Madam Speaker, Deputy President and Honourable Members
President Nelson Mandela’s election and inauguration in 1994 marked the end of many years oppression and caused South Africans of all races to fill the streets, all celebrating our victory in the fight for the self-evident right to determine our own destiny.
Some shouted from their rooftops lines from SEK Mqhayi’s poem, Ukutshona kukaMendi, the SS Mendi steamship, which sank in 1917 killing all the troops on board.
These lines have over the years been used to describe not only the bravery of the men, who died in this tragic incident, but to also explain a course of events that has been predetermined by fate. Mqhayi says, and I quote:
“Sibona kamhlophe sithi bekumele,
Sithethe engqondweni sithi bekufanele,
Xa bekungenjalo bekungasayi kulunga,
Ngoko ke Sotase kwaqala ukulunga.”
We did this precisely because Madiba was a man of courage, who refused to withdraw when difficulties ensued. He fought gallantly to deliver freedom and justice for all. During his term in office, Madiba meticulously stitched together a people as diverse as our country’s scenery into a Rainbow nation.
We must however admit that race relations have regressed since the Madiba days. Anger, resentment and racism sometimes belie the seemingly well-adjusted Rainbow Nation.
We therefore have to work hard to build a cohesive Nation that works towards the well-being of all the people.
Madiba did not only leave us a legacy of peace, forgiveness and justice, but he also left us one of the best Constitutions in the world, which is fortified by a number of institutions that support our constitutional democracy.
While talking about democratic institutions, Honourable Members, our conduct in this House over the past few weeks has left much to be desired. It has chipped away at the foundation of Parliament and the very same very same Madiba legacy we seek to uphold and preserve.
I submit that nations around the world use Parliament as a dipstick through which to measure the quality of a nation’s discourse, as well as the quality and the maturity of its leaders.
Considering how badly we been behaving in this House, we should not complain when people mistake Parliament for a gathering of gangsters and hooligans.
We must maintain the decorum of the House and treat each other with respect at all times.
In honour of Madiba, we have to use this House to fight poverty, unemployment and inequality and to build a just and better South Africa for all.
In conclusion, in his parliamentary farewell speech to Madiba in 1999, former President Mbeki said the following words, which still ring true today, because Madiba is with us in spirit and I quote: “We have you, Madiba, as our nearest and brightest star to guide us on our way. We will not get lost.” End quote.