Joyce Banda

Speech at Nelson Mandela's Burial - Dec. 15, 2013

Joyce Banda
December 15, 2013— Qunu, South Africa
Funeral of President Nelson Mandela
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Your Excellency President Jacob Zuma, President of the Republic of South Africa; Mama Graca Machel; Mama Winnie Madikizela- Mandela Your Royal Highness Prince Charles Your Royal Highness Prince Albert of Monaco Your Royal Highness King of Lesotho The Mandela Family; Your Excellencies, Heads of State and Government Members of the Diplomatic Corps Member of the Clergy Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen.

It is with a deep sense of humility that I accepted to come and be part of this event today.

I stand before you to join you, the people of South Africa, and the world, to mourn the loss of a great leader: former President Nelson Mandela.

I join you, the people of this rainbow nation, to celebrate a life of one of Africa's unique leaders who gallantly fought for freedom and peace for this great country and the world.

The first time I was privileged to meet President Mandela was during his visit to Malawi after his release from prison, when he came to meet President Kamuzu Banda. I was amazed with the humility and the great sense of leadership around him.

In 1996, I was further privileged to be invited to visit Robben Island together with a team of Malawians.

After the tour of Robben Island, I was greatly touched by the life and story of Tata Mandela and since then I sought to know and understand this great son of Africa. I read and read about anything I could lay my hands on about him.

In 1997, I met Tata Mandela at a Conference for Smart Partnership in Kasane, Botswana. I was inspired by this great leader who was focused, calm and collected.

A few years later, I had an opportunity to visit Tata Mandela and Mama Graca Machel at their home in Johannesburg. We had a very moving conversation. I was deeply touched by his spirit of forgiveness, his passion to put people first and courage.

These attributes have greatly influenced my life.

Allow me to share that moment because it is important. I walked into that house and Mama Graca was standing facing me, and I thought she was taking me to a room where then, after that, she was going to go and collect Madiba. I walked into the room, not knowing that he was already sitting there. And when I turned and saw him, my first reaction was to run out. And as I was running out, the picture that I have that has been showing in Malawi this past week, is Mama Graca pulling me back towards him. At that moment, I did not know that I was to become president of the Republic of Malawi a few months down the line.

At the moment I became president of Malawi, I had been isolated, humiliated, called names, and had an assassination attempt on my life. I found myself in a situation where I had to work with those same people that had prevented me from becoming president of my country. I had to forgive, but I had to forgive without any effort, because my Madiba had prepared me.

Tata's courage, determination, love and passion for his people inspired me on my journey to becoming the first woman president of this region.

I learned that leadership is about falling in love with the people that you serve and the people falling in love with you. It is about serving the people with selflessness, with sacrifice and with the need to put the common good ahead of personal interests.

I am saying all this because the day after Madiba passed away, the BBC called Malawi to interview me, and they said a lot of African leaders are talking about the lessons that you ought to learn from Madiba. But are you practicing them? Are you doing it? And I said, yes, come and see.

Distinguished ladies and gentlemen, today I stand before you, on behalf of our region, our family, our SADC, to extend a collective hand of comfort to the Mandela Family, the Government of the Republic of South Africa, the African National Congress and to all South Africans on this irreplaceable loss of one of its true sons, Tata Madiba.

The passing of our President Mandela is not only a loss to South Africa, but also to the SADC Region, and indeed to the world.

As we celebrate the life of this icon, it is also time to take stock of the things that Tata Madiba taught us during his time.

I know that much has already been said about Tata by those whose lives have been touched and inspired by his works. I need to add a few words.

The SADC region will remember him for his wisdom and statesmanship; his humility and sense of humour; and his servant leadership style.

Tata Madiba believed that all people are created equal before God. The way he conducted himself, he saw no boundaries in this region, between and among the countries where we live. He championed the freedom of not only South Africans but all of us Africans.

Tata Madiba taught us that even when the challenges of life seem insurmountable, with courage and determination, we can overcome the evils of our societies.

The struggle Tata Madiba led against the apartheid system was not just a struggle against racial inequality, but a struggle against all forms of oppression against humanity; a struggle for democracy and human dignity.

It was the struggle for the emancipation of the youth. It was a struggle for the social security of children.

It was a struggle for the participation of women in politics, in commerce and in high office.

It was a struggle to overcome poverty. Yes, it was a struggle for Africa's freedom.

We in the SADC Region will remember Tata as a great reformer who championed the cause of humanity, deepening democracy and dedicated his life to selfless service, a man who worked tirelessly to promote national, regional and world peace.

We in the SADC Region, whilst mourning his death, we also see this as an opportunity to celebrate the life of a great Statesman, an icon from our own region. The life of Tata Mandela will continue to inspire those of us left behind, promote peace and security, deepen regional integration and work to support one another as it was during the fight against apartheid. We will strive to emulate President Mandela's stature and spirit so that his legacy can live on.

The ideals of political, social and economic emancipation that he stood for will inspire us forever as a Region.

In conclusion, I believe I am speaking for many within the region. Tata's words are still echoing in our minds, his call to get millions of young people in the region decent jobs. His call to get millions of our women and men out of poverty, deprivation and underdevelopment. His call to get food for the hungry, to eradicate preventable diseases, to let people find their voice, and restore their dignity. These words will inspire SADC long after Tata Madiba is gone.

Our Dear Father and compatriot, Tata Nelson Mandela, fought a good fight and he finished the race well.

As an African woman and leader, I wish to acknowledge Mama Winnie Madikizela Mandela for her efforts and steadfastness for standing with Tata Mandela before and during Tata's imprisonment and for being in the forefront of ANC's struggle for liberation.

And to you, Mama Graca Machel, I wish to thank you for your visible love and care for our Madiba during the last days of his life. Women across Africa have told me these past ten days that they are very, very proud of you and will forever be grateful for what you have taught us as African women.

Allow me to talk to both of you. Mama Mandela and Mama Graca, that the love and tolerance you have demonstrated before the whole world during the funeral has shown us that you are prepared to continue with our Madiba's ideals.

I wish to thank President Zuma for leading the nation to mourn our president like the hero that he is. As SADC, we feel very proud. You have done your level best. This was not a wedding. This is a funeral, and you made every effort to make sure that we bury our father with dignity.

In the same spirit, I wish to therefore appeal to you, President Zuma, and under your leadership, all South Africans, to make this appeal that you remain united and continue to be a rainbow nation for this is what Tata Madiba cherished.

It is our hope and prayer that South Africa will remain a country of all people regardless of race, colour, religion and tribe. SADC will stand with you and by you, and look forward to a continued engagement in our joint efforts to deepen our democracy and regional integration.

It is up to us as leaders, as citizens, as a Continent to continue from where Tata Madiba has left, so that his legacy lives on, so that he can be remembered for what he stood for, and that we should not allow what he fought for and worked for to die and to go with him.

May his soul Rest in Everlasting Peace!

I thank you.

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