Nelson Mandela Foundation

Eulogy by President Jacob Zuma at the State Funeral of the late former President of the Republic and former Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces, His Excellency Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela, Qunu, Eastern Cape

15 December 2013

Mama Graca Machel, Mama Winnie Madikizela-Mandela and the entire family and abaThembu bonke,

His Excellency Hailemariam Desalegn, the Chairperson of the African Union and Prime Minister of Ethiopia,

Her Excellency Dr Joyce Banda,

Chairperson of the Southern African Development Community, (SADC) and the President of the Republic of Malawi,

Excellency President Jakaya Kikwete, President of the United Republic of Tanzania,

Your Majesties, Excellencies, Heads of State and Government,

Deputy President Motlanthe and all Vice Presidents present,

Former President Thabo Mbeki and all former Heads of State and Government,

Ministers and all representatives of governments,

The leadership of the ANC, SACP, COSATU and SANCO,

Leaders of fraternal political organisations and friends of South Africa,

Religious leaders,

Traditional leaders,

Compatriots and friends.

Today marks the end of an extraordinary journey that began 95 years ago.

It is the end of 95 glorious years of a freedom fighter, a dedicated and humble servant of the people of South Africa, a fountain of wisdom, a pillar of strength and a beacon of hope to all those fighting for a just and equitable world order.

We are truly honoured to be part of the final journey of this great son of our country and the founding President of a free and democratic South Africa, Isithwalandwe Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela.


It has been a long painful week for us, your people, since you took your last breath on the 5th of December 2013.

When you became critically ill last year, we were gripped with fear and anxiety. We did not want to confront the reality of your mortality.

Over the past nine days of mourning, people have expressed their grief in various ways.

What truly stands out, is the spectacular display of admiration by the thousands who descended upon the Union Buildings in Pretoria to spend just one moment with you, as you lay in state.

As we observed the long, patient queues lining the streets to the Union Buildings, some silent, some singing, many crying, we asked ourselves: what is it about this man that elicits this outpouring of sincere emotion.

The answer is that when people see goodness in a person, they respond by reflecting goodness back at that person, and on their fellow men and women.

We wish today, to express two simple words: Thank you.

Thank you for being everything we wanted and needed in a leader during a difficult period in our lives.

Siyabulela, enkosi.


Whilst your long walk to freedom has ended in the physical sense, our own journey continues.

We have to continue building the type of society you worked tirelessly to construct. We have to take your legacy forward.

In doing so, we will continue drawing lessons from your very rich and extraordinary life.

We will always remember you as a man of integrity who embodied the values and principles that your organisation, the ANC promotes.

These are: unity, selflessness, sacrifice, collective leadership, humility, honesty, discipline, hard work and mutual respect.

We will promote these values and practise them, in order to build the type of society you wanted.

That society is outlined in the ideals you espoused, the ideals you lived for and which you were prepared to die for.

These ideals define your organisation, the ANC.

You summarised them in your timeless statement in court in 1964.

You said:

"During my lifetime I have dedicated myself to this struggle of the African people.

"I have fought against white domination, and I have fought against black domination. I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities.

"It is an ideal which I hope to live for and to achieve. But if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die''.

When democracy was ushered in on the 27th of April 1994, you set out to build this ideal society.

You actively promoted the achievement of a united, democratic, non-racial, non-sexist and prosperous South Africa.

You taught us to embrace one another as compatriots, regardless of race, ethnicity, religion or creed.

You did this because you hated racism.

In your first court statement in October 1962, where you objected to being a black man in a white man's court, being tried by a white court which was enforcing laws you had had no hand in making, you had also spoken out strongly against racism.

You said:

"I hate race discrimination most intensely and in all its manifestations. I have fought it all during my life; I fight it now, and will do so until the end of my days''.

We pledge today to continue promoting non-racialism and tolerance in our country and to build a South Africa that truly belongs to all.

We also cherish the lessons you taught us, of the importance of reconciliation, forgiveness and compassion.

You forgave those who had taken away most of your adult life and who had dehumanised the majority of your compatriots.

We learned from you, that to build a new South Africa from the ashes of apartheid colonialism, we needed to rise above anger and the human desire for retribution.

In this way, you offered hope in the place of hopelessness.


You did not only believe in gender equality, you practised it.

Gender equality gained prominence and seriousness under your presidency, leading to an increase in the numbers of women in public office, especially in parliament and cabinet.

We dare not reverse your achievements in this regard.


As your journey ends today, ours must continue in earnest.

One thing we can assure you of today Tata, as you take your final steps, is that South Africa will continue to rise.

Your abiding revolutionary spirit will prevail on us to not rest, until the poor and the working class have truly benefited from the material fruits of freedom and democracy which you fought for.

Therefore, today we undertake to take forward your promotion of an improved quality of life for all.

We commit to work more intensively to deal a decisive blow against persistent poverty, unemployment and inequality.

We pledge to take your vision forward for good schools and hospitals, quality housing and utilities, decent jobs and working conditions as well as efficient and accountable public services.

Learning from your good self, we will continue to use education as a weapon to improve the quality of life and bring about change and to invest in the development of children and the youth.

You loved children dearly.

Therefore, in your memory, South African children must grow up in a country that is not only politically free, but which is also free and safe from violence; free and safe from crime, free and safe from poverty, ignorance and disease, free and safe from indignity.

That is the type of country we are building.

In doing all this and more, we will be able to complete this country's transformation into the global force for social and economic leadership that you believed we were capable of being.

Indeed, South Africa will continue to rise because we dare not fail you.

The children of the accomplished strategic thinker and consummate man of action that you were, must succeed and will succeed to build the South Africa of your dreams.


As your triumphant journey comes to an end, we sincerely thank you for dedicating your life to building a free and democratic South Africa, in which all shall live in equality and dignity.

We sincerely thank your family for sharing you with us and the world.

We acknowledge the suffering of your own children, who had an absent father, and a father who was called a dangerous man and a terrorist, by the apartheid regime and its surrogates.

They are no doubt, truly proud today, to have been brought to this planet by a man so great and yet so humble.

We thank your late former wife, Mama Evelyn Mase who raised your children under difficult conditions while you spent time in prison.

We acknowledge Comrade Winnie Madikizela-Mandela who kept your name alive and provided support and strength throughout the difficult years.

When the ANC was banned, she refused to be silenced and carried on the struggle with amazing bravery.

She was persecuted severely for standing by you and for remaining resolute in the pursuit of a free, democratic, non-racial, non-sexist and united South Africa.

We are proud of the contribution that she has made to the struggle for the liberation of our country as an activist and leader in her own name and right.

We thank your dear wife, Mama Graca Machel, who has been at your side providing love, strength, and companionship.

The past year has not been easy for her due to your ill health. She ensured your care and comfort, until the final moments.

Given mama Graca's own passion for children's rights and well-being, the two of you made a formidable pair, for the benefit of children.

We acknowledge your impressive grand-children who have matured way beyond their ages, because of the type of family they have been born into.

Many have looked after you over the years, providing support and love and doing many things that would have made you proud.

In many of them, we see you.

We thank abaThembu, amaDlomo onke, for being the pillar you needed in undertaking tasks of building this great country.

We extend our deep-felt condolences to your organisation, the ANC as well as COSATU, the SA Communist Party and the SA National Civics Organisation for whom your departure is a monumental loss.

We thank the ANC in particular for providing the space for you to lead us to freedom and to influence humanity.

Our thoughts are with the Eastern Cape Province and the community of Qunu and surroundings who have lost their famous son.

We extend our condolences to the entire South African nation, whose pain we share deeply, as a Government whose foundation you laid in 1994.

Our hearts go out to all your friends who have each lost a part of themselves in your passing.

From George Bizos to Ahmed Kathrada, Andrew Mlangeni and other stalwarts. We feel their pain.

When bidding you farewell, we also remember how fortunate we have been for our country to have produced leaders of your calibre.

Through you, we salute Oliver Reginald Tambo, Walter Sisulu, Govan Mbeki, Elias Motsoaledi, Raymond Mhlaba, Moses Kotane, Steven Dlamini, Helen Joseph, Lillian Ngoyi, Dorothy Nyembe and countless others.

We owe it to them and to countless South Africans and foreign nationals who died in pursuit of our freedom, to take your vision of a better life for all, forward.


We acknowledge your medical team who worked around the clock managing your health. We thank your personal support staff, from protectors to household and administration, all of whom are going through a lot of pain.

You were an internationalist, which is why Africa and the world descended on this country to bid you farewell.

We will continue to contribute to building a better Africa and a more just and equitable world order.

We thank Africa and the world again for their solidarity and support since your passing.



We will miss your smile, your laughter, your love and your leadership.

We will cherish every moment we spent with you.

You were indeed an extraordinary human being.

You will remain our guiding light, illuminating the path as we continue the long journey to build the South Africa of your dreams.

We shall not say goodbye, for you are not gone.

You will live forever in our hearts and minds.

Hamba kahle Madiba, Yemyem, Zondwa, Ngqolomsila, Velambhentsele!


I thank you.