An outstanding leader, freedom fighter and statesman
On behalf of citizens, councillors, staff of our capital, my wife Jennifer, family and myself, I express condolences to Mr Mandela’s family, his colleagues, and the people of South Africa, on the loss of their revered son and a great soul. Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela.
With characteristic fighting spirit, even after 95 odd years, he doggedly held on to life up to the end; so now he has bid us an earthy farewell, as he moves to a higher plateau, a place of eternal bliss and peace.
One philosopher reminded us that any generalization which affirms the historical significance of outstanding human individuals can be thought of as the ‘Great Man Theory of History,’ thus in every period of history certain individuals by their words and deeds, are outstanding history-making charismatic personalities, above the ordinary.
As an outstanding leader, freedom fighter and statesman, Nelson Mandela’s claim to greatness cannot be questioned. His compassion and valour were supported by his unusual physical stamina, and mental acuity. These offer us a beacon light to guide us along the pathway to a better world.
Many will recount his exploits, in particular his willingness to confront the awesome might of apartheid, and injustice – but then there was his healing hand of magnanimity. When he became President of South Africa in 1994, his ability to forgive, while not forgetting, demonstrated true greatness. His resoluteness in the face of challenges, even from within, and those who sought revenge, was remarkable. This was no ordinary man.
My first acquaintance with Nelson Mandela was during the independence celebrations of the Republic of Namibia, in Southern Africa on March 21, 1990. It was a moment of satisfaction since it signalled the dismantling of apartheid and imperialism in southern Africa. This former German protectorate under SWAPO (South West Africa People’s Organisation) leadership, was at last free.
Dignitaries from across the globe were present. Nelson Mandela had just been released from prison, yet at state and other functions he was the centre of attraction. Heads and diplomats were all dwarfed in the presence of this one man.
Incidentally he and other freedom fighters remembered Guyana’s strong support for their cause, and expressed their gratitude. The new President of Namibia Sam Nujoma and Mandela both spoke of their disappointment that Forbes Burnham had died and could not be present to share in this moment of glory. President Sam Nujoma recalled his memorable visit to Guyana as the Special guest of Forbes Burnham.
Mandela was the personification of dignified majesty ‒ the quintessence of African ancestral piety, resilience and deep spirituality. In spite of being put in jail, Mandela showed neither signs of hate nor revenge; he was now free to continue his work for peace and a just world.
It was therefore with a sense of pride to remind the group that the PNC government had accorded Mr Mandela Guyana’s highest national honour – the Order of Excellence ‒ then on October 28, 1988, we renamed one of our major road links ‘Mandela Avenue’ in his honour. The citation was “Hero in the struggle for freedom, Human Rights and against Apartheid.”
As we mourn, let us pause to take a leaf out of his book, not with pious words, but by deeds. Of significance this man of indomitable will, fifty odd years ago, in the face of injustice, was forced to go underground, and later with others established an organization to oppose corruption and injustice. It was known as Spear of the Nation ‒ Umkhono We Sizwe.
Beyond this we must remember how at the Rivonia trial he was facing the death sentence.
Also recall his statement from the dock on April 20, 1964. He reminded the court thus: “I am a convicted prisoner serving five years for leaving the country without a permit and for inciting people to go on strike at the end of May 1961.” After dealing extensively with the prosecutor’s case against him, his concluding remarks are of tremendous significance; he said, “During my lifetime I have dedicated myself to this struggle of the African People, and I have fought against white domination, and 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.”
As we say farewell to Nelson Mandela his strong words must inspire and strengthen all of us, but in particular our young people, some of whom may be wilting under the weight of injustice, immorality and greed.
Our determination to dedicate our lives in the struggle for freedom, truth and justice, and further our willingness to die for them ‒ will be our greatest tribute to Nelson Mandela.
As he goes to join the great majority, we say, farewell Dear Brother, you have fought a good fight.
So now I pray to let his soul rest in peace.
Mayor of Georgetown