WATCH | Cyril, Zuma unite to defend Madiba on ‘sellout’ claim
President Cyril Ramaphosa speaking during the Nelson Mandela centenary celebrations in Mvezo, outside Mthatha.
President Cyril Ramaphosa and his predecessor Jacob Zuma used yesterday’s Nelson Mandela centenary celebrations to tell the rest of the world that the iconic statesman never sold anyone or anything out.
Instead, they argued that he paved the way for the South Africa we now live in by bringing in political freedom.
“He never had it in him to sell anything,” said Ramaphosa. “What he created was a platform to continue with the struggle. He enabled the future.”
Zuma said Madiba fought for the country, made sacrifices and was the longest-serving political prisoner.
“What people are doing is [taking a failure] to take South Africa forward. Now they blame it on the man who brought political freedom. If we failed to use it to bring economic freedom and security, let us not blame Madiba. Let us blame ourselves,” he said.
Among those who attended Mandela’s lavish centenary celebrations at his Mvezo birth village near Mthatha were former Kenyan prime minister Raila Odinga, former South African president Kgalema Motlanthe and former Malian president Moussa Traoré.
Ramaphosa said Mandela belonged to a remarkable generation that rose against injustice and played a pivotal role in establishing the ANC Youth League, which strengthened the ANC. He said Madiba never saw himself as the wisest man in the the country and was always open to sound advice.
The late icon’s greatest attribute was his ability to reach out and unite poor people, he added, but warned that Madiba would have been concerned by the re-emergence of racism in South Africa and the continent.
“There is no place for racism, there is no place for tribalism in this country. There is no place for ethnic chauvinism in this place of Nelson Mandela.”
Ramaphosa said Madiba would want those at yesterday’s event to root out sexism to enable women to play their role in society. “His whole life was driven by principle. Not slogans or words.”
Another former South African president, FW De Klerk, who could not make it to Mvezo but sent a video message, described Mandela as a worthy political foe who would later become a friend. “He was a formidable opponent who had a wonderful sense of grasping the moment.”
The last apartheid government president said the late global icon was a man of integrity who was much more than a great politician, and his dedication to transformation was an example to everyone.
Mandela’s eldest grandson and chief of Mvezo, Mandla, said Madiba would be pleased that people had gathered to celebrate not only him but another ANC stalwart in Albertina Sisulu, who would have also turned 100 in October.