There is not much to say that I haven’t already said. A giant has fallen and all of this has left a giant hole in my heart, but more importantly, a giant urge in me to be better, to do better and to be a better citizen of the world and of South Africa, like Rolihlahla was.
On this day, the 15th of December 2013, as we lay our giant to rest, I leave you with the words of Former President Thabo Mbeki. Excerpts from his poem A Farewell to Madiba:
You have walked along the road of the heroes and the heroines.
You have borne the pain of those who have known fear and learnt to conquer it.
You have marched in front when comfort was in the midst of the ranks
You have laughed to contend against a river of tears.
You have cried to broadcast a story of joy.
And now you leave this hallowed place to continue to march in front of a different detachment of the same army of the sun.
Not the comfort of the fond superintendence of the growing stalks of the maize plant or of the Nguni herd with its milk, its flesh or its hide.
Nor the pleasant chatter of your grand-children with mountains to climb which are but little mounds.
Not the pensive silence of the elderly, whose burdened minds cascade backwards because to look too much into the future is to impose a burden on bones that have grown old.
You leave us here not because you have to stop.
You leave us here because you have to start again.
The accident of your birth should have condemned you to a village.
Circumstances you did not choose should have confined you to a district.
Your sight, your heart and your mind could have reached no further than the horizon of the natural eye.
But you have been where you should not have been.
You have faced death and said – do your worst!
You have inhabited the dark, dark dungeons of freedom denied, itself a denial to live in a society where freedom was denied.
You have looked at the faces of some of those who were your comrades, who turned their eyes away from you because somewhere in their mortal being there lingered the remnants of a sense of shame, always and for ever whispering softly – no to treachery! a thing in the shadows, present at every dawn, repeating, repeating, repeating – I am Conscience, to whom you have denied a home.
You have not asked – who indeed are these for whose lives I was prepared to die!
You have asked who am I, that I too did not falter, so that I too could turn my own eyes away from myself and another, who was a comrade.
You have stood at the brink, when you had to appeal to the goods about whether to win a dishonourable peace or to lose the lives of your people, and decided that none among these would exchange their lives for an existence without honour.
You have been where nobody should be asked to be.
You have carried burdens heavier than those who felt it their responsibility and right to proclaim you an enemy of the state.
You have to convince your enemies to believe a story difficult to believe, because it was true, that your burnished spear glittered in the rays of the sun, not to speak of hatred and death from them, but because you prayed that its blinding brilliance would tell them, whose ears would not hear, that you loved them as your own kith and kin.
You have had to bear the mantle of sainthood when all you sought was pride in the knowledge that you were a good foot soldier for justice and freedom.
But despite it all and because of it all, we are blessed.
We are blessed because you have walked along the road of our heroes and heroines.
For centuries our own African sky has been dark with suffering and foreboding.
But because we have never surrendered, for centuries the menace in our African sky has been brightened by the light of our stars.
On the 10th of May, five years ago, you stood in front of the Union Buildings in Pretoria to proclaim to the universe that the sun could never set on so glorious a human achievement as was celebrated that day.
Black and white South Africans had, at last, arrived at the point when, together, they could say:
Let us nurture our arts, and not our corruption.Let us communicate morality, and not our vices.Let us advance science, and not our dogmas.Let us advance civilisation, and not abuse.
After a long walk, we too have arrived at the starting point of a new journey.
We have you, Madiba, as our nearest and brightest star to guide us on our way.
We will not get lost.