Speech by the City’s Executive Mayor, Alderman Patricia De Lille, at the inter-faith service to honour the late Nelson Mandela

Good evening, goeie aand, molweni, as-salaam alaikum.

I would like to thank you all for joining us this evening.

Thank you for coming from all over the city to mourn and reflect on the passing of Tata Madiba.

It was on 11 February 1990 that Madiba stood in this place and addressed us all for the first time as a free man.

I remember that day.

I remember the excitement and the energy as tens of thousands of people tried to make their way to the Grand Parade.

Everyone wanted to be a part of that moment: we all wanted to be present at the birth of a new age.

Speaking to us that day, Madiba said:

‘Perhaps it was history that ordained that it be here, at the Cape of Good Hope, that we should lay the foundation stone of our new nation . . . For it was here at this Cape, over three centuries ago, that there began the fateful convergence of the peoples of Africa, Europe and Asia on these shores.’

Madiba had a special relationship with this city.

To our shame, it was here that he was imprisoned for decades, in Pollsmoor Prison and most famously at Robben Island.

That place of injustice and oppression was just a short trip over the water, the promise of freedom so close yet ever distant.

It was in this city where Madiba led the founding of a new constitutional order in a democratic parliament.

And it was here that he was awarded the Freedom of the City in 1997.

As I look out here tonight, I see all of Cape Town, from the stretches of the southern peninsula to the far north of our city.

Here we stand, in solidarity and in remembrance.

We stand as witnesses to the passing of a man but the rebirth of his spirit.

In truth, Madiba has been absent from public life for some time.

But in our selfish attachment, we thrived in the knowledge that somewhere, somehow, he remained with us.

In these past few months, however, we learned that as he did his duty to us, so too must we do our duty to him.

It was time for us to let him go.

Perhaps ours has been a problem of the imagination.

Who could think of this democracy, this lasting peace, this constitutional order without thinking of Madiba?

In him we invested the story of our nation and so the story of ourselves.

But though loss brings pain, and though death brings sadness, so too can they bring celebration.

We are all here tonight because we are moved by something larger than ourselves: that national spirit that has sometimes faded and sometimes shone since 1994.

That spirit lives tonight and thrives.

It is the spirit of a joy that transcends that which has divided us.

Speaking at Walter Sisulu’s 90th birthday, Madiba said:

‘What counts in life is not the mere fact that we have lived. It is what difference we have made to the lives of others that will determine the significance of the life we lead.’

As I consider the difference he made, it is because the sense of freedom lived so strongly within him that we too are free.

When he walked out of those prison gates, he led the transition to freedom.

And his greatest legacy remains the constitution upon which we are building this great and new country.




These are his gifts to us. Let us cherish them.

In conclusion, tonight, and in the days to come, we will need each other’s strength.

I hope that this ceremony and the reflection it brings will guide us as we come to terms with this loss.

As we come together now, let us remember this unity and let us remember that his dream was of a united country – a country that would have the strength to shape a new future from a painful past.

His memory will live within us. Let us not fail him.

Rest well now, Madiba; and thank you.

Hamba kahle.

Thank you, baie dankie, enkosi.

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