Political parties, Parliament and Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu have shared their special messages this Mandela Day, marking former president Nelson Mandela’s centenary birthday celebrations.
On Wednesday, Tutu said good leaders knew when and how to say sorry.
“Madiba had this quality in abundance. During the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, I once had an occasion to be quite annoyed with him, but I found his honest apology quite disarming,” he said in a video message.
Mandela’s most important quality was his ordinariness, Tutu continued.
“He was just a particularly fine example of humanity. The principles by which he lived his life are universal principles of love, fairness and respect for others.”
He also praised Mandela’s sense of humour.
“We did not agree on everything. His dress sense for example: I once told him he should wear a proper suit and tie on important State occasions, rather than those colourful shirts.
“His retort was typical of the man: It was ‘rich criticism’ coming from a man who appeared in public in a purple frock!” he laughed.
Tutu’s wife Leah said Mandela had given people a sense of pride and made them feel special. She praised the “extraordinary, ordinary man”.
‘Education needs to be improved’
Democratic Alliance leader Mmusi Maimane on Wednesday said the best way to honour Madiba’s legacy was to “save our children from a failed education system”.
“Today, across the country, we remember the life and sacrifice of our first democratic president and the father of our nation, Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela,” Maimane said in a statement.
“But if we are to truly honour his legacy, then we have to go beyond our symbolic 67 minutes of service on this day. We must fight, every day, for the values he stood for.”
Maimane said one thing that mattered to Madiba more than anything else was looking after children and preparing them for a better future through education.
“We all know Mandela’s well-known quote where he said, ‘education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world’. But if we are not prepared to arm our children with this weapon, we cannot claim to be upholding the Mandela legacy.”
Maimane hoped to see safer schools, better school-feeding programmes, scholar transport, and reduced classroom sizes, among other things.
‘Returning the land’
The Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF), meanwhile, said they were “delighted” that the Mandela Day centenary celebrations had coincided with the public hearings on amending the “property clause” in the Constitution.
Parliament’s provincial hearings on the emotive issue resumed in the North West and KwaZulu-Natal on Wednesday.
“The leadership of the EFF commemorates Mandela Day by listening to the people, many of whom are landless and still have no access to the means of production in this country. We are committed to doing everything to ensure our people get back the land.”
The EFF said it would hold up some of Mandela’s core values – freedom, service and dignity – by striving to achieve the economic emancipation of the people in their lifetime.
“The most urgent of all is to restore the dignity of our people by returning back the land. We call on all South Africans to mark this day by making their voice heard at the public hearings.”
Meanwhile, in Mvezo, former president Jacob Zuma and President Cyril Ramaphosa shared the limelight at a function hosted by the Royal House of Mandela.
Ramaphosa was due to address the event later on Wednesday, hosted by Mandela’s oldest grandson, Chief Mandla Mandela.
‘It’s in your hands now’
Parliament’s presiding officers acknowledged the centenary celebrations of both Madiba and struggle stalwart Albertina Sisulu.
“It was Ms Sisulu, who, on May 9, 1994, nominated Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela as democratic South Africa’s first President – at the inaugural sitting of the democratic Parliament.”
Parliament reaffirmed its determination to continue building an activist people’s Parliament, responsive to the needs of the people and driven by the ideal of a better life for all.
“Restoring dignity and redressing apartheid injustices are necessary for the healing of the wounds of a long and brutal past – to realise the freedom from want and discrimination, which our Constitution appeals we should work towards, for actual freedom.”
The presiding officers also acknowledged the public hearings on land currently taking place.
“The people are their own liberators and, through this process, they are making bold submissions to the legislature regarding how restitution of property… can be achieved.
“They are speaking out regarding how land reform and social justice can be speeded up, so that we truly heal the wounds of the past and build the national cohesion to free up factors inhibiting our common desire for economic growth and prosperity.”
They called on the younger generation, in particular, to rally behind achieving a common goal of building a better South Africa.
“As Madiba once remarked: ‘It’s in your hands now’.”
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