He showed us how to live

08 December 2013

Phumla WilliamsThe global avalanche of tributes and the outpouring of grief and sorrow since Nelson Mandela's passing on Thursday have shown us what our icon meant to the world. The world may have lost an inspirational leader, but we are saying goodbye to the "father of the nation".

The thoughts and prayers of the nation are with former President Mandela's family during this time of great sorrow. South Africa and the world have lost an icon, but they are saying goodbye to a father, husband and devoted family man.

Government calls on the nation and the world to be sensitive to the needs of Madiba's family during this trying time. Let us afford his family space to mourn with dignity and in privacy.
There will be opportunity in the coming days for citizens to pay their last respects.

In the coming hours and days as the world slowly come to terms with the passing on of a great man thought will inevitably turn to his legacy. How does one even begin to pay tribute to the legacy of a man who is loved and revered by millions across the world, a man who has transcended the boundaries of race and creed to become a world icon?

The answer may be found by examining the life of the man. Nelson Mandela devoted his life to the fight against apartheid and white domination. He endured 27 years in prison and upon his release immediately called for reconciliation and moved to unite a nation fractured by the legacy of apartheid. He became South Africa's first democratically elected President in 1994 and continued to fight for social justice and human rights.

It is impossible to quantify the impact Nelson Mandela left on South Africa and the world, he devoted his life to the service of humanity. When news of his passing broke the world stood still. A giant had fallen and by leaving, he once again succeeded in bringing the world together.

As we say goodbye we do so cognisant that his legacy resides in all of us now. On his 90th birthday at a concert in Hyde Park in 2008, Nelson Mandela uttered the now famous words: "It's in your hands."

We dare not fail the legacy of former President Nelson Mandela, just as his generation and the youth of 1976 stood up to confront the monster that was apartheid. We must stand up to continue the fight for a democratic and united South Africa.

Government calls on all South Africans to harness their collective power to bring about the change in our country that Nelson Mandela lived and died for. There is still much work to do to ensure that every person is liberated from the scourge of poverty, inequality and unemployment. Our greatest tribute to his legacy will be to continue the work that he and countless other patriots began.

We do so by taking stock of the journey we have travelled. The sacrifices and selfless dedication of Nelson Mandela and other leaders, as well as that of countless individuals have made possible the country we live in today. Our freedom was not free, it was won at great cost to many who lived and died so that the country they loved could be liberated.

Now it's our turn. We must maximise that which unites us in our diversity and minimise things that seek to divide us. This is a time to pull together as South Africans, to show the world that the miracle of our birth as a democratic nation in 1994 still endures.

It is incumbent on this generation to carry the torch of freedom now. The dream that Nelson Mandela had must never be allowed to fade.

His wise words remain to guide us even now, speaking at his inauguration in 1994 he said: "The time for the healing of the wounds has come. The moment to bridge the chasms that divide us has come. The time to build is upon us. We have, at last, achieved our political emancipation. We pledge ourselves to liberate all our people from the continuing bondage of poverty, deprivation, suffering, gender and other discrimination. We succeeded to take our last steps to freedom in conditions of relative peace. We commit ourselves to the construction of a complete, just and lasting peace."

South Africa has come a long way since 1994; we are a maturing democracy with a Constitution and a Bill of Rights that protects all citizens. The separation of powers between the executive, the legislature and the judiciary is entrenched, and the three arms of government compliment the work of one another without encroaching on the mandate and legitimacy of the other.

The solid foundation built by Nelson Mandela and others remains firmly in place, it is our duty and responsibility to build on their vision until a better life for all is a reality.

Phumla Williams is Acting CEO of the Government Communication and Information System (GCIS)