Baku Speech on February 2018


Nelson Mandela 2018NM100 LOGO with picture


Ambassador of the Republic of South Africa to the Republic of Turkey and Non-Resident Ambassador to the Republic of Azerbaijan

Address to the ADA University, Baku, Azerbaijan on 27th February 2018

Honourable Rector

Honourable Members of the University

Colleagues and Students

Thank you very much for giving me the opportunity to address you today.

It is not often I get the opportunity to speak about all my favourite things at the same time – economics, diplomacy and Nelson Mandela.

This year 2018, South Africa and indeed the world celebrate the centenary of the struggle icon, Nelson Mandela under the theme ‘Be the Legacy’.

The United Nations officially declared July 18 as an annual international day in honour of Nelson Mandela in November 2009 with the first UN Mandela Day held on 18 July 2010 and each year on July 18 since then. South Africa also has its longstanding July 18 celebrations in which people are urged to give 67 minutes of their time to a good cause. This year marks the centenary year of this world icon.

In this centenary year South Africa will pay tribute to one of Africa’s greatest sons and remember Nelson Mandela as the struggle stalwart, freedom fighter and first democratic president of South Africa.

In celebrating the centenary of Nelson Mandela’s life South Africa will remember his unwavering commitment to justice, equality and a non-racial South Africa and a just world. All South Africans have a responsibility to promote freedom and defend our democracy in honour of Madiba’s life-long commitment to these ideals, and the world has also moral duty to emulate his legacy.

More than just a president, Nelson Mandela was also a consummate diplomat, leading by example not only to South Africans, but to the world.

What does it mean to be a diplomat? It is representing one’s country to your best ability - an honour and a privilege which should be cherished. It entails not only representing the president and country, but also promoting building relations with other countries to the mutual benefit of both.

In the age of globalisation and 4th Industrial Revolution, no country can exist without relations with other countries. Representing your country is multi-dimensional. It goes beyond political relations and extends to all spheres of life including economics and trade, civil society and people to people relations. The process of globalisation has had a major impact and has incalculable implications for all cultures.

In fulfilling our mandate as diplomats, we are required to implement the decisions i.e. strategies and policies of your government. In this context, it gives impetus to the notion that foreign policy is an extension of domestic policy. South Africa’s foreign policy is conducted against the backdrop of a dynamic domestic, regional and global political and economic environment.

Nelson Mandela was someone who united people across all spheres of life, regardless of whether it is politics, economics, culture, sport or music. He reminds us of our humanity, that despite anything that can be done to us, we should always retain hope and strive to be a better person as an example to others. He asserts his belief in the following words, “no one is born hating another person because of the colour of his skin, or background, or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite”.

Through the example set by Nelson Mandela, South Africa took its place on the world stage. Today South Africa is a member of not only the United Nations family but also of the global economic institutions. These include the World Bank, the IMF, the G20, IBSA and BRICS amongst others. South Africa also makes its contributions in other areas, including those which affect people and animals across the world viz human rights, climate change, trade negotiations, international crime combating and the protection of animals through membership to cites, among many others.

South Africa has become a preferred destination for hosting the world in different events and activities including events such as the FIFA World Cup, Rugby World Cup, and many others. These events are not just events by themselves, but also have a spill-over effect into economic, cultural, social and tourism benefits.

To celebrate Nelson Mandela’s Centenary, South Africa has planned a year of celebration and commemoration of the life of a man many people in the world remember as one who sacrificed 27 years of his life and went from being a prisoner to a president of a country which had laboured under racism, discrimination, death and adversity since the time of colonialism.

Who was Nelson Mandela?

Rolihlahla Nelson Mandela was born in Mvezo, a village near Mthatha in the Transkei, on 18 July 1918. His father was the key counsellor/adviser to the Thembu royal house. His Xhosa name Rolihlahla literally means "pulling the branch of a tree".

After his father's death in 1927, the young Rolihlahla became the ward of Chief Jongintaba Dalindyebo, the acting regent of the Thembu nation. It was at the Thembu royal homestead that his personality, values and political views were shaped. Hearing the elders' stories of his ancestors' valour during the wars of resistance to colonialism and his dream of making his own contribution to the freedom of his people shaped his political outlook and character.

Nelson Mandela became South Africa’s first democratically elected president in 1994 after 27 years in prison. He was convicted for sabotage by the apartheid government on 12 June 1964 and handed a life sentence on Robben Island. The Rivonia Trial, as it came to be known, lasted eight months where he made his first profound statement that he felt like a black man in a white man’s court.

He went on to say, “in a political trial such as this one, which involves a clash of the aspirations of the African people and those of whites, the country’s courts, as presently constituted, cannot be impartial and fair…in such cases whites are interested parties…it is improper and against the elementary principles of justice to entrust whites with cases involving the denial by them of basic human rights to the African people”.

He continued to outline what drove him to fight for freedom as follows; “in their relationship with us, South African whites regard it as fair and just to pursue policies which have outraged the conscience of mankind and of honest and upright men throughout the civilised world. All the good things of life are reserved for the white folk and we blacks are expected to be content to nourish our bodies with such pieces of food as drop from the tables of men with white skins…whatever he himself may say in his defence, the white man’s moral standard in this country must be judged by the extent to which he has condemned the vast majority of its inhabitants to serfdom and inferiority”.

Mandela’s statement in court during the trial is a classic in the history of the resistance to apartheid, and has been an inspiration to all who have opposed it. He ended with these words: "I have fought against white domination, and I have fought against black domination. I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is an ideal which I hope to live for and to achieve. But if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die."

Nelson Mandela was released from prison on 11 February 1990 and is the most honoured political prisoner in history.

Nelson Mandela was a symbol of resistance in our fight for freedom

Nelson Mandela was a central figure in the struggle for liberation from the unjust apartheid system. Mandela’s struggle for liberation saw him spend 27 years in prison from 1964 to 1991. During his years in prison, his reputation grew steadily and he was widely accepted as one of the most significant black leaders in South Africa.

Inside our country, even those who are still opposed and fundamentally against the ANC which is the party he led, and who fought tooth and nail to keep South Africa a racist white pariah state, have not shied away from claiming his as their own. Today we honour Mandela in all capacities. We honour the revolutionary, the first Umkhonto We Sizwe Commander in Chief, the volunteer in Chief of the ANC who crafted the m-plan that was the strategy by the ANC to mobilise the masses and counter the repressive tactics of the apartheid government. He was also instrumental in the drafting of the freedom charter which outlined the vision for South Africa through the congress of the people in 1955.

On 21st March 1960 South Africa experienced the most gruesome attacks by the security forces of the apartheid regime where 69 people were massacred in Boipatong Sharpeville and this led to local and international outcry. In 1961 the ANC responded by adopting the armed struggle and creating a liberation army called Umkhonto We Sizwe (the spear of the nation). Mandela was the first commander-in-chief of Umkhonto We Sizwe. He left the country illegally and visited Ethiopia and Algeria and the latter is where he received his military training.

Mandela acknowledges during his trial that the decision to form MK was not an easy one and this is what he presented in court, “at the beginning of June 1961, after a long and anxious assessment of the South African situation, I and some colleagues, came to a conclusion that as violence in this country was inevitable, it would be unrealistic and wrong for Africa leaders to continue preaching peace and non-violence at a time when the government met our peaceful demands with force. This conclusion was not easily arrived at. It was only when all else had failed, when all channels of peaceful protest had been barred to us, that that the decision was made to embark on violent forms f political struggle and to form Umkhonto We Sizwe. We did so not because we desired such a course but solely because government had left us with no choice’.

The rules were clearly defined. It was to sabotage strategic outposts to scare away foreign capital and weaken the economy to force the government to talks.

In launching itself, MK issued its historic manifesto, with these timeline words; “the time comes in the life of any nation when there remain only two choices: submit or fight. That time has now come to South Africa. We shall not submit and we have no choice but to hit back by all means within our power in defence of our people, our future and our freedom”.

It was on 16th December 1961 when MK launched its first bombing campaign against government targets as the commander-in-chief skilfully coordinated sabotage campaigns. He also raised funds abroad for MK and arranged for training of combatants.

On 05th August 1962 Mandela was arrested in Pietermaritzburg after living on the run for seventeen months. He was charged for organising the general strike in 1961 and leaving the country illegally.

Mandela consistently refused to compromise his political position to obtain his freedom and rejected at least three conditional offers of release. The former president’s steadfast resolve in the face of adversity led him to become a strong symbol of resistance as the anti-apartheid movement gathered strength.  Life was no bed of roses for Mandela given he had to endure the harsh realities of prison where prisoners were segregated by race, with black prisoners receiving the fewest rations of food. Political prisoners were kept separate from ordinary criminals and received fewer privileges. Mandela performed hard labour breaking rocks in a lime quarry with other prisoners. He was allowed one visitor and one letter every six months. Letters when they came were often delayed for long periods and made unreadable by the prison authorities.

Prison was also emotionally draining especially with regards to family issues. Mandela’s mother passed away and he was refused permission to attend the funeral. Three months later after the death of his mother, his eldest son, Tembi was killed in a car accident. Again he was denied the right to attend the funeral of his son.

Mandela also had to contend with the fact that his wife during that time Mrs. Winnie Mandela was also imprisoned and that his two youngest children Zenani and Zindzi were in the care of relatives and friends. He agonized for his children and family.

He has received prestigious international awards, including the freedom of many cities and honorary degrees from several universities.

Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela became known and respected all over the world as a symbol of the struggle against apartheid and all forms of racism; the icon and the hero of African liberation.

Mandela or Madiba, as he was affectionately known, has been called a freedom fighter, a great man, South Africa’s favourite son, a global icon and a living legend, among countless other names. He has been an activist, a political prisoner; South Africa’s first democratically elected President, an international peacemaker and statesman, and a Nobel peace prize winner.

Nelson Mandela was the architect of our nation and peaceful transition

President Nelson Mandela’s triumphant release from prison is at the centre of our inspiring story of building a united and prosperous nation. He had overseen our peaceful transition from apartheid to a society built on the pillars of democracy, freedom, justice and equality.

Nelson Mandela consistently remained an advocate of national unity and reconciliation. On 10 May 1994 Nelson Mandela was inaugurated as the country’s first democratically elected president and oversaw the government of national unity and championed the course of reconciliation.

In 1996, he signed into law a new constitution for the nation, establishing a strong government based on majority rule, and guaranteeing the rights of minorities and human rights.

In a life that symbolises the triumph of the human spirit, Nelson Mandela continued campaigning globally for peace, children and the fight against disease and hunger in particular.

In his unrelenting commitment to make the world a better place, Mandela formed the prestigious group of elders, an independent group of eminent global leaders, who offered their collective influence and experience to support peace-building, help address major causes of human suffering and promote the shared interest of humanity and peace.

The legacy of former President Mandela lives on

Nelson Mandela had left an indelible mark on our society having laid the foundation for a united, non-racial, non-sexist, democratic and prosperous society. Madiba’s legacy lives on in our commitment to ensure a just and fair society for all, including the rights to dignity and freedom of expression.

South Africa will continue to address the difficult issues which face us by engaging in dialogue, mindful that any solution must be to the benefit of all.  To celebrate Madiba’s life, South Africa and the world need to stay true to his ideals, including his unwavering commitment to justice, equality and a non-racial South Africa and a just world.

Madiba inspires us to be the change we want to see

In marking the 100 year anniversary of Madiba’s life, South Africa has an opportunity to reflect on the values he had left with us. Through his values and dedication to the service of humanity we remain inspired to become a united and prosperous nation. We have an opportunity to reflect on how we can continue his legacy and work together to move the country forward.

Mandela inspires us to become an instrument of change and support the less fortunate within our communities. He drew inspiration from the words of Mahatma Gandhi when he said, `Be the change you want to see in the world`.

Mandela’s vision is being realised through our constitution and the national development plan

Today our constitution lays the basis for a democratic, non-racial, non-sexist, united and prosperous society based on justice, equality, the rule of law and human rights for all.  We are pursuing the dreams and aspirations of Nelson Mandela as we continue to respect basic human rights; and remain committed to the rule of law and the constitution.

Our National Development Plan (NDP) commits us to the country we envisioned at the start of democracy where all South Africans are part of our development. Through working together to implement the NDP we can do more to overcome the challenges of unemployment, poverty and inequality.

What are the lessons we should learn from Nelson Mandela?

Sadly today the world is seeing continued conflict, humanitarian crises due to both conflicts and economic hardships, increased militarism and the deaths and flight of millions of people. All of this goes against the commitment Mandela made and sacrificed a third of his life for: the commitment to peace and to making the world a better place.

As the peoples of the world, we have simply not done enough to take forward the commitment to peace, to holding our elected heads of state and government to account for their actions and shortcomings.

We have not demanded that they live up to the oaths they took when they took office to make our lives and the world a better place. As the peoples of the world, we have not upheld the ideals of simple humanity – to put in place governments of the people, by the people for the people.

But all is not lost.

It is never too late to address the wrongs of the past. Nelson Mandela was the first to acknowledge that he was just a man, one who was not perfect and made mistakes like everyone else.

Nelson Mandela viewed life through a prism of hope as he negotiated the trials and tribulations of his life to ultimately become a colossus of our day. His life story is a classic example of the triumph of the human spirit.

Perhaps the greatest lesson we can learn from him is that there is always hope and we should never let go of that; that we should stand firm on our principles no matter the incentives we are given to break from them; that we should remember the ones who sacrificed and surrendered their lives in the fight for freedom and that we can be successful if we never give up.

Nelson Mandela reminds us that we should never forget that ordinary men and women can, and do, achieve extraordinary things with their lives. He remained a disciplined and loyal member of the ANC through thick and thin. He has also remained true to the people’s revolution inside and outside South Africa.

We should regard ourselves as being fortunate and privileged to have lived during the times of this inspirational doyen of the world, whose wisdom and vision remain relevant even today as nations tear each other apart. He dedicated his entire life to serving the people of his country and building a future for current and future generations, aspiring to make the world a better place for all. Therefore let us live to be “the legacy” future generations can be proud of instead of being cursed for failure to raise a finger when women and children live under inhumane conditions and are subjects of continued violence and killings that destroy their livelihood.

Let us be that change we want to see in the world.

Thank you!


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