Cape Town - Struggle song Nelson Mandela, There is None Like You reverberated through the National Assembly on Monday after parliamentarians had concluded a special joint sitting to honour Madiba.
Earlier, Cope MP Dennis Bloem who, dispensing with a more formal tribute, took to a struggle song – “Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela, freedom is in your hands, show us the way to freedom” – and got fellow parliamentarians on their feet to join in.
Speaker Max Sisulu’s injunction “Thank you, this is a beautiful song… Return to your seat” was ignored as Bloem extended condolences: “We salute you, our commander-in-chief.”
It was the first break in the, until then, solemn proceedings.
An emotional Justice Minister Jeff Radebe, who served as public works minister in Mandela’s cabinet, also turned protocol on its head, directly addressing his tribute to Tata Mandela because “although he has passed on, his spirit moves in this House”.
Radebe’s voice faltered when he quoted Whitney Houston song I Look To You, saying it must have been referring to the example Mandela set for all.
“Although you were ours in the ANC, there are many who have claimed you as their own hero too,” continued Radebe, saying Mandela, and others, never wavered in the resolve not only in South Africa’s freedom struggle, but for those oppressed worldwide.
Radebe, who accompanied Mandela to cast his first vote at Inanda’s Ohlange High School, KwaZulu-Natal, said he also calmed the fears and trepidation of serving in his first cabinet: “You comforted us all by stating that we were equal to the task because you, too, had never been president before.”
Mandela could have chosen a life of comfort, ease and taken advantage of the “golden spoons and gilded existence” that comes with being from royalty. Instead he chose to lead South Africa.
“Your long walk to freedom has not ended. It is just a passing of an era. We pick up your spear to continue your long walk towards the economic emancipation of all… ” said Radebe. “The world will never be the same… As a nation we keep on walking.”
Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe said:
“Nelson Mandela’s dream (of unity, nation building, non-racism, non-sexism) did not end with the 1994 democratic breakthrough in our country. Nor has it ended with his passing.”
“The litmus test, however, is whether inheritors of his dream, heirs to his vision and adherents of his philosophy, will be able to make the dream for which he lived come to pass in the fullness of time.”
Western Cape Premier and DA leader Helen Zille called on every one : not to drop Mandela’s baton”.
“The best tribute we can pay Madiba is to ensure that our political debate focuses on issues of how best we can ensure that each South African child, whatever their circumstances of their birth, inherits freedom they can use.”
Speaking mostly in seSotho, Cope founder and former ANC defence minister and National Council of Provinces chairman Mosiuoa Lekota said: “We must now face our future without this individual.”
IFP leader Mangosuthu Buthelezi, who referred to the often troublesome relationship between his party and the ANC in the early 1990s, paid tribute to Mandela’s honesty and leadership: “As we continue to write the story of South Africa, let us be inspired by Mandela’s legacy. Let us remember his passion for reconciliation , his capacity for forgiveness and his bold leadership. Let us also remember his honesty.”
United Democratic Movement MP Nqabayomzi Kwankwa said Mandela’s death was an opportunity to reflect on the progress made and the distance South Africa covered, particularly with regards to his values of tolerance and humility.
“It should remind us that our hard-won liberty is built on a contrasting tale of men at their most evil and most heroic, and where, like everything else in life, the good emerged victorious over the bad. This is one victory that we must never betray or squander,” said Kwankwa.
Freedom Front Plus leader Pieter Mulder said “dignity in adversity” would perhaps best describe Mandela, before recalling how Madiba telephoned his home, not to speak with him, but to congratulate his daughter on a university recognition.
In a similarly personal reflection, DA parliamentary leader Lindiwe Mazibuko said she had never met Mandela, but remembered watching as a 9-year-old how her father for the first time expressed himself politically and in public by raising his fist in the air to greet Mandela who had arrived for the February 1990 rally in Durban.
“Because of the violence and political strife in my home province, my father would never live to see the dawn of our democracy, or cast his vote in a free election – that moment remains indelibly etched in my memory and on my heart,” said Mazibuko.