Mrs Graca Machel and members of the Mandela family;
Provincial Chairperson of the ANC,
Comrade Cassel Mathale;
National Chairperson of the ANC,
Comrade Baleka Mbete;
Secretary General Comrade Gwede Mantashe,
Members of the National Executive Committee of the ANC;
Tripartite Alliance leaders;
Comrades and friends;
Fellow South Africans;
I am deeply honoured, proud and humbled to be here with you today as we honour our beloved national hero and international icon, President Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela.
On the 18th of July, Madiba will turn 94 years old. His birthday has become an international celebration declared by the United Nations as International Nelson Mandela Day.
This gesture confirms what Madiba means to the world. As we share him with the world, we as South Africans remain truly proud to call him our own.
Inside our country, even those who were, and who are still, fundamentally opposed to the ANC, and who fought tooth and nail to keep South Africa a racist pariah state, now claim Nelson Mandela as their own.
Such is the power of Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela, a unique and great statesman who is able to win over even his enemies.
Today we celebrate Madiba in all his capacities. We honour Madiba the revolutionary, the first uMkhonto Wesizwe Commander-in-Chief, the first Volunteer in Chief of the ANC and the architect of the MPlan.
We honour Madiba the symbol of our struggle and of the triumph of South Africans over apartheid colonialism, and Madiba the first President of a free and democratic South Africa.
Comrades and friends,
Before going through some highlights in the life of this accomplished revolutionary, allow me first to thank the millions who stood by Madiba and the ANC throughout his incarceration, here and abroad.
I would like to borrow from the words of President Oliver Tambo in Venezuela, on 24 July 1983, where he said:
"Our enemies condemned Nelson Mandela; you are honouring him. They entombed him alive; you are making him part of our living presence. They silenced him; you have caused him to be heard....
We thank you".
Comrades and friends,
The majestic Madiba that we know now was groomed from childhood for respectability and status.
He was born at Mvezo on the 18th of July 1918. Like most early ANC Presidents, Madiba was educated at Clarkebury and Healdtown and later went to Fort Hare where his legendary friendship with President Oliver Reginald Tambo was formed.
His journey to mass political work began with his acquaintance and friendship with Comrade Walter Sisulu in Johannesburg, where he moved to from Mvezo, after running away from an arranged marriage at home!
Their friendship deepened and Madiba seldom made important decisions without consulting Comrade Sisulu.
Madiba also at this time met and married his first wife, Evelyn Mase, who was a cousin to Comrade Albertina Sisulu. The relationship produced three children, Makaziwe, Makgatho and Tembi.
Madiba worked with his friend and comrade President Oliver Tambo, running a law firm that helped many black people in conflict with the apartheid laws.
They were both founding members of the ANC Youth League which was established in 1944. The ANC youth was impatient with the leadership of the time, whom they felt were too gentlemanly in their approach to the struggle.
After the 1948 election victory of the Afrikaner-dominated National Party, the Youth League drew up a Programme of Action calling for more militant action such as strikes, boycotts and defiance. It was adopted by the ANC in 1949.
The manner in which Madiba carried himself during this period teaches us that the most effective revolutionary ideas are magnetic, not coercive.
He attracted people like a magnet through persuasion. His amicable manner coupled with his exceptional organisational skills made him the obvious choice to be the ANC`s Volunteer in Chief during the Defiance campaign.
Madiba set the country in a rolling mass action against various measures such as passes.
The ANC had also joined forces with the Congress of Democrats, Natal Indian Congress and the Coloured People`s Congress. Thus began the forging of a united, non-racial assault on the Apartheid colonial regime.
The colonial apartheid regime responded to the defiance campaign with repression and brutality.
Over 8 000 people were arrested for defying unjust apartheid laws.
Madiba and 150 others were also arrested and later acquitted.
The ANC emerged stronger as a mass militant movement after the Defiance Campaign, and grew its membership to over a 100 000 members.
In recognition of his outstanding contribution during the Defiance Campaign, Mandela was elected president of both the Youth League and the Transvaal region of the ANC at the end of 1952.
He later became the Deputy President of the ANC.
That same year the ANC leadership called on Madiba to prepare a strategy document on how the ANC can operate underground given the repression.
Dubbed the MPlan, Madiba`s strategy proposed the reorganisation of ANC branches into small cells to enable the leadership to maintain dynamic contact with the membership without calling public meetings.
Indeed the brutality escalated necessitating new survival tactics for the ANC.
The Congress movement had gained ground around this time. Madiba was also instrumental in the preparations for the drafting and adoption of the Freedom Charter by the Congress of the People in 1955.
On the 21st of March 1960, a total of 69 people were massacred in Sharpeville leading to local and international outcry.
The ANC and the PAC were banned on the 31st of March 1960 and the regime imposed a five month state of emergency. The ANC went underground.
In 1961, the leadership of the ANC took the decision to adopt the armed struggle and to create uMkhonto weSizwe (MK), the nucleus of a national liberation army.
It was not a decision taken lightly. Madiba explained the reasons in his statement from the dock.
"At the beginning of June 1961, after a long and anxious assessment of the South African situation, I, and some colleagues, came to the conclusion that as violence in this country was inevitable, it would be unrealistic and wrong for African 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 the decision was made to embark on violent forms of political struggle, and to form Umkhonto we Sizwe. We did so not because we desired such a course, but solely because the Government had left us with no other 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.
Madiba was the first Commander-in-Chief of Umkhonto Wesizwe. He left the country illegally and visited Ethiopia and Algeria. He received his military training in Algeria.
In launching itself, MK issued its historic manifesto, with these timeless 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``.
On the 16th of December 1961, MK launched a bombing campaign against government targets. As commander in chief Madiba skilfully coordinated sabotage campaigns. He also raised funds for MK abroad and arranged for training for combatants.
In March 1961, in response to the pending declaration of South Africa as a republic, the All-in Africa National Action Council conference was held in Pietermaritzburg.
Madiba afterwards wrote to then Prime Minister Hendrick Verwoerd on behalf of the Council informing him that the African people would embark on mass action against the declaration of South Africa as a Republic on 31 May 1961 if it went ahead.
They also called for government to convene a national convention of all South Africans to draw up a new constitution.
On the failure of government to respond, a general strike was called.
On 5 August 1962 Mandela was arrested near Pietermaritzburg after living on the run for seventeen months. He was charged with organising the general strike in 1961 and leaving the country illegally. The letter to Verwoerd featured prominently in Madiba`s 1962 trial.
It was in this trial that he made his profound statement on the judiciary in the epic statement on the partiality of the South African judiciary, saying "I feel like a like a black man in a white man`s court.
He said; "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``.
Madiba also eloquently outlined what drove him to fight for freedom.
He said;" 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 standards in this country must be judged by the extent to which he has condemned the vast majority of its inhabitants to serfdom and inferiority``.
On 25 October 1962, Madiba was sentenced to five years in prison.
His wife at the time, Comrade Winnie Mandela and his first former wife Evelyn were left alone to fend for his children.
Comrade Winnie was later banished to Brandfort and suffered a great deal of persecution after many detentions.
Comrade Winnie became an important link between Madiba and the ANC and was an inspiration to the oppressed masses of our people because of her fortitude and determination in the midst of adversity.
While Tata was imprisoned, police arrested the MK high command on 11 July 1963, at Liliesleaf Farm, Rivonia, north of Johannesburg.
Madiba later joined Rusty Bernstein, Raymond Mhlaba, Ahmed Kathrada, Andrew Mlangeni, Govan Mbeki, Walter Sisulu and Elias Motsoaledi for the Rivonia trial.
Bram Fischer, Vernon Berrange, Joel Joffe, Arthur Chaskalson and George Bizos were part of the defence team.
Madiba`s historic statement from the dock became an exposition of the reasoning behind the struggle for liberation and the methods that the ANC had chosen to adopt in the face of repression and the closing of all avenues of peaceful engagement.
He closed his statement with these famous and inspiring words:
"During my lifetime I have dedicated myself to the struggle of the African people. 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.`
All except Rusty Bernstein were found guilty and were sentenced to life imprisonment on 12 June 1964.
Madiba was imprisoned on Robben Island where he remained for the eighteen of his twenty-seven years in prison.
Life was no doubt hard. Prisoners were segregated by race, with black prisoners receiving the fewest rations. Political prisoners were kept separate from ordinary criminals and received fewer privileges. Madiba performed hard labour in a lime quarry with other prisoners.
Madiba relates how, as a D-group prisoner (the lowest classification) 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 censors.
Prison was also emotionally draining especially with regards to family issues. Madiba`s mother passed away and he was refused permission to attend her funeral.
Three months 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 child.
Comrade Walter Sisulu comforted him during this trying period.
Madiba also had to contend with the fact that his wife Comrade Winnie was imprisoned and that his two youngest children Zenani and Zindzi were in the care of relatives and friends. He agonized for his children and his family.
The first ten years that Nelson Mandela and his fellow Rivonia Trialists were probably the most difficult.
They were isolated from the outside world and it seemed that there was no struggle taking place outside their prison walls.
However despite a political lull that took place shortly after the Rivonia Trial, the struggle continued.
The Wankie-Sipolilo Campaign was launched in 1967 by uMkhonto we Sizwe and the ZIPRA forces.
The Durban Strikes took place in 1972-73, bringing pressure to bear on the apartheid state yet again. The first batch of prisoners who were sentenced to shorter prison terms began to leave the Island. Their spirits were not broken. Many of them rejoined the underground struggle once freed.
News of the freedom of Mozambique and Angola in 1974 and 1975 also revived the hopes of political prisoners.
Then the turning point took place in Soweto in June 1976, when students rebelled against apartheid education. The struggle was re-ignited. MK received a fresh intake of committed young revolutionary cadres.
After the Soweto Uprisings the name of Nelson Mandela would never be forgotten. His name became synonymous with the struggle with community organisations in Soweto and elsewhere linking daily struggles with the release of Nelson Mandela and all political prisoners.
The ANC in exile mounted a campaign against the Apartheid regime. President Oliver Tambo`s powerful and well-thought out and planned international campaign was highly visible and successful.
He was ably assisted by Comrade Josiah Jele, Comrade Johnny Makhathini and former President Thabo Mbeki as respective heads of international affairs.
They operated under the leadership of Alfred Nzo who was secretary general of the ANC then.
In March 1982, Madiba was transferred from Robben Island to Pollsmoor Prison, along with other senior ANC leaders Walter Sisulu, Andrew Mlangeni, Ahmed Kathrada and Raymond Mhlaba.
In 1983 internal mass resistance received a major boost with the formation of the United Democratic Front and in 1985 the establishment of COSATU.
Various formations came together under the banner of the UDF, mobilising women, youth, churches, traditional leaders and every democratic formation behind the struggle.
MK also carried out several operations during this period inside the country. Around the same time, ANC activists were murdered inside the country. The regime`s defence force also undertook raids in Botswana, Lesotho and Mozambique killing unarmed combatants and civilians.
Under intense pressure, in February 1985 then president PW Botha offered Mandela freedom on condition that he `unconditionally rejected violence as a political weapon`.
President Mandela spurned the offer, releasing a statement via his daughter Zindzi saying "What freedom am I being offered while the organisation of the people remains banned? Only free men can negotiate. A prisoner cannot enter into contracts."
The first meeting between President Mandela and the National Party government took place in November 1985. He met then justice minister Kobie Coetsee in Volks Hospital in Cape Town where Madiba was recovering from surgery.
Over the next four years, a series of tentative meetings took place, laying the groundwork for further contact and future negotiations, but little real progress was made.
In 1988 Madiba was moved to Victor Verster Prison and would remain there until his release.
In 1989, South Africa reached a crossroads. The intransigent PW Botha suffered a stroke and was replaced as president by Frederik Willem de Klerk . What is remarkable about this period is the manner in which Madiba, a prisoner, negotiated the release of others.
In a document prepared for talks with FW De Klerk in December 1989, Madiba demands the release of four prisoners held on Robben Island, Mr Matthew Meyiwa, Mr Elphas Mdlalose, Mr Anthony Xaba and Mr John Nene.
They had been left behind when Comrades Walter Sisulu, Raymond Mhlaba and others were released.
After a lot of behind the scenes manoeuvring, on the 2nd of February 1990, FW De Klerk announced Mandela`s release in parliament. It was a massive victory for the ANC and its allies.
We must emphasise that the release of Nelson Mandela in 1990, the freeing of other prisoners and the unbanning of organisations was not a miracle as is commonly said.
As Comrade Govan Mbeki correctly pointed out in one newspaper interview, "The apartheid regime was forced into handing over power by the sheer weight of millions of people who had been mobilized into an irresistible force".
This included pressure internally mounted by the Mass Democratic movement led by the United Democratic Front and the international pressure led by the ANC in exile.
There was pressure mounted by the Anti-Apartheid Movement worldwide, the vocal demonstrations of ordinary citizens and the sanctions and boycotts instituted by governments.
In addition, the battle of Cuito Cuanavale in Angola where the SA Defence Force was humiliated demonstrated the limits of their offensive capability.
More pressure was put on the regime by the adoption of the Harare Declaration.
In mid-1988 the African National Congress had published the Constitutional Guidelines for a Democratic South Africa. This was followed by the adoption of the Harare Declaration, a roadmap that was adopted by the Organization of African Unity, the Non-Aligned Movement and the United Nations General Assembly.
Comrades and friends,
No words can accurately describe that electric moment when Madiba walked out of Victor Verster prison.
We recall the scenes of joy, tears, screams and disbelief. The masses visualised their own freedom in the freedom of Madiba that day.
He addressed the nation for the first time from the balcony of the Cape Town City Hall.
We acknowledge former President de Klerk for reading the signs correctly during this crucial period in the history of our country.
He knew that the time had come to stop holding on to a dream of a whites-only South Africa with black people hidden somewhere far away in the Bantustans and townships.
The time had come to implement
The assertions in the Freedom Charter, that South Africa belongs to all who live in it black and white and that no government can justly claim authority unless it was based on the will of all the people.
Madiba reached out to constituencies inside the country and also to the international community.
He addressed the United Nations and the Organisation for African Unity, and thanked the world for the support it had given to the struggles of the people in South Africa by declaring apartheid a crime against humanity.
He assured Southern Africa that the era of invasions had ended and thanked them for supporting our struggle for liberation so selflessly.
Domestically, he had to start work to prepare for the restoration of the birthright of the Black majority, while managing white fears.
A new Constitution was needed and negotiations had to be formally started.
The work of re-establishing the ANC inside the country began and branches were once again formed so that the organisation could lead the negotiations towards a non-racial and just future.
In 1991, the ANC held its first conference inside the country.
Madiba was elected as president, comrade Walter Sisulu as deputy president, Comrade OR as national chairperson, Comrade Cyril Ramaphosa as secretary general, Jacob Zuma as deputy secretary general and Mendi Msimang as treasurer general.
One of the more sensitive decisions the ANC had to take was the suspension of the armed struggle, which angered MK cadres and many others within the organisation. We were able to explain the rationale to our members and cadres.
We were committed to ending apartheid through a series of negotiations and participated fully in the Convention for a Democratic South Africa process which began on 20 December 1991.
Working groups were appointed to deal with specific issues, for example the new constitution, the setting up of the interim government, the future of the homelands, time period for the implementation of the changes and the electoral system.
Around the same time, the apartheid regime mounted a brutal low intensity war in black townships, using Bantustan parties, the police and other apartheid hitsquad agents.
They fomented violence amongst members of the ANC and Inkatha Freedom party in what is now Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal.
Horrific massacres took place including vicious incidents of terror such as throwing people off trains on the Reef.
Madiba was there to bring the nation together during these trying critical moments that could have led to civil war.
While Madiba tried hard to bring all together during the CODESA multiparty talks including oppressors, he was no pushover.
At one point during the CODESA negotiations he took on FW de Klerk who had attacked the ANC, accusing us of refusing to disclose the location of the arms cache and for keeping a private army.
He said about FW de Klerk;
"Even the head of an illegitimate, discredited minority regime as he is, has certain moral standards to uphold. He has no excuse just because he is a head of such a discredited regime not to uphold moral standards...
"If a man can come to a conference of this nature and play the type of politics he has played very few people would like to deal with such a man...
"I noted that we had suspended our armed struggle to show our commitment to peace, yet the government was still colluding with those waging war.
"We told him that we would turn in our weapons only when we were a part of the government collecting those weapons, and not until then...Even while negotiating, they were secretly funding covert organizations that committed violence against us.
"I mentioned the recent revelations about million-rand pay-offs to Inkatha that Mr de Klerk claimed not to have known about. I stated that if a man in his position doesn`t know about such things, then he is not fit to be the head of government"
Tata however ended this on a conciliatory note, that; "I am prepared to work with him in spite of all his mistakes".
And then, on the night of 17 June 1992, a heavily armed force of Inkatha members secretly raided the Vaal township of Boipatong and killed forty-six people.
A furious Madiba instructed the ANC to suspend direct dealings with the apartheid government.
Boipatong, and the National Party`s insistence on the disbandment of MK; disagreements over the role of the public broadcaster and the National Party`s insistence on a minority veto within government led to the eventual collapse of CODESA.
The ANC put down 10 points to be looked into before we could return to the talks.
Madiba later had to keep the country together again during the brutal assassination of Comrade Chris Hani on the 10th of April 1993. He comforted the oppressed masses who were in shock and in pain, and spoke as the President of the country even before he was elected.
He was the moral authority in the country. He was respected and loved at home and abroad.
On the 10th of December, Madiba shared the Nobel peace prize with former President FW De Klerk, adding to those already received by the country through Chief Albert Luthuli and Archbishop Desmond Tutu.
A painful period for Madiba after Comrade Chris`s death was the death of his friend and comrade, President OR Tambo a few weeks later.
The two deaths strengthened the resolve of the masses to achieve what the two leaders had lived for - a free, democratic, non-racial, non-sexist and prosperous South Africa. A date for the first democratic inclusive elections was set as 27 April 1994.
Madiba cast his vote at Inanda settlement in Durban, in memory of the founding ANC President John Langalibalele Dube.
A people who had lived in bondage for three centuries finally set themselves free.
The inauguration of Madiba as our first President on the 10th of May 1994 was the most liberating moment for all freedom loving people in South Africa, Africa and the world.
He made a commitment on our behalf, stating; "Never, never and never again shall it be that this beautiful land will again experience the oppression of one by another and suffer the indignity of being the skunk of the world. Let freedom reign. The sun shall never set on so glorious a human achievement!``
Madiba was an exceptional President for both the ANC and government. He carried the values and policies of the ANC to his tasks in government, promoting national reconciliation, forgiveness and national unity.
He led the nation during the difficult period of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. He was truly the President South Africa needed during the fragile transitional period.
We are also grateful to Madiba for laying a firm foundation for the transformation of our country.
During the first ten years of democracy, five of which were under Madiba`s leadership, 789 laws or amendments aimed at reconfiguring South African society, removing apartheid laws, were approved by Parliament.
The institution of the Reconstruction and Development programme and a number of transformative programmes during his time laid the basis for a new caring society.
The policy to have children under the age of six and pregnant women receiving free medical care in every state hospital and clinic, was introduced during Madiba`s time.
Similarly, the school feeding schemes were also initiated by Madiba to support children from poor households. Access to housing, electrification and other basic services were also started by the ANC during Madiba`s presidency.
Peace and harmony, good governance and respect for the will of the people are all synonymous with Madiba.
He worked tirelessly to change South Africa for the better.
Comrades and friends,
The nation was privileged to share Madiba`s joy in 1998, on his 80th birthday, when he married Mrs Graca Machel. We are happy to have her and the rest of the family with us today.
Madiba has remained a loyal and disciplined member of the ANC through thick and thin. He has also remained true to the Freedom Charter and its assertions.
The abiding lesson to us is that all South Africans should continue the reconciliation project that he so passionately led on behalf of the ANC. For it to succeed, it should be a two-way process.
Our differences should not set us apart from one another, but should be the compelling reason for us to draw closer to forge a common future, all of us, black and white.
Mandela has acknowledged that the long walk is not yet complete. We still have many hills to climb.
One hill that we must climb together is one taking us to true economic and social emancipation. As the ANC we have outlined the vision of economic emancipation in the Morogoro Strategy and Tactics document of 1969 and several documents including the ANC`s 8 January 2011 statement.
We look forward to tangible resolutions at the national conference in Mangaung on the economy, taking forward our discussions at the policy conference last month.
Comrades and friends,
Tomorrow, on 11 July, we will join the people of Madiba`s birthplace in Mvezo to launch the Nelson Mandela Legacy Bridge over the Mbashe River. The bridge will make it easier for villagers to travel, and for tourists to quickly reach both Mvezo and Qunu.
Madiba`s legacy is building a better life for all, and this bridge will certainly bring that to the people of the villages around Mbashe River.
Even in retirement, Madiba continues to have an enormous impact on the lives of many.
The Nelson Mandela Children`s Fund has made a visible impact in the lives of many children, while the Nelson Mandela Foundation also continues to take his legacy foward.
Let us continue learning from Madiba and cement unity, which he said was the rock upon which the ANC was founded, when he sent a message to ANC Kabwe conference in 1985.
On behalf of the African National Congress, we wish Tata Madiba a happy 94th birthday on the 18th of July next week.
We are privileged to share our lives and our country with such a great man, who has dedicated his entire adult life to this country and its people, and to making the world a better place for all.