liberation, to exist beyond the borders of South Africa. Today we stand here as a democratically free South Africa, not because of our own intellect or our own strength but because of the support that we received from the African continent.

I am particularly proud to see that also we have visitors from the international community. As I have said, my grandfather ended his trip in London. My mother was one of the people that left South Africa and relocated to London, where she was received by Oliver Reginald Tambo and his lovely wife, Adelaide.

While I was with my mother in London, I witnessed ordinary citizens in Britain standing against their own government that was led by the “iron lady,” Margaret Thatcher. She, together with the current prime minister, Teresa May, wanted my grandfather's head, calling for my grandfather to hang. Yet the ordinary citizens in Britain rushed into the streets in protest and convened in Trafalgar Square, standing in front of South Africa House, calling for the release of Mandela and for an end of apartheid.

You saw this throughout Europe, throughout the West, in America. The international community rallied behind us. So we are very proud today to see that Africa is not standing alone in this Africa Summit. It has been supported by the international community, all the way from Bolivia and Brazil in Latin America to Japan and Korea in Asia. We want to truly thank you for having enabled us to gather in this manner.

I also want to take an opportunity to say that in the engagement over the days that we have had, I wanted to sit back and take a moment to learn from every speaker and from every contribution. As one speaker after another spoke, there was a clear indication that there needs to be integration.

In our own engagement as traditional leaders, what do we mean by integration? In the South African National House of Traditional Leaders there is a clear structure that connects us as traditional leaders. I'm a chief within a region.

Then we have a provincial structure such that at the regional level we are able to nominate traditional leaders to the Provincial House of Traditional Leaders. At the Provincial House of Traditional Leaders, we nominate traditional leaders to the National House of Traditional Leaders

We then sought to achieve a possibility of looking further beyond our borders. Africa was once a borderless continent; therefore, we regard ourselves as traditional leaders without borders, and we want to crisscross the landscape of our continent and ensure there is integration in the work that we do. 

So we want to subscribe to the African Union region that has been outlined, being the northern and southern region, eastern and western region and the central region. That will enable us to create structures at the regional level for traditional leaders, parliamentarians and religious leaders—and also to ensure that we create a continental structure for traditional leaders. You were able to witness the attendance of the president of the Pan-African Parliament, the Hon. Roger Dang, who had to leave us.

We are therefore saying to UPF and to Dr. Moon in particular, we want to establish a continental structure for traditional leaders that could be recognized by the African Union to serve as an advisory board to it. Through the engagement we have seen from the religious leaders, this dialogue doesn't need to be confined only to Cape Town. We want to see it being taken to our region and to the continental level. I think the vehicle that Dr. Moon has afforded us through the Universal Peace Federation will enable us to realize our destiny.

We were able to start this summit in Dakar, Senegal, and we convened a second one this very same year when we celebrate the Nelson Mandela centennial year in South Africa. This says to us that we have already been to two regions on the African continent, West Africa and southern Africa. We would like to call for an Africa Summit to be held next year in the three other regions that we haven't been to—central Africa, eastern Africa and northern Africa. In doing so, we will be ensuring that we are aligning ourselves to what the African Union has endorsed: a rotational system that ensures that all regions are able to be participants but also that all countries within that region are able to be participants.

We traditional leaders in South Africa have something to be proud of. We have produced traditional leaders who have gone on to be recognized at the global level. The first such to come out in the ranks of this country was none other than Chief Albert Lutuli, who became a president of the African National Congress ruling party and also was the first black African to win the Nobel Prize.

The second traditional leader that we have produced is often regarded as a politician and a statesman who therefore has a global icon status. But it is often forgotten that my grandfather was born a chief in the Royal House of Mandela. His father was a chief, and his grandfather was a prince by birth. Therefore, the first president of a democratically free South Africa was a traditional leader.

As the Royal House of Mandela, we want to extend an invitation first and foremost to all traditional leaders gathered here. Dr. Moon has made a commitment to erect a statue of Madiba to his birthplace, in honor of his contribution to the global community. That statue is underway. As soon as it is completed, it will be taken to Madiba's birthplace. We want to request humbly from the Universal Peace Federation that you designate a date in the new year when we can unveil the statute with all the representatives across South Africa, across the region, and across the African continent.

We know too well as the Mandela family that Madiba was born in our home, in our family, but he belongs to South Africa, to Africa, and to the world.  We therefore thank you for joining hands with us in preserving his legacy. We believe that from his life and from his experiences we can all draw lessons that we can hand over to the next generation to continue preserving the ideals and the policies that he subscribed to.

Most importantly, let me conclude by quoting from a chapter that concludes Madiba's book Long Walk to Freedom. He says, “I am sitting on top of a hill, enjoying the vista around me. When I look back, I see the many rivers that I have had to cross and the many mountaintops that I have had to overcome. But I awake to the realization that ahead lie so many rivers and so many mountaintops.” 

Madiba may no longer be with us today, but his spirit lives on. Let us pick up the baton where he left off and charge forward. 

I want to thank Dr. Moon for truly looking at someone who is a reflection and a true custodian of peace. We recommended as the Royal House of Mandela that the picture that should be utilized in this summit is a picture of Madiba in his traditional regalia, holding a pigeon, because Madiba was a man of peace. He was a champion for peace and lived his life standing for peace. 

And we want to continue to challenge ourselves, even if we may differ in our views. This is what Madiba instilled and ignited in us; in our differences, we find one another. I call on you not to focus on differences but on where we can reach one another. 

I've told many people that I have a lot of passionate issues that I speak openly about. On my wrist I wear two bands. I was given one by a 14-year-old Palestinian girl in the streets of Amman, Jordan. She was born in exile, away from her homeland. She's the third-generation Palestinian refugee. The only people in her family who remember her home are her grandparents. Her parents were born in exile. I proudly speak about the cause of the Palestinian people because my grandfather regarded the Palestinian struggle to be the main moral issue of our time, and yet the world remains silent. 

The second band I wear on my arm was given to me when I visited the Sahrawli refugee camps in the desert of Western Sahara. To find people confined in that space, living under true oppression was devastating. President Ghali gave me this band and inscribed my name on it, to continue to fly the flag of the Sahrawli Republic.

As you leave today, ask yourself what you stand for. We cannot be blind to oppression; we cannot be blind to innocent women and children being abused and killed; we cannot be blind to human rights violations.

I think then we will be forced to look at who Madiba was and continue to charge forward.  In that regard, I thank the Universal Peace Federation, and in particular Dr. Moon for having given us this opportunity to meet in South Africa, in the mother city, to honor the life and legacy of Madiba. May you all travel well back to your place of origin. We look forward to your having a successful festive season, and we shall meet in the new year, insh'Allah.

 

 


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