Remarks by President Jacob Zuma at the unveiling of a memorial site dedicated to former President Nelson Mandela at the place where he was arrested in 1962, Howick
4 Aug 2012
Premier of KwaZulu-Natal, Dr. Zweli Mkhize;
MEC for Local Government and Traditional Affairs, Ms. Nomusa Dube and all MECs present;
MPs and MPLs;
Mayor of Umgungundlovu District Municipality, Councillor Yusuf Bhamjee;
Mayor of Umngeni Municipality, Councillor Mbali Myeni;
Honourable Mayors and Councillors;
Representatives of the Nelson Mandela Family;
Representatives of the Nelson Mandela Foundation and the Nelson Mandela Centre for
Representatives of the Apartheid Museum;
It is a pleasure and a privilege to join my compatriots to mark such historic occasion in this beautiful town of Howick.
South Africa this year is acknowledging its history more actively, which is why we are gathered to mark the 50 years since the capture of our beloved President Nelson Mandela.
It is also befitting that this occasion is being marked through unveiling Madiba’s statue marking that fateful day of 5 August 1962.
Little did those who arrested him here, know that years later, Madiba would become the first President of a non-racial, non-sexist, free and democratic South Africa.
Howick will always have its place in history as the place where Nelson Mandela was captured, fifty years ago.
Arrest of President Mandela
President Nelson Mandela was arrested on his return from meeting with the President of the African National Congress (ANC), Chief Albert Luthuli and members of the ANC and wanted to brief him about routine issues and also his visit to seek solidarity from within the continent.
We recall that Nelson Mandela had been operating underground for close to 18 months, dodging police, earning himself the nickname of the Black Pimpernel.
A conference had taken place in Pietermaritzburg responding to the declaration of South Africa as a republic on 31 May 1961.
The All-in Africa Conference convened in Maritzburg and established the All-in Africa national Council to take the matter forward, with Madiba as its secretary.
Madiba wrote to Hendrik Verwoerd on behalf of the group demanding that a National Convention be called in May 1961 to draw up a new Constitution.
Needless to say, government responded to the demands with repression, and Madiba was arrested and sentenced to five years in prison and was later sentenced to life imprisonment together with the MK High Command who were captured at Rivonia.
However despite such a setback the apartheid regime could not break his spirit nor the people’s desire and struggle for freedom.
Instead his arrest inspired our people even further when they understood his commitment to the struggle for freedom when he made his closing statement from the dock during the Rivonia Trial, and uttered those timeless words.
“During my lifetime I have dedicated myself to the struggle of the African people. I have fought against white domination, and I have fought against black domination. I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is an ideal, which I hope to live for and to achieve.
But if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die.”
It is remarkable that Madiba’s time in prison did not embitter him. He came out after 27 years more committed to peace, freedom and justice, as he had said before he went to prison.
Sadly when he came out of prison, Madiba found South Africa engulfed by violence, especially in this very province and the now Gauteng, he worked to found peace.
His message when addressing thousands of our people when he came here to KwaZulu-Natal in the midst of violence was to call on all of us to work for peace and to unite. At a rally at King's Park Stadium in Durban on 25 February 1990, Nelson Mandela called on all parties to lay down their arms, by saying:
"My message to those of you involved in this battle of brother against brother is this: "Take your guns, your knives and your pangas, and throw them into the sea. Close down the death factories. End this war now!".”
That was a message an everlasting and enduring message for peace which showed that Nelson Mandela was fundamentally a man of peace, and we must emulate his lesson.
Ladies and gentlemen,
Howick is famous for its beautiful scenery with beautiful hills and its close proximity to the magnificent Howick Falls, a major landmark and a tourist destination for many who come to visit the area.
However, the town is also remembered as sadly as an area that was heavily affected by political violence in the mid to late 1980s.
It was a site of major struggles including the working class struggles for the recognition of their trade unions, during the BTR-Sarmcol strike which began in March 1985.
The memory of the killing of four Mpophomeni trade unionists and members of MAWU who were on strike is still fresh on our minds. The brutal murder on the 5th of December 1986 of Comrades Phineas Sibiya, Simon Ngubane, Florence Mnikathi and Alpheus Nkabinde killed in another incident that night still remains a painful memory in our hearts.
This was one of the killings that sparked violence in and around many townships in the Natal Midlands between 1986 and 1990.
We acknowledge and pay homage to the contribution of these martyrs and selfless freedom fighters, who lost their lives while struggling for our freedom and democracy.
They gave their lives so that we could all enjoy freedom today. Their sacrifices, like that of President Nelson Mandela, should never be forgotten.
Ladies and gentlemen,
Let me reiterate that this monument should speak to all of us like a scared shrine, and a place of that we must treat with the utmost respect.
Howick as a heritage site
The arrest of Madiba in Howick has automatically turned this town into a historic heritage site. It will help raise awareness about this historic injustice meted out by the racist apartheid regime while also promoting tourism and job creation.
We must encourage generations to visit this place to see Madiba’s last point as a free man.
Those who do so, will be inspired by the sacrifice, commitment and dedication to this country and its people.
Children in particular should be encouraged to visit the various liberation heritage sites around the country so that they can know and understand their country’s rich political history and its national heroes.
Today’s occasion therefore gives us all immense pride and joy. It is a reminder of the rich political heritage of our country and of our responsibilities are as a people who must take Madiba’s legacy forward.
Madiba has achieved a lot in his 94 years of life, although he has always remained modest and humble. Today we celebrate that sterling and visionary leadership that he displayed even in most trying conditions during the struggle for liberation.
We celebrate lessons from Madiba one of which is humble leadership.
He stated during his trial in 1962; “A lot has been written since the Pietermaritzburg conference, and even more since my arrest, much of which is flattering to my pride and dear to my heart, but much of which is mistaken and incorrect.
It has been suggested that the advances, the articulateness of our people, the successes which they are achieving here, and the recognition which they are winning both here and abroad are in some way the result of my work.
I must place on record my belief that I have been only one in a large army of people, to all of whom the credit for any success of achievement is due.
Advance and progress is not the result of my work alone, but of the collective work of my colleagues and I, both here and abroad.”
South Africa is privileged to have Madiba. We are truly blessed to have a leader who was always able to read situations and respond correctly with the right strategy or tactic to take us forward.
We are truly blessed to have a leader who was willing to embrace all in our country and promote unity, peace and stability.
We are privileged to have a leader who always put the interests of his country and its people first in everything, from the days of the struggle to his tenure as the first president of a democratic South Africa.
We humble ourselves at this point where Madiba lost his freedom.
We commit ourselves to work tirelessly to achieve the ideals that Madiba worked for, a South Africa that is united in its diversity, which is prosperous and successful, and in which children are assured of a brighter future.
We congratulate all who are involved in this project, and wish you all of the best.
I thank you!
Issued by: The Presidency
4 Aug 2012
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