Honourable Speaker and Members,
A big tree, an outstanding servant of the people, a struggle icon has fallen. Dr Maya Angelou, in her poem “The Great Tree has Fallen” says, and I quote:
“…. when great souls die,
after a period, peace blooms,
slowly and always irregularly.
Spaces fill with a kind of soothing electric vibration.
Our senses, restored never to be the same, whisper to us.
They existed. They existed.
We can be. Be and be better. For they existed.”
As we mourn and are still trying to come to terms with the untimely death of Mam’ uWinnie, no one can deny the fact that our lives are better because she existed.
Mama was a fearless freedom fighter, who brought her superlative courage to the struggle during the darkest hours of oppression. She was a colossus that bestrode the lives of the poor and downtrodden, shielding them from the vicious onslaught of the apartheid regime.
It was therefore not surprising that South Africans, who understand the passage of the struggle for freedom, regarded her with veneration. It is because these South Africans understand that both in the war against the apartheid regime and in peace, Mam’ uWinnie served South Africa unfailingly and wholeheartedly for decades.
For these reasons, it was also not surprising that, when Mama uWinnie passed away, the world rang with tributes to this great leader of our time.
We were however flabbergasted by the ostentatious vulgarity of the criticism of her legacy by some of her detractors and the brazen lies they told to tarnish her image. Despite your venomous attacks on her, our love and respect for her remains undiminished.
Disappointingly, even the behaviour displayed by some of those who tried to defend her legacy was at times marked by puerility. This group displayed an exclusivist notion to national interest and the right to defend her legacy, which was extremely intolerant of dissenting views, whether valid or not.
It the saddest irony of history and a damning indictment of our leadership that we used her passing to divide the very same nation she fought tooth and nail to unite. Colleagues, you know that I prefer truth to comfort!
Granted, Mama was not without faults. She made mistakes just like everyone else. However, to reduce her legacy to her mistakes understands neither the dangers of the struggle for freedom, nor the monumental sacrifices on which our pedestal of hope is premised.
In this regard, we owe it to the youth of this country and future generations to tell an objective account of Mam’ uWinnie’s historical contribution to our liberation struggle that is free of distortions.
Throughout our struggle for freedom, Mam’s uWinnie was sustained not only by her love for our people, but by her sincerity and commitment towards building a democratic, united, non-racial and non-sexist South Africa.
In your honour Mama, we will continue to fight for the improvement of the lives of the poor and to ensure that land is returned back to our people.
We will not let your passing, as our struggle icons, to be the end of era of South African greatness! We will continue to individually and collectively work hard towards building a South Africa in which we look forward to the sunrise of our tomorrow!
Menze Thixo aphumle ngonaphakade. Umkhanyisele ngokhanyiso olungacimiyo.