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Speech by Hon. Mr E Makue (MP) During the Debate of the Centenary of Nelson Mandela and Albertina Sisulu

26 June 2018

Honourable Chairperson
Honourable Minister Mokonyane
Honourable members
Respected guests
Ladies and Gentlemen

It is truly an honour for me to be asked to pay tribute to iSithwalandwe/ Seaparankoe, our President Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela. This day, the 26th of June, is special as it was known for decades in the Congress movement as Freedom Day.

It was on this day in 1955 that delegates representing millions of our people gathered and resolved, as author Surendra Bhana writes:,

"To unite all democratic elements around a common programme and to consolidate the organisational forces of the liberatory movement". It was the culmination of years of planning and months of hard work, that led to the Congress of the People, which adopted the Freedom Charter.

The Charter remains our lodestar which captures a vision of the society to which millions of South Africans aspire; a society in which there is social and economic justice, which the Bill of Rights in our Constitution has entrenched in law. The ANC and government are progressively striving to make these ideals a reality.

Those who fought against colonialism and apartheid with Madiba described him as a majestic man in stature who towered above his contemporaries. Yet he was a gentle giant who loved humanity. In his tribute to our late former President, Kofi Annan, a global icon in his own right and one of the Elders, wrote:

"The world has lost a visionary leader, a courageous voice for justice, and a clear moral compass. By showing us that the path to freedom and human dignity lies in love, wisdom and compassion for one another, Nelson Mandela stands as an inspiration to us all."

Our movement, the African National Congress, and our people produced a statesman who was a moral compass to the world. He inspired us to fight against the scourge of racial, class and gender oppression.

President Mandela always reminded us never to forget our terrible past. However, he also cautioned us not to hold on to that memory as a means to keep us shackled to the past, but rather as a reminder of how far we have come and how much we have achieved.

His wise words resonate today as the world is witnessing the re-emergence of fortified and militarized borders. As people are retreating even in South Africa into backward tendencies of racial exceptionalism and chauvinism, we cannot be silent.

As we all know, Madiba was never shy to speak out on any issue, anywhere in the world. He would certainly speak out against the inhumane events we have witnessed at the border of the United States with Mexico where children of immigrants who are trying to enter that country are separated from their parents and locked up in cages.

He would condemn the almost daily massacres perpetrated by the Israeli defence forces against unarmed Palestinian civilians on the Gaza border. President Mandela hated injustice in this country and everywhere else in the world. He would not keep quiet about violence and abuse against women and children in our country, on our continent and the world.

It is thus a fitting honour that this house in which President Mandela made some of his most outstanding speeches should pay tribute to him in this manner. In one of these speeches, Madiba reminded us of the purpose for which we have been elected as representatives of the people:

"Central to the national consensus to which we aspire is the recognition that the standard by which government's policies and programmes are to be measured is the extent to which they help improve the lives of our people, especially the most vulnerable and poor sections of our society. And flowing from this is the imperative of sustained growth for reconstruction and development."

As a freedom fighter, President Mandela was always in the forefront of volunteers who dared to take on the most dangerous tasks. From the defiance campaign in 1952, we still have the image of a smiling young Nelson Mandela burning his pass book. He was among the first people who convinced the NEC of the ANC to adopt the armed struggle and he himself went abroad for military training.

Through his bravery, Madiba always sought to inspire the oppressed people. Who can forget the images of our hero when he strode magnificently as he entered an apartheid court in 1962 to begin a trial, wearing his traditional AbaThembu royal costume of leopard skin and beautiful beadwork?

He was one of the few people who eloquently denounced the apartheid judicial system on political and moral grounds. For Madiba, politics, justice and morality were inseparable. He said:

We must remember that in the 1960s there was not a single judicial officer of colour in the South African courts whereas the majority of the accused were black. Hence, Madiba said the famous words to the magistrate presiding in his trial:

We have made great strides to ensure that the demand in the Freedom Charter: "All shall be equal before the law!" is achieved. We ought to be proud that we now have a much more representative judiciary that reflects the demographics of our country.

We have begun a new chapter of accelerating land reform through the debate on "Expropriation without compensation". A week ago the ANC government published two bills that will have tremendous transformational impact on our society: the National Health Insurance and the Medical Schemes Amendment bills.

Addressing the land question and making quality health care accessible to all our people will surely hit the pockets of the profiteers who have made a fortune out of the misery visited on millions of our people as a result of the legacy of decades of segregation that President Mandela fought against.

We are proud that our country is ably led by one of the architects of the Constitution, President Cyril Ramaphosa, who worked closely with Madiba during the transition from apartheid. In this Years State of the Nation Address, he stated that

"In celebrating the centenary of Nelson Mandela we are not merely honouring the past, we are building the future."

The President has called on all South Africans to work towards a social compact to grow our economy, reduce poverty and inequality and create jobs. The ANC is ready to heed the call in honour of uTata and other struggle icons.

I thank you!

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