Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves has joined world leaders in paying tribute to South African freedom fighter and former president, Nelson Mandela, saying, “He remains an example to emulate, a continuing inspiration for service to humanity, and a leader to follow.”
Mandela died on Thursday at age 95 and Gonsalves said, “We are fortunate to have lived during the lifetime of a colossus, Nelson Mandela…”
He, however, decried “forces internationally which seek selectively, to rewrite Mandela’s life story in their own image and interest”.
Gonsalves said the National Flag of St. Vincent and the Grenadines will be flown at half-mast on the day of Mandela’s funeral.
Following is the full text of PM Gonsalves’ tribute:
TRIBUTE TO NELSON ROLIHLAHLA MANDELA
(JULY 18, 1918 – DECEMBER 05, 2013)
DR. THE HONOURABLE RALPH E. GONSALVES
PRIME MINISTER OF ST. VINCENT AND THE GRENADINES
Nelson Mandela is dead at 95 years of age. He was an African Revolutionary; an Iconic Global Fighter for Equality, Justice, Peace, and Democracy; a World Statesman of the highest quality; former President of South Africa and Founding Father of his Nation; an Exemplary Family Man; a Most Extraordinary Human Being and Humanist; and a Man after God’s Own Heart. He remains an example to emulate, a continuing inspiration for service to humanity, and a leader to follow.
Affectionately-known in South Africa and globally by his Xhosa clan name, Madiba, Mandela demonstrated over his long life his unwavering commitment to uplifting human values, an absence of bitterness and hatred, even towards those who unjustly imprisoned him for 27 years, an enduring devotion to humanity’s better side, and the bountiful possibilities of the human spirit.
Groomed in the Thembu royal family, Mandela’s thirst for knowledge and education to buttress his grace and wisdom, led him to study law at Fort Hare University and the University of Withwatersrand in South Africa. At a young age he became immersed in anti-colonial politics and the quest for majority rule in what a South Africa governed by a white minority group as descended from settlers. Accordingly, he joined the African Nationalist Congress (ANC), the liberation movement in South Africa, and was a founding-member of the ANC’s Youth League. Young Vincentians today can learn greatly from Mandela’s early commitments and strength.
When the racist South African National Party assumed power in 1948 and established, formally, the cruel and oppressive apartheid system of “racial separateness”, Mandela’s determination and militancy in his long walk to freedom, intensified. The brutality and unjust nature of apartheid led Mandela to link his people’s strategic quest for freedom, not only to peaceful political activities, but also to the necessity of armed struggle. Thus, he co-founded the Umkhonto we Sizwe (MK), the military wing of the ANC; and he built a solidarity political alliance and supportive network with the South African Communist Party.
After years of harassing and terrorising Mandela, the security and judicial apparatuses of the racist South African regime finally succeeded in imprisoning him in 1964, with a life sentence. The unraveling of the apartheid regime internally, the growing strength of the liberation struggle led by the ANC, and an international campaign, finally caused the apartheid government to release Mandela in 1990, after some 27 years in jail.
Events moved swiftly and in 1994, free and fair multi-racial, multi-party elections were held in South Africa. Nelson Mandela and his ANC won the general elections overwhelmingly. Mandela became President and led a government of national unity to aid in the process of reconciliation, constitutional re-making, and nation-building. He served one term as President and voluntarily relinquished office in 1998. He was succeeded by his much younger deputy, Thabo Mbeki, who was in turn succeeded by Jacob Zuma, both of the ANC.
After demitting the Office of President of South Africa, Mandela devoted much of his time to a bundle of worthy causes, including the fight against HIV/AIDS, sports as a unifier of people, peace and reconciliation, and African unity.
There are some forces internationally which seek selectively, to rewrite Mandela’s life story in their own image and interest. Those, for example, who labelled Mandela and the ANC as terrorists during the epic years of anti-apartheid struggle now want to make it appear that it was the goodly work of a few former apartheid apostles who experienced a Damascus conversion and the “constructive engagement” of the governments of the USA and some European countries were principally responsible for apartheid’s demise. Such persons attempt to write out of the real story the outstanding solidarity contributions to the liberation struggle and the ANC from, for example, ordinary people of all walks of life internationally, the Soviet Union, Gadhafi’s Libya, and the defeat of the racist South African army at the epic battle of Cuito Cunavale at the hands of the Cuban fighters, the Angolans, and ANC patriots. These very selective historians down-play the militancy of the revolutionaries in South Africa, including those in the joint endeavours of the ANC and the South African Communist Party. We must be aware of these revisionist, self-serving history-tellers, particularly in sections of the established western media.
Many of my generation were particularly moved by Mandela’s fortitude and high principle, to offer support for majority-rule in South Africa and for his release from jail. We formed African Liberation Committees and participated accordingly in political activities with these objectives in mind. At Mandela’s death we remember the contributions of all these persons. So, too, we remember and celebrate the sacrifices of Mandela’s comrades-in-arms such as Oliver Tambo and Walter Sisulu, as well as younger warriors of blessed memory such as Steve Biko.
We are fortunate to have lived during the lifetime of a colossus, Nelson Mandela, our extraordinary Madiba.
Mandela’s global stature was reflected, in part, by the esteemed accolades he received world-wide, among them being: the Nobel Peace Prize, the Soviet Order of Lenin, the US Presidential Medal of Freedom, and the Bharat Ratna.
On behalf of the government and people of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, I express profound condolences to the government and people of South Africa, to Madiba’s widow, Graça, to his former wife, Winnie, to his children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren, and to his entire family and close friends. At this moment of profound sadness, we are at one with the world in celebrating Madiba’s extraordinary life. The entire world, including his former foes, rightly claim him as their own.
May Madiba’s soul rest in peace, and may light perpetual shine upon him.
The flag of St. Vincent and the Grenadines is to be flown at half-mast on the day of Madiba’s funeral.
Dated the 6th day of December, 2013.