10 December 2013, FNB Stadium, Johannesburg, South Africa
Joyce Banda was President of Malawi at the time of the memorial
It is with a deep sense of humility that I accepted to come and be part of this event today
I stand before you today to join you, the people of South Africa, and the world, to mourn the loss of a great leader: Nelson Rohlihlahla 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 Mandela was during his visit to Malawi in 1990, after his release from prison, when he came to meet the President, Kamuzu Banda.
I was amazed with his 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 from 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 facing me, and I thought that she was taking me to a room, when then after that she was going to go and collect Madiba. I walked into the room not knowing 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 last week, is Mama Graca pulling me back. It was him.
At that moment I did not know that I was to become President of Malawi a few months down the line. At the moment I became Presidnet of Malawi, I had been isolated, humiliated, called names, and survived an assassination attempt on my life.
I found myself in a situation where I had to work with those same people who 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 elected woman President in my country.
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 say that a lot of African leaders are talking about the lessons that you ought to learn from Madiba, but are you practising them? Are you doing it? And i said yes. Come and see.
Today, I stand before you, on behalf of our regional grouping and family, the Southern Africa Development Community (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 on of Tata 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 work. 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 of the region that we live. He championed the freedom of not only South Africans but of all 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 offices. 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, to 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 last ten days, that they are very very proud to you, and will forever be grateful for what you have taught us as African women.
Allow me to talk to both of you, 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 Madiba like the hero that he is. As SADC we feel very proud. You have done your level best. This was not a wedding, this was a funeral, and you made every effort to see that we bury our father with dignity.
In the same spirti, 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 democracy and regional integration. It is now 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 lived to die with him.
May his soul Rest in Peace! I thank you.