Madiba leaves his stamp on the world

Centenary celebrations of Mandela's birth

Nelson Mandela has left his stamp on the world.

This message, delivered at his centenary celebrations, rang out from the hills of Madiba’s hometown and the Wanderers Stadium, in Johannesburg, delivered by luminaries former US President Barack Obama and renowned Kenyan intellect, legal expert and scholar Professor Patrick Lumumba.

Obama’s message, ringing out to a VIP-studded crowd of 15000, was that the humanity of Mandela stood in sheer contrast to the evils and tyranny that seemed to grip the world.

He said: “An entire generation has grown up in a world that got steadily freer‚ wealthier‚ less violent and more tolerant during the course of their lives.

“It should make us hopeful‚ but if we can’t deny the real strides our world has made since that moment when Madiba took steps out of confinement‚ we have to recognise ways in which the international order has fallen short of its promises.”

In Mthatha, festivities were under way at a packed Walter Sisulu University auditorium which began with Zahara singing Rev Tiyo Soga’s Lizalise before Lumumba’s Nelson Mandela Memorial Lecture in the afternoon.

Lumumba said corruption was a crime against humanity but warned the fight would not be easy. He urged the nation to support President Cyril Ramaphosa’s fight against corruption and praised him for letting his predecessor, Jacob Zuma, follow the route of justice and answer to corruption charges.

“When you see a former head of state [Zuma] being arraigned before a court of law, I believe your government is moving in the right direction,” he said before his lecture last night.

Obama told the world there had been a reversal of the gains of freedom and democracy that swept the globe at the time Mandela was freed from prison and the Berlin Wall came crashing down.

He said the democratic and economic gains achieved in the years that followed Mandela release from prison in 1990 were slowly being erased by authoritarian regimes that did not respect human rights, and by global corporates that put profits before people.

“Because of the failure of governments‚ [and] powerful elites‚ we now see much of the world return to an older‚ more dangerous‚ more brutal way.

“Countries that rely on nationalism‚ xenophobia and racial superiority – those countries find themselves consumed by civil war or external war. Technology cannot be put back in a bottle. We are stuck with the fact that we live closer together and populations are moving‚” he said. “The only way to address climate change‚ mass migration and pandemic disease is to develop more international cooperation‚ not less.”

Obama shared the stage with Ramaphosa‚ who introduced him as the keynote speaker. With him were Mandela’s widow Graça Machel‚ businessman Patrice Motsepe and Nelson Mandela Foundation trustee Njabulo Ndebele.

Lumumba said although the jury was still out on whether South Africa would root out corruption, he believed it was heading in the right direction.

“I can see trends that suggest action is being taken,” he said, adding this sent a message that if you serve people and do things that are untoward, “no matter what position you serve in, you are no higher than the law”. “I want to congratulate the government.”

Renowned Kenyan intellect, legal expert and scholar Professor Patrick Lumumba
Renowned Kenyan intellect, legal expert and scholar Professor Patrick Lumumba
Image: Sino Majangaza

Because of this, South Africa now stood out in the world.

“This is a continent where impunity thrives,” he added.

Lumumba warned the fight against corruption was not merely about bringing people to court but about changing the whole ethos of those who serve in government.

He warned citizens there would be no “instant coffee results” as the fight against corruption would be difficult, messy and bloody because some of those he termed “children of the dark” were organised and would put up a fight.

Turning his attention to Mandela, he described him as a “moral true north” in the political arena not only for South Africa but the world.

He said Madiba stood out because at a critical time in history he had taken an approach that had saved the country from civil war.

He had also decided to leave office at the right time and not hang onto power. Many African countries were suffering because of leaders who refused to leave the stage.

He said Mandela had shown that the life of a nation required the combined activity of all.

“I think its our collective duty to sacrifice ourselves for our greater good because what we do now is also for the benefit of future generations.”

On his release from prison, Mandela had taken the decision let go of the hurt. He refuted suggestions that Mandela had “sold out” during negotiations with the apartheid regime, saying certain decisions were made with tactical aims in mind.

Lumumba said it had taken centuries for land to be taken from Africans and the process to reverse it could not take five or 10 years.

It should be done in a way that that did not disrupt the nation and did not plunge it into civil war.