Parliament, Cape Town - Paying tribute to Nelson Mandela as a man of “mythic proportions”, Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe urged South Africa and the world on Monday to consider how his legacy might be carried forward.
Speaking during a special joint sitting of Parliament's two Houses, he told MPs that Mandela's dream had not ended with his death on Thursday.
“The litmus test, however, is whether the inheritors of his dream, heirs to his vision and adherents to his philosophy, will be able to make his dream, for which he lived, come to pass in the fullness of time.”
The sentiment was echoed by opposition leaders and other senior members of the African National Congress as they paid moving tribute to Mandela, while members of his family looked on from the public gallery.
Democratic Alliance leader Helen Zille said Mandela had liberated all South Africans, but that future generations would have to work hard to ensure social and economic freedom became a reality for all.
Zille quoted Mandela's legendary plea for a free society at the close of his treason trial, but also a warning from the widow of US civil rights hero Martin Luther King jun. Coretta Scott King, that such an ideal required constant striving.
“Mrs King said the struggle for freedom is never finally won. You earn it and win it in every generation.”
Zille said Mandela had made the country and the world a better place through service and sacrifice, and that it was remarkable to see grief at his death reverberate around the world.
“And we must now ask: how do we earn the freedom he bequeathed us? Time will heal our pain. What must remain, and indeed what must grow within us, is a sense of the enormous responsibility we have inherited to continue his work.
“He has handed the baton to us and we dare not drop it,” she said.
North West premier Thandi Modise said that while people felt the pain of losing Mandela, they also felt compelled to stay true to his values and complete his work.
“The mood in the North West is sad, it is not hopeless. We are not lost,” she said.
“We may be disappointed that perhaps Madiba went before we proved to ourselves and to him that the sacrifice he had made was not in vain, that the lives of South Africans are changing every day for the better,” she said.
“We are proud that Madiba was a great but humble leader. He was not flawless, but he is one leader who taught us in the African National Congress that courage is actually your ability to rise up and to strive for greater heights every time you stumble.”
Congress of the People leader Mosiuoa Lekota, who was imprisoned with Mandela on Robben Island, said Mandela had convinced young revolutionaries in the ANC of the need for negotiation with the apartheid regime, had calmed the country when Chris Hani was assassinated and had become the country's first “people's president”.
To betray his humility and his commitment to transparency and the rule of law would be “ugly failure”, Lekota warned.
“Today, all of us who bear witness to what we have seen and heard must do more than shed crocodile tears. We have the modern world's greatest legacy to carry forward and to burnish so that it continues to be a light to the world.”
DA parliamentary leader Lindiwe Mazibuko said South Africa's 19-year-old democracy would have to grow up fast after losing its founding father.
She said Mandela had many incarnations - from the passionate young man who led the ANC Youth League, to the wise statesman who won the respect of the world, and that each South African should chose one from which to draw inspiration.
“Look to your Mandela at this difficult time. Cherish the memory of the Mandela you hold dear, close to your heart and to your mind, never let him go.”
An emotional Justice Minister Jeff Radebe said South Africa would continue on the path Mandela had forged.
“Madiba, your long walk to freedom has not ended. It is just the passing of an era,” he told MPs, moving several to tears.
“The big tree has fallen. The baobab has fallen. The world will never be the same again. A pledge we make to you... is that as a nation, we will keep on walking.”