These were the words of Nelson Mandela in his first State of the Nation address following his inauguration as SA’s first democratically elected President. It’s probably the most apt and succinct summation of the ideals for which he lived for and, as he famously declared at his trial, for which he was prepared to die.
The centenary of his birth is an ideal opportunity to reflect on his legacy and the road we’ve travelled in achieving his ideals. The occasion calls for national introspection and stock-taking.
One of those charged with preserving Madiba’s legacy is President Cyril Ramaphosa, who was not only Madiba’s comrade, but also enjoyed a significant personal relationship with him.
“Madiba was a colossus, one of the most gigantic figures in modern history. He had the ability to rise to the challenge of leading the people of our country, black and white, out of the quagmire of oppression. He had a clear vision, within the framework of his organisation’s strategic objectives of bringing an end to the nightmare of apartheid. For that, Madiba will forever be remembered. All of us, as South Africans, are living his legacy and also living in the shadow of what he bequeathed to the people of this country. We must celebrate his bravery, selflessness, total commitment and courage in leading from the front while taking his people along with him,” reflects Ramaphosa.
A lot has been said and written about Ramaphosa’s relationship with Mandela. Legend has it that he was in fact Madiba’s preferred choice to succeed him as President. It’s a subject the President won’t be drawn on, but – listening to him talking about the great man – his profound respect and admiration for Mandela are beyond doubt.
“For me, Madiba will forever remain the standard – the person I want to emulate,” he says.
“He’ll forever be the type of person I aspire to be too. I believe we should all seek to be like him. However, we should also acknowledge when we fall short and recognise when we’re not being as honest as Madiba was. He was the great standard-bearer and a role model par excellence.We’re fortunate to have had a person of his calibre walking the streets of our cities and the paths of our villages.”