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Speech by the Chairperson of the National Council of Provinces (NCOP): Hon. Thandi Modise (MP), During the debate on the centenary of Nelson Mandela and Albertina Sisulu

26 JUNE 2018

House Chairperson;
Honourable Members;
Ladies and gentlemen

It is befitting that we gather today to pay respect and reflect on the lives of South African`s two giants: Nelson Mandela and Albertina Sisulu.

It is important to reflect on who and what they stand for. They may be gone but their sacrifice and contributions are engraved in townships and villages of our country.

They were freedom fighters leading the oppressed from all sides. They were Africans leading all cultures and languages, they were non-racial leading the apartheid defying progressive forces - the tripartite alliance and FEDSAW among others, eventually leading us all towards non sexism and non-racialism.

They were community workers: a lawyer and a nurse who performed community services outside their professions. They were parents to number of children but nurtured and trained millions.

Nelson Mandela and Albertina Sisulu remain our points of reference because of their personal values - honesty, frankness, dependable, consistent, patient, humble and diligent.

They stood for liberties and rights; they stood for correction and advancement of others - not their own. They were both hard task-masters - they would not be relent or let you be if you were the task. They were rough on behalf of the people on matters of the advancement of the majority as well as the minority. They focused on the majority but did not leave the individual out of the loop.

They taught patience, to try to understand and interpret the needs of our people, to lead by consensus but never to be afraid to stand up alone against the tide if we believe it was right.

This they demonstrated when the negotiations broke and some of us wanted to go back to the bush: Madiba stood up and reminded us that we had all volunteered for the betterment of all others, not just overselves.

We have endured the indignity of apartheid. We must understand more deeply the pain of segregation on any other matter - economic, social, etc. we must stand up for the social inclusion of South Africans who are not necessarily hetero-sexual; we must fight the exclusion of the basis of disability or culture.

Our education system must enable us to find one another and help equalise the future.

We must respect the rule of law, our governance systems; so that the thieves amongst us find no peace. We must clean government so that the resources go to those who most need them: the poor.

Madiba and MaSisulu taught us respect: personal grooming, punctuality, the turn of the phrase. Young people must lead but also be able to be led. It is not the loudness of your tone that carries the message, it is the choice of words, the conviction of your delivery and the honesty of your action that eventually gets your message accepted.

Nelson Mandela spoke to the communal issues-respect, dignity, the price of bread and milk. He cared about cleanliness and accessibility of services. He loved education and encouraged all of us to learn. His focus on people earned him respect and love. It is a pity that after his passing on, his project of building us into a nation, united in our diversity, has not been pushed with the necessary energy. A nation, in our understanding is a unity of the different and unequal aspirations, it is a rejection on the separation of the past. It is the promise of shared tomorrow, assured only because we are standing side by side today.

In the state of the nation address President Ramophosa urged us to honour both MaSisulu and Madiba, "not only in words, but, more importantly, indirect action towards the achievements of their share vision of a better society".

So Honourable Members if you hold my hand, to remember these giants, our feet must start the march to a country that disagrees but does not hate itself; a people who love and share but do not beat and kill each other, a country that works together to build its economy must stand together against theft, corruption and all crime. Let us fear God and respect his law: "love they neighbour as you love yourself".

If we love our neighbours as we love ourselves, we would be Christians we are told. If we believe this why is it difficult to share this country? Why is it difficult to find one another when our acceptance of future survival depends on building an economy to heal the past divide. When African townships and villages were connected to the Eskom grid, the capacity was not upgraded to now carry the additional millions. This meant that the majority of our people were indeed connected but only to light up a few bulbs and to run the kettle and a stove now and then.

Men and women who follow on MaSisulu`s and Madiba`s footsteps must use the occasion to find solutions to deal with inequality and distrust. It is not about the us; it is about our grandchildren. We can start working for the dividends of peace today.

We can build a nation that disagrees without hate; that exercises all freedoms without making others feel inferior. If we do this, then we will say we are the protectors of the Constitution and protectors of our people. Then, and only then, will we truly honour Albertina Nontsikelelo Sisulu and Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela.

Thank you!

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