The following are remarks made by Godfrey Gomwe, CEO of Anglo American Coal, South Africa, at the handover of Nelson Mandela tribute books at the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory today, 31 March 2014.
Sello Hatang, CEO of the Nelson Mandela Foundation,
The leadership of the esteemed centre,
My colleagues from the South African Regional Leadership Team of Anglo American Coal,
May I begin by thanking Sello and his team for receiving us so warmly this morning.
It is worth noting that, at Anglo American, we used to have what we called EXCO meetings at 8 o’clock every Monday morning.
However, we changed the time to midday after the merger of thermal coal and met coal to form one business unit. This was done, in part, to accommodate the different time zone with Australia – home of our met coal business.
When we did so, we did not know that it would offer us the perfect opportunity and time, 9am, to hand over these tribute books to the Nelson Mandela Centre for Memory. That was serendipitous planning on the part of our company!
Anglo American is South Africa’s largest mining company. It is an institution of immense significance in this land. It was founded here decades ago. It has shared in the hopes and fears of a once-controversial country, now fast digging its way out of the official racial barbarism of apartheid – thanks so largely to the efforts of that courageous icon, Nelson Mandela.
Our company continues to contribute much in taxes, employment opportunities, in socio-economic development, as well as even in boldly flying the South African flag at a time when the country certainly needs such unifying gestures.
Our CEO, Mark Cutifani, spent the last couple of years in this country. In fact, his home was a stone’s throw from here.
It was therefore no coincidence that Mark flew into SA from London, where he is currently based, travelled by the same train that is used daily by ordinary commuters – George Orwell’s great unwashed – braved the incessant rain; and, together with all of us, CEOs of Anglo American businesses in SA, to attend the official memorial service for Madiba at the FNB Stadium.
Since then, we thought long and hard about what we could do to honour such a great global hero, one that President Obama correctly called the last great liberator of the 21st century.
It is almost four months after Nelson Mandela departed from this world. We are therefore honoured, as the regional leadership team, to hand over these tribute books signed by our employees from all our 10 mines (including staff from Head Office).
Dr Alex Boraine, who was involved, together with the late Dr Frederick Van Zyl Slabbert and others, in the secret talks in 1987 with the then-banned and exiled ANC, superbly captures the universal impact of Madiba.
In his challenging, candid book, What’s gone wrong?, he says, “We had in Nelson Mandela a leader of world-class proportions. He was essentially Mr Reconciler, winning the admiration of even the fiercest opponents of the ANC. He was the quintessence of humanity. He embraced former enemies, visited synagogues, mosques and churches, while remaining true to his own secular beliefs. He seemed to love all humanity and we loved him in return.”
These words aptly capture the essence and the meaning of Madiba and, we can hope, the essence of the unfolding destiny of this land.
So as we hand over these tribute books, at this historic centre, we do so inspired by the leadership and the vision of Madiba. We do so, determined to continue to play our part in living out the values that inspired him, and to which he doggedly stuck despite appalling conditions of prison, persecution and discrimination.
Anglo American has five values including, inter alia, care and respect. These values were selected not by accident but because they are in sync with the things that inspired Madiba and his generation. They are values for all people for all time. They beckon us to a better life, a better nation and a better world.
Respect for dignity is the very kernel of our Constitution. It was the value that, above all else, Madiba bequeathed us as a new nation. No system that ignores this value can truly prosper and develop the full potential of its people.
We, as a company, stand in this great man’s debt as we resolutely carry on contributing to the fight for economic growth and social stability, so as to underpin the fine values for which Nelson Mandela stood.
I am therefore highly pleased to hand over the tribute books to Sello Hatang on behalf of all our 15 000 employees. They will stand as a record of our company’s commitment to the public good.
I thank you.