On Sunday December 15, 2013, the iconic Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela was laid to rest in Qunu, the place that he called home.
He took his last breath on Thursday 5 December and the 10 days leading up to his return to the soil has been marked with a number of ceremonies. This included a memorial service which was attended by the people of South Africa and about 90 current and former heads of state from around the world.
There were moments throughout the 10 day period that were emotional with people being in a sometimes celebratory mood (celebrating the life that was), a mournful mood, comical such as the news of the sign language interpreter who’s interpreting didn’t mean a thing and a little political such as Zuma being booed and Mugabe being cheered by the crowds.
A few of the world leaders who attended the memorial and funeral services made speeches to bid farewell to Mandela. The speeches highlighted interactions that the speakers had with Madiba or aspects of his life that inspired them to be who they are today. A lot of the speeches included lessons and wisdom that leaders and nations at large can take on board and apply as they work towards a better tomorrow.
Below are extracts of some of the speeches made to honour Mandela:
Barack Obama (President of the United States):
The questions we face today – how to promote equality and justice; how to uphold freedom and human rights; how to end conflict and sectarian war – these things do not have easy answers. But there were no easy answers in front of that child born in World War I. Nelson Mandela reminds us that it always seems impossible until it is done. South Africa shows that is true. South Africa shows we can change, that we can choose a world defined not by our differences, but by our common hopes. We can choose a world defined not by conflict, but by peace and justice and opportunity.
And finally, Mandela understood the ties that bind the human spirit. There is a word in South Africa, Ubuntu, a word that captures Mandela’s greatest gift: his recognition that we are all bound together in ways that are invisible to the eye; that there is a oneness to humanity; that we achieve ourselves by sharing ourselves with others, and caring for those around us.
The full transcript of Barak Obama’s speech can be found here
Joyce Banda (President of Malawi & SADC Chief):
I learned that leadership is about falling in love with the people and the people falling in love with you. It is about serving the people with selflessness, with sacrifice and with the need to put the common good ahead of personal interests.
Tata Madiba taught us that even when the challenges of life seem insurmountable, with courage and determination, we can overcome the evils of our societies.
The ideals of political, social and economic emancipation that he stood for will inspire us forever as a Region.
This was one of the speeches that was both moving and inspirational hence the inclusion of the video below:
The full transcript of Joyce Banda’s speech can be found here
Ahmed Kathrada (close friend of Madiba, South African politician and former political prisoner and anti-apartheid activist)
Madala, your abundant reserves of love, simplicity, honesty, service, humility, care, courage, foresight, patience, tolerance, equality and justice, continually served as a source of enormous strength to many millions of people in South Africa and the world. You symbolize today, and always will, qualities of collective leadership, reconciliation, unity and forgiveness. You strove daily to build a united, non-racial, non-sexist and democratic South Africa.
In this spirit, so exemplified in your life, it is up to the present and next generations to take up the cudgels where you have left off. It is up to them, through service to deepen our democracy; entrench and defend our Constitution; eradicate poverty; eliminate inequality; fight corruption, and serve always with compassion, respect, integrity and tolerance. Above all, they must build our nation and break down the barriers that still divide us.
The full transcript of Ahmed Kathrada’s speech can be found here
Kenneth Kaunda (Former President of Zambia)
The former Zambian president was not scheduled to speak at the funeral but he took the opportunity to make his way to the podium and bid his friend farewell. The speech was a times a little controversial with his use of the word “boer” as got certain points across.
Who is Nelson Mandela, who is he, how do I see him?
This man is a blessed child of the Lord God Almighty, he followed the commandments that God Almighty our creator has given to the human race; love God your creator with all you heart, all you soul, all your mind, all your strength.
As to that one he has made his image like you, his commandment is love your neighbour as you love yourself, do unto others as you would have them do unto you.
Where there any other stand out moments from Mandela’s farewell that you felt included lessons that could help make this world a better place?
To learn more about Nelson Mandela and what made him the man that he was, get your hands on his autobiography, Long Walk To Freedom