Family statement on the death of a great man

At exactly 20h50 on that fateful evening of December 5, 2013, part of us departed to join the great line of our ancestors who have gone before us. Although death and its coming is always a surprise, but its nature should not be. While this event is painful we still embrace the eventuality. On behalf of the Mandela family and the whole Ngubengcuka household, we acknowledge with grave sadness the passing away of Mr Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela two days ago. The pillar of the royal Mandela household is no more with us physically, but his spirit is still with us.

We have lost a great man, a son of the soil whose greatness in our family was in the simplicity of his nature in our midst – a caring family leader who made time for all and on that score we will dearly miss him. He made time for all of us. That great Thembu son of the soil made time for the kings and queens, the poor and the rich, the great and small, ex-political prisoners of every persuasion and that made us unique and special in our own way. Moreover, even in the midst of his busy schedule as head of state and government, he visited the various houses of the Thembu traditional leadership, and he became the very source of oral history on the traditions of our people.

Yes, Tata is gone, the pillar of the family is gone, just as he was away during those 27 painful years of imprisonment, but in our hearts and souls he will always be with us. His spirit endures. As a family, we commit ourselves to uphold and be guided by the values he lived for and was prepared to die for. 

As a family, we learned from him to appreciate the values that made him the leader that was recognised by all, chief among these, is the lesson that a life lived for others is a life well lived. As a family, his presence was like a baobab tree that provided the comforting shade that served as protection and security for us. His presence was a warmth like the spring with its beauty, its phases, and blossoming flowers which diminishes the ugly July dry winds of the Thembu land.  

Although he attained the status of a global icon, he was remarkable for his humility in the family. Our father had been known for his national and international campaigns against poverty, HIV/AIDS awareness, and for the love of children. What many may not know is that the very same issues were his daily focus in the household and the extended family. Above all, he believed very strongly in the value and power of education – an instrument to empower children against poverty and helplessness.

As a family, we take this opportunity to extend our heartfelt gratitude and appreciation to the people of South Africa and the world for all the love and support we have experienced during the period of his long illness. Special thanks to President Jacob Zuma and the government of South Africa, the dedicated medical team that attended to him round the clock, the religious communities of the different faiths of our country and beyond that offered prayers and counselling to the family. Finally, as a family we are humbled by the messages of condolences and support we continue to receive from governments and people of the world. Clearly, this once more underlies the simple truth that Madiba was not just a citizen of South Africa and the broader African continent, but a global citizen. We are, however, comforted by the knowledge that our pain and sorrow is shared by millions around the world. Madiba is at home with great friends such as OR Tambo, Walter Sisulu and indeed many other great African patriots and leaders.

As to how the family is coping with the situation? Yes, it has not been easy for the past two days, and it won’t be pleasant for the days to come. But with the support we are receiving from here and beyond, and in due time all will be well for the family. Thank you.

By Lieutenant-General (retired) Temba Templeton Matanzima
(Official spokesperson of the Mandela family)


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