Uhuru-Spirit News


December 22, 2013 | UhuruSpirit

Nelson Mandela

The following is a tribute to Nelson Mandela, delivered by Member of Jamaican Parliament, Paul Buchanan, in the House of Representatives on Friday, December 13. The tribute has been applauded by his parliamentary colleagues, and members of the general public...

Mr Speaker,

I rise in tribute to a man whose suffering on behalf of his people has no parallel in human history.

But Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela always understood that after the struggle, lives had to be rebuilt, healing had to begin, a nation had to be reborn and coexistence and peace had to be assured.

To succeed, he brought all his leadership skills to the task. He knew that the African National Congress (ANC) was not a perfect party nor its members a perfect people but more than all else, they were called to a perfect mission - to forgive, to redeem and build each other, and he succeeded because he was a pragmatist, who did not see the answer to questions in absolute terms.

Life is never either or, he said. Decisions are always complex and there are competing facts. He himself was branded a terrorist, because he stood with Fidel Castro and Muammar Gaddafi, who supported the ANC in their just struggle while uncaring world powers who likewise classified them as terrorists, looked on and in many cases supported the ignoble regime in South Africa.

He succeeded in his heroic struggle because he was a pragmatist who acknowledged the power of patience, listening, timing and tactics. He refused to negotiate the principle of one man one vote, which he saw as irrefutable but everything else was on the table.

He succeeded because he also understood that leaders must act the part, no matter how terrifying and dangerous the situation. That is why he continued to read his newspaper as a plane engine failed and all around him were panicking on a far away day after his release from prison. When asked how could he be so calm while the plane was in descent, he quietly replied "calm, I was terrified as hell."

That is why although he constantly feared for his life on Robben Island, knowing that the other prisoners looked up to him for strength amidst cruelty and pain, he always walked erect for 27 years across the yard of that inhumane, infamous wind-swept prison. He succeeded, Mr Speaker, because he was willing to sacrifice. That is why like our own Norman Manley, he and Oliver Tambo forsook their prestigious law practices to take up the case of the people.

That is why, although he was a good boxer, he quickly understood that there was a greater calling beyond the boundaries of the boxing ring, beyond straight and right uppercuts, beyond biceps and triceps, that calling was the battle for freedom's cause.

So, Mr Speaker, Nelson Mandela, called Rolihlahla, meaning 'pulling a branch off a tree' or colloquially 'troublemaker', lived his name to the full. He spent his youth years in activism at school, then his formative years agitating, protesting and fighting a cruel regime for his people.

Yet, Mr Speaker, there are students of public policy who still scoff at his legacy, claiming that he leaves behind too much economic disparity. But we must quickly concur, Mr Speaker, that his mission was to deliver a political kingdom, not an economic one.

His lifelong struggle for freedom and democracy took a heavy toll on his health and ultimately, his life. He had no more to give. But he was clear on the economic mission of the new generation as here at home, with Alexander Bustamante and Norman Manley.

His task was to set the course, not to steer the ship. In his long walk to freedom he tells his charges his success with an unambiguous understanding of the unfinished economic agenda.

"Ours is a journey of hope and resilience, we dare not linger, for our long walk is not yet ended."

Mr Speaker, in the long sweep of history, few men have freely given up state power. Nelson Mandela is one such. Our own Percival James Patterson is another. Mark such men well, Mr Speaker. History will be kind to them.

So, Mr Speaker, President Obama is correct. Mandela's towering legacy to the world is defined in the African word Ubuntu - the shared humanity of all races. It proposes lessons on how we should rise above the imperfections and negative actions of men - and how we should live as one.

I close Mr Speaker, but not without a mention of those leaders who mentored, supported and strengthened his work. These are others too, from whom this young sheepherder who became his country's liberator drew inspiration. Mandela would have wanted us to acknowledge them.

His time here on earth is done, he has paid his rent in full. Nelson Mandela, one of Africa's must illustrious sons, is about to enter the great hall of heroes, the transcendent national liberators and purveyors of social justice. The angels are providing him with a guard of honour. There is joy in heaven this evening, Mr Speaker.

There to meet him is Patrice Lumumba, the leader of the Congo who sacrificed his life for the dignity and independence of his country.

Nnamdi Azikiwe of Nigeria, another giant of his nation's independence struggle, firmly salutes Mandela and so too, the seminal Pan Africanist, Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana.

Oliver Tambo, his senior law partner and former ANC president, is there with open arms to meet his old comrade. His great friend, Walter Sisulu, secretary general of the ANC, is standing in full admiration around the table.

There, too, are the martyred young lions, Steve Biko, whose Black Conciousness Movement shocked the conscience of the world, and the brilliant Chris Hani, who led the military wing of the ANC- both brutally murdered in Apartheid's cauldron of death.

Mr Speaker, there is also Ghandi, Martin Luther King, and Malcolm X. Proundly standing also, is the towering Pan Africanist and liberator of his race, our greatest son, Marcus Mosiah Gravey, whose UNIA established branches and forged an unbreakable alliance with the ANC in the Cape Province when Nelson was only a babe.

Michael Manley, who incessantly championed the cause of international justice for the nations on the periphery of the South African regime is also there to cheer him home. Bob Marley and Peter Tosh, our musical poets, are there humming to the beat of a tune which provides background music; it must be One Love, Mr Speaker.

Mr Speaker, what a celestial communion. What a gathering of immortals. Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela, the pre-eminet African national liberator, has finally arrived at the meeting place of the truly worthy - the place that French West Indian writer Aime Cesaire and the Trinidadian social thinker CLR James called the 'Rendevous of victory'.

Mr Speaker, may it please you. I am done.

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