Zuma arrived hours after he was scheduled to deliver the Nelson Mandela Lecture, earlier leading the ANC’s national working committee in its deliberations with the party’s provincial executive. That meeting ended in a stalemate.
In Nyanga, the township with the highest murder rate in South Africa, Zuma was greeted with ululations, accompanied by ANC deputy secretary-general Jessie Duarte, alongside national working committee member Tina Joemat-Pettersson, Communications Deputy Minister Thandi Mahambehlahla, and former Dullah Omar regional chairperson Xolani Sotashe.
Zuma said the world will be celebrating Mandela’s birthday and his legacy, and that South Africans were proud of having produced this remarkable statesman.
“Madiba directed us, all of us, to do something good on this day and contribute to making the world a better place,” said Zuma.
“The theme of Mandela Day is action against poverty, and this theme befits Mandela because he was committed to making this world a better place, with equality. That’s what he struggled for.”
He said Madiba was one of South Africa’s greatest sons. “In him, we see what we seek in ourselves. He was the repository of the best values and aspirations of our people. Madiba was a revolutionary democrat, a selfless revolutionary who was willing to lay down his life for the freedom of his people.”
He said Mandela knew that peace would not be given to his people as a gift. It had to be fought for by the people itself.
“Indeed, he fought and sacrificed 27 years of his life. Madiba was one-of-a-kind,” said Zuma.
He said on Mandela’s birthday, everyone had to do what they could to make the lives of others better, and build a better South Africa.
Zuma said for Mandela, the road from Qunu to the Union Buildings had many stages.
“President Mandela and his comrades understood very well that the youth league does not exist for its sake, it exists to make an impact in the ANC and therefore in society,” said Zuma.
He said as president of the ANCYL, Madiba presented brave leadership when he became the face of the defiance campaign in 1952. Defying apartheid laws was the same as volunteering to be jailed and tortured.
“Madiba has always had a way of leadership that was recognised by (former ANC) president (Oliver)Tambo, that Madiba will never be defeated,” said Zuma.
He recalled how Madiba had prepared for a speech in 1961. On Robben Island, despite the rules that prisoners could not speak on behalf of their fellow inmates, Madiba defied the warders and represented prisoners.
“He’s a critical man that we need to know. When we remember him, we are furthering his ideas.”