RIBUTE BY HIS EXCELLENCY DR. JAKAYA MRISHO KIKWETE, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED REPUBLIC OF TANZANIA DURING THE STATE BURIAL OF THE FIRST SOUTH AFRICAN BLACK PRESIDENT THE LATE NELSON MANDELA AT QUNNU
SOUTH AFRICA ON 15TH DECEMBER, 2013
Your Excellency President Jacob Zuma, of the Republic of South Africa;
Mama Graca Machelle,
Mama Winnie Mandela;
Members of the Bereaved Family;
Your Royal Highness, Prince Charles;
Excellencies, Heads of State and Government;
Members of the Diplomatic Corps and Representatives of International Organizations;
Ladies and Gentlemen;
I bring with me fraternal and solidarity greetings from your brothers and sisters of the United Republic of Tanzania. They have asked me to convey to you our deepest condolences to you Mr. President, Mama Graca Machelle, Mama Winnie Mandela, entire Madiba family and all the people of South Africa on the passing of His Excellency Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela, former President of South Africa and the African National Congress.
They would like you to know that you are not alone. They are with you during this difficult and somber moment. They are saying your grief is our grief, your loss is our loss. Nelson Mandela was our leader, our hero and our father as much as he was yours. The people of Tanzania have lost a great friend and great a comrade in arms.
President Mandela had long standing relations with Tanzania. It dates back to the times of independence and the liberation struggle here in South Africa and in Tanzania. Our parties, the African National Congress (ANC) and the Tanganyika African National Union (TANU) had special relations. It was no accident, therefore, that after the ANC decided to establish the armed wing, the Mnkontho Wasizwe, after peaceful means seemed to be futile, Dar es Salaam was Madibas’ first port of call after he left South Africa in 1962 to go abroad to seek support for the armed struggle and a place to train MK combatants.
Comrades and friends;
Indeed, his visit was a resounding success. It was this visit which contributed to change the course of the history of this great nation culminating into the fall of apartheid and the birth of the new South Africa in 1994. Though our first President and Father of the nation His Excellency Julius Nyerere hesitated at the beginning, he later accepted Madibas’ request and provided members of the MK both permission to live and places to train in Tanzania. I am sure to the MK veterans, names like Kongwa, Mgao, Mazimbu and Dakawa sound familiar and may even rekindle nostalgic memories of the life they lived in Tanzania. President Nyerere went further beyond availing places to live and train, he also offered Tanzania’s own support and was instrumental in mobilizing international support to train and arm the combatants. Indeed, this applied to all Southern Africa liberation movements namely MPLA, SWAPO, ZANU, ZAPU and FRELIMO.
Comrades and Friends;
This trip also was to change the fortunes of the ANC after having been banned by the apartheid regime here in South Africa. The ANC found a new home in Tanzania from where it operated, organized and spearhead the struggle. From Tanzania the ANC was able to reach its cadres and members who remained and operated from inside South Africa through discreet means of communication. From Tanzania the ANC was able to have messages reach the broad masses of the people of South Africa through dedicated radio broadcasts. As a matter of fact, the Government of Tanzania had built a special radio station for the liberation movements. The ANC was able to get back the voice that was denied by the apartheid regime.
Comrades and Friends;
There is another interesting thing about Madibas’ first visit to Tanzania in 1962. In order to keep the visit discreet, he could not stay in hotels; he stayed at the home of TANU’s Treasurer who was then the Minister for Commerce and Industries Mr. Nsilo Swai, (now late). On his departure to his onward trip to Accra, Lagos, Addis Ababa and Algiers, he left his boots at Mr. Swai’s home in the hope that on his way back he will pick them up. Unfortunately, he did not pass through Dar es Salaam and shortly after he arrived in South Africa, Mandela was arrested, tried and imprisoned for the 27 years in jail. Fortunately, the family kept the boots and waited. When Madiba was released from prison and in 1994 became the first black President of the new South Africa, the pair of brown boots were handed back to him in 1995. They were handed over by Mrs. Vicky Nsilo Swai the widow of the late Nsilo Swai who died in 1994 the year Madiba became President. I took the liberty to bring Mama Vicky Nsilo Swai with me to bid farewell to their special guest and friend. She and her late husband are exceptional human beings to keep the boots of a stranger who stayed with them for only three days and disappeared for over 32 years. When I asked her what made them keep the boots for so long, she told me her husband believed that Mandela would one day get out of prison and he may claim them. If asked they should have them at hand. Nevertheless, they did not wait, instead she freely looked for Madiba and gave him what belonged to him. What a trusting friends of Mandela they were.
After his release from Prison and after visiting Lusaka for meetings with the NEC of the ANC he came to Dar es Salaam. He was met by largest crowd the city has ever seen. Mind you, it rained heavily that day but people thronged the airport and lined up the streets of Dar es Salaam braving the rain to see their leader. Mandela’s charisma was unmatched. Of course he visited Morogoro and spent the night at Mgagao the MK’s training base.
Comrades and Friends;
I have narrated all these stories and anecdotes to let people know how far back, the present excellent relations between our countries have come from. It is no wonder that South Africa and Tanzania enjoy excellent bilateral relations. We see eye to eye on many regional and international issues. We support each other at regional and international fora.
We are close friends and allies because our common history unites us. It is none other than our founding fathers President Mwalimu Julius Nyerere who died in 1999 and President Nelson Mandela whom we are mourning today who are responsible for this. They built very strong foundations. That is why I said at the beginning that Madiba is very much our leader, hero and our father as he is to you. That is why your grief and sorrow are ours as well.
Comrades and Friends;
As we mourn the death of this great man Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela let us recommit ourselves to continue to strengthen the relations between South Africa and Tanzania. (This is a landmark and overarching legacy he has left behind for us to fulfill). Let us also work closely together at regional and international fora to advance his ideals for a strong SADC, a vitalized African Union and an effective United Nations bold enough to fight for justice and equality of all nations and peoples. And, let us fulfill his wish to see developing countries working together in unity and solidarity in pursuit of their rights and the quest to lift themselves from poverty to prosperity.
And you, my brothers and sisters of South Africa, Madiba has lived his life well, you should ensure his legacy lives on. He has left behind a vibrant democratic nation where blacks and white South Africans live harmoniously. A nation where blacks can also prosper unlike in the past when they were condemned to live in squalor, deprivation and as second or third class citizens in their own country. We know that not all that he stood for has been achieved. It is foolhardy to assume that all the ills former apartheid system will be corrected in these 19 years. Please stay the course and always strive for greater excellence. This way, you will honour this great statesman in a manner that would have please him if he were alive. This is the best way to live his legacy.
Long live Nelson Mandela!
Long live the people of South Africa!
I thank you for your kind attention.