On 2 May 1993 the Founding Father of our democratic South Africa Ntate Nelson Mandela bade an emotional farewell to his comrade and lifelong friend, the magnanimous Ntate Oliver Reginald Tambo, affectionately known as OR. Eulogising his old pal, our beloved Madiba began thus: ‘A great giant who strode the globe like a colossus has fallen. A mind whose thoughts have opened the doors to our liberty has ceased to function. A heart whose dreams gave hope to the despised has for ever lost its beat. The gentle voice whose measured words of reason shook the thrones of tyrants has been silenced. Peoples of the world!’
Exactly a decade later the nation would mourn another of their greatest sons, and our own Madiba would lose yet another friend and comrade. Ntate Walter Sisulu had given in to mortality. In the words of one who is beginning to feel alone, our bereaved Rolihlahla echoed his pain thus: ‘Those of us from that generation, who are singled out to stay the longest, have to bare the pain of seeing our comrades go. Indeed it is true, when death sets in time and again; one can begin to feel some despair. Just two years earlier, in 2001, the nation had said goodbye to one of the outstanding stalwarts of the African National Congress (ANC), Ntate Govan Mvuyelwa Mbeki. Who can blame David Motsamai for thinking that he will soon be left alone?
And as the saying goes, death is inevitable. Another ten years would pass before our beloved Madiba joined his comrades and friends in the unknown world of the non-living. Although his death was expected given his constant visits to the hospital as well as his mature of age 95, his departure was a painful blow to us all. Each one of us occupied our little, private corners to mourn this great giant of the nation; an inspiring role model to us all. President Jacob Zuma was correct when he said, ‘We saw in him what we seek in ourselves.’ To borrow from Madiba himself, a great giant who strode the globe like a colossus has fallen. Peoples of the world!
As we say our final goodbyes today to this greatest son of the soil, let us bear in mind that although we would have loved for him to stay with us forever, he was only borrowed to us for ninety-five years. He walked the hard road, he fought the good fight and he was victorious. The legacy that Madiba and his contemporaries have bequeathed to this great nation is the best gift that we could ever wish for; let us cherish it.
Yesterday our beloved Madiba left a place (Gauteng) where he had come to as an ordinary, young man to seek a better life. This is where he met many of his comrades, friends and finally the Mother of the Nation, Mme Winnie Madikizela-Mandela. Here Madiba shaped his politics, joined the now defunct people’s liberation movement the ANC and became the face of the struggle of the people of South Africa. He left Gauteng forever yesterday, returning home to the rural Qunu in the Eastern Cape not as an ordinary, young man; but as great hero for humanity, a towering figure of the 20th and 21st century unparalleled by no one in history. We say as the people of South Africa, Africa and the world, rest champ; you have made us proud.
To the family and relatives of Mandela, we are eternally indebted to you. You sacrificed your father, grandfather, great-grandfather, husband and so on to the world. We are grateful to you all. And the people of Eastern Cape, during our time of bondage, your generosity prompted you to share your precious sons and daughters with us. For that we are truly thankful.
Today we inter your remains Ntate, albeit difficult for us to let you go, we will forever be grateful for having been touched by your humility. Go well and send our regards to those who left before you. Tell them that each day we strive to live up to the values that you so passionately fought for; tell them that even after your passing, we will continue to make South Africa a better place for all. Some would like to have the world believe that after you have gone South Africa would plunge into a bloodbath. Assure them that such will never happen Madiba; South Africans will continue to build where you and your comrades left off. Robala ka kagiso kakapa; tiro o e weditse. Kgotsong!