17 July 2018

South Africa: President Cyril Ramaphosa - Nelson Mandela Annual Lecture

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Remarks by President Cyril Ramaphosa at the 16th Nelson Mandela Annual Lecture, Wanderers Stadium, Johannesburg

Chairperson of the Nelson Mandela Foundation, Professor Njabulo Ndebele,

Mrs Graça Machel,

President Barack Obama,

His Majesty King Mswati III,

His Excellency President Mokgweetsi Masisi,

Deputy President David Mabuza,

Former President Thabo Mbeki,

Former President Kgalema Motlanthe,

Former President Jacob Zuma,

Head of the Motsepe Foundation, Dr Precious Motsepe,

Chief Executive Officer of the Nelson Mandela Foundation, Mr Sello Hatang,

Distinguished guests,

Ladies and gentlemen,

From the first, the Nelson Mandela Annual Lecture has been global in its ambition.

Those invited to deliver the lecture have includedprominent leaders, thinkers and activists from across the African continent and across the world.

The insights they have shared have reflected on the human condition and have sought to describe the tasks we must together undertake to advance the well-being of a global humanity.

In this sense, the Annual Lecture is a fitting tribute to the life and the meaning of Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela.

His was a life lived in the service of his people.

He was the founding father of a united, democratic South African nation.

Yet, his vision, his values and his influence are universal.

They cross borders, span continents and reach across time.

His struggles and his sacrifices touched the lives of millions and will continue to inspire the generations that will follow.

As we celebrate the 100th anniversary of his birth, as we reflect on a life extraordinary, we are bound to acknowledge that the greatest trait of this son of the African soil was his essential humanity.

He is hailed as a global icon.

He is memorialised in towering statues; his likeness adorns our national currency.

He led us from the wilderness of conflict and oppression into the land of promise, of freedom, democracy and equality.

Yet, his most enduring accomplishment was to teach us what it means to be human.

He was one of us.

He was born of us and he was formed by us.

He shared with us many of the same fragilities and doubts, the same weaknesses and fears.

Like us he was imperfect, and like us he constantly sought his better self.

This makes his life and his contribution all the more remarkable.

He demonstrated with greater effect than most the extent of a human's capacity for love, compassion and forgiveness; for wisdom, humility and understanding.

He called upon us to reach beyond the limitations imposed upon us by family, society or even ourselves to become better people.

He challenged us to reach beyond our grasp to achieve what we thought impossible.

He taught us to strive, to struggle, to serve, and to do so selflessly.

Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela appealed beyond the boundaries of race, class, gender or nationality, beyond differences of faith, creed or affiliation.

But it would be a mistake to claim that Madiba was above politics.

He was, in his essence and throughout his life, a political being.

He was, until his last hour, a loyal, disciplined and unwavering member of the African National Congress.

He understood that without organisation, no progress was possible.

He understood that without conscientisation, agitation, mobilisation and direct action, even the noblest of sentiments and the purest of ideas would be rendered meaningless.

As we contemplate the work we must now do to realise his vision of united, just and equal society, it is this lesson from his life that we dare not forget.

We dare not forget that poverty is a social creation and that its defeat requires social mobilisation.

We dare not forget that our society is defined by competing interests, by the unequal distribution of wealth and power, and by a fierce contestation of perspectives and ideologies.

Now, as we celebrate the 100th anniversary of his birth, we are called upon not only to uphold his values and to emulate his humility and his selflessness.

We are called upon to be active cadres in the revolutionary struggle for a better South Africa, a better Africa and a better world.

We are called upon to fight for the interests of the poor, the vulnerable and the marginalised.

We are called upon to prosecute a progressive struggle against inequality, racial discrimination, ethnic chauvinism and patriarchy.

We are called upon to join hands with like-minded people around the world to resist the domination of global affairs by the rich and the powerful.

We are called upon to heal our nation and to change the world.

It is therefore fitting that in this year of Madiba's centenary, the Nelson Mandela Foundation has invited President Barack Obama to deliver the 16th instalment of this annual lecture.

Like Madiba, he is a Nobel Peace Laureate.

Like Madiba, he was the first black President to lead his nation.

And like Madiba, he is an inspiration to all those seeking a better world.

As South Africans, we celebrated his election as the 44thPresident of the United States, not merely because he was a son of this continent, but because he embodied many of the values and aspirations that defined our own struggle for liberation.

We recognised in him the qualities that we saw in great leaders like Nelson Mandela - humility, wisdom, compassion and an extraordinary ability to inspire hope and to urge a nation to action.

We saw a leader who had dedicated a remarkable political life to challenging prejudice and discrimination, to championing the cause of the poor and disenfranchised, and to pursuing justice and equality.

In him, we found an American President concerned as much about the fate of humanity as the future of his own countrymen and women; a leader who recognised the indivisibility of the global community and who desired, like us, to forge a common future.

In him, we found an ally, a kindred spirit and a friend.

It therefore gives me great pleasure to invite President Barack Obama to deliver the 16th Nelson Mandela Annual Lecture.

I thank you.

Issued by: The Presidency

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