South African President Jacob Zuma opened the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory, official home of the Nelson Mandela Foundation in Houghton, Johannesburg, on 18 November 2013.
The official opening by President Zuma marks a significant period in our country’s history and reminds us of the 20th anniversary of our democracy, to be celebrated in 2014.
On 16 November 1993, Nelson Mandela and FW de Klerk agreed on the basic elements that would allow for the country’s first democratic general election to take place in 1994. The next day, the Multi-Party Negotiating Process (MPNP) debated the final details, and in the early hours of 18 November, the MPNP approved the interim constitution for the country and an electoral bill to underpin the 27 April 1994 poll.
It is therefore fitting that 18 November 2013 was the official unveiling of the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory as a multi-purpose public facility.
Master of Ceremonies Gareth Cliff spoke about the film, Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom, and introduced a social initiative currently running on Twitter that seeks to continue the conversation, especially among young people, about former President Mandela’s living legacy and the very things he stood for.
“We invite you to join the conversation using the hashtag #MandelaLWTF on Twitter and Facebook,” he said.
On welcoming distinguished guests to the opening of the Centre of Memory, Sello Hatang, Chief Executive of the Nelson Mandela Foundation, thanked the existing donors, especially National Lottery Distribution Trust Fund (NLDTF), and welcomed new donors to the fold – Kaya FM, Edcon, Thebe Investments, Sunderland Association Football Club (AFC) and the Embassy of the United States.
“Today marks a quintessential change for us. Of course, Madiba stopped using his office in 2010, but today finally the building itself has been refurbished with a mandate beyond that of a most-presidential office.
“This building is now a public facility – an integrated resource on the life and times of Madiba, a place where his legacy is open to interpretation and where we will convene dialogue on critical social issues and drive social change,” he added.
Tokyo Sexwale, Chairperson of the Nelson Mandela Foundation Resource Mobilisation Committee, said, “This is a house of reconciliation and dialogue, a place where different parties can come together and discuss pertinent policy issues.”
Mr Sexwale officially introduced and acknowledged the existing Nelson Mandela legacy champions, including the government of India, the Rockefeller family, Vodacom, the Motsepe family, former US President Bill Clinton and the Sexwale Family Foundation, which with the NLDTF facilitated the refurbishment of the Centre of Memory building.
Mr Sexwale then highlighted an internal auction that will see the same model of car that Madiba was arrested in in Howick, a Humber – the very model that features in the movie – go on the block to raise funds for the Centre of Memory.
Mr Sexwale acknowledged new donors for their R4.5-million contribution, personally thanking representatives from Kaya FM, Edcon, Thebe Investments, Sunderland AFC and the Embassy of the United States.
Greg Maloka, Kaya FM
“Our contribution took the shape of a 67km relay we ran over Mandela Day 2013, inspired by Madiba’s insistence that 'It is in your hands.' A relay reiterates the idea of handing over the baton, and via this we created a significant event with over 12 000 participants – all eager to participate in the preservation of Madiba’s legacy. As we celebrate 20 years of democracy next year, we commit to continue to pledging resources to ensure our children are able to strive and prosper against all odds.”
Jurgen Schreiber, Managing Director at Edcon
“On behalf of Edcon, we are deeply honoured and proud to be associated with the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory. The Centre of Memory creates an important platform to ensure the culture of debate and free speech, and we are committed to investing in Mr Mandela’s legacy. No amount of money can represent Mr Mandela’s worth to the world, but we hope to help ensure his memory will hold up, and we are honoured to make this contribution.”
Moeketi Tshabalala representing Thebe Investments
“It is only fitting that we contribute to the cause of our founding father, Mr Nelson Mandela, and his legacy. As Thebe Investments, we share many of the values of the Centre of Memory, and we are committed to continuing our partnership with you to make sure that future generations will continue to understand what an icon Mr Mandela is.”
Margaret Byrne, Executive Chair at Sunderland AFC
“It is a great honour for Sunderland AFC to be here today. We are the first football club in the world to partner with this amazing foundation. Sunderland is committed to using football to help spread Mr Mandela’s legacy of social inclusion and give back to the communities we operate in.”
Ambassador Patrick Gaspard from the Embassy of the United States
“It is a tremendous honour to be able to join you this evening at the launch of an institution that is dedicated to growing the legacy of Mr Mandela. Madiba’s shining moral example is one that continues to be a prime example for the entire world, one that needs to be preserved. I have had the opportunity to interact with some of the material from Madiba’s personal archives, his letters and documents that record his life and his memories. For our youth, what matters is not just archiving the world, but changing it. The real goal here is the preservation of a set of values for young people, one that can be used to interrogate our present.”
Professor Ntshengedzeni Alfred Nevhutanda, chairperson of the NLDTF and the founding donor of the Centre of Memory, took the opportunity to value the partnership of the two organisations.
“We are here to confirm that we will not leave our history to [wash] down the drain. We gave an amount of R11.8-million to the Centre of Memory, which we hope will support the Centre and ensure that the history of South Africa’s democratic founding father is maintained. Long live the Centre, you are our baby, and we are your friends.”
The Chairperson of the Nelson Mandela Foundation, Professor Njabulo Ndebele, took the stage on behalf of the Board of Trustees and as a prelude to President Zuma's opening address.
“What is it that makes the Centre of Memory so important? It stands as a site of continual reflection on the life and times of one of the greatest leaders the world has seen, that of Mr Mandela. The core objectives of the Centre over the next five years are: to be the trusted voice on the life and times of Mr Mandela; to be the preferred convenor of dialogue on social issues; to be self-sustaining with a substantial resource mobility; to be an organisation with a recognisable corporate brand; and to be the custodian of the Nelson Mandela Annual Lecture and Mandela Day campaign, with an ever-expanding international reach.”
Speaking about the recent hosting of an international dialogue at the Centre, Professor Ndebele said that at the Centre of Memory, “we are willing to say the unsayable, to expose our difficulties and to express our passion for our people".
“If a legacy is something you leave behind, it also demands of you to visualise in the future the impact of what you wish to leave behind. This means you need a memory of the future as well. Memory is not only about the past, it is about envisioning the future and retaining that memory,” he said.
“We have as a people visualised, through the National Development Plan, our future – but the memory of that future must inspire us to focus on how we will achieve it,” he added.
Professor Ndebele then introduced Mr Jacob Zuma, honourable State President of South Africa, thanking him for his presence at the launch of the Centre of Memory.
After welcoming esteemed dignitaries and guests to the event, President Zuma spoke about the valuable work being done at the Centre of Memory.
“Housed at this Centre are some of the most important heritage resources that chronicle the life and times of our founding father – and icon – of our democratic nation, Tata Nelson Mandela. These resources are an integral part of our nation’s heritage, in particular our liberation heritage. They are our nation’s treasures and they indeed need to be preserved.
“We take this opportunity to thank the Centre of Memory for the excellent work they are doing in preserving part of our nation’s heritage. These resources also help iterate the nation we are building – a united, non-racial, non-sexist and prosperous nation. These resources tell an important part of the South African story – a story of a people that have overcome diversity and conflict and have today joined hands in building a shared future.
“These resources are also critical in stimulating dialogue – both in our country and in the world – so that as a people, as humanity, we remember our past and together strive towards deepening our peaceful existence.
“We support fully the work of the Centre of Memory to preserve the legacy of Tata Madiba for current and future generations. We also identify fully with your stated objective of contributing to a society that remembers its past and learns from all its voices in order to promote peace, human rights and democracy.
“It was Tata who led us on the path of reconciliation. It was from him that we were reminded once more that what unites us far outweighs that which divides us. He reminds us that humanity is one, and that our destiny is linked. uTata instilled in us the values of honesty, integrity, equality and dignity for all – these are values that continue to guide us as we build the new South Africa ... Indeed, it is these values that drive our programme of nation-building.
“As South Africans we are proud to be the children of Madiba and share his legacy with the rest of the world. Up to this day uTata continues to inspire us and remains a symbol of hope and resilience for all those striving for a better world,” he said.
President Zuma then announced the unveiling of a statue of Nelson Mandela at the Union Buildings in Tshwane in December, which will mark the centenary celebration of the buildings.
Speaking about Mr Mandela’s health, President Zuma said: “We hope the people of the world will continue to keep Madiba in their thoughts and prayers as he recovers at his home.”
In closing, President Zuma thanked the Centre of Memory, saying: “Let us work together to defend and deepen the proud legacy of uTata Mandela.”
The event concluded with the ribbon-cutting ceremony, performed by President Zuma, Prof Nevhutanda and Prof Ndebele, accompanied by the Soweto Gospel Choir.
The Soweto Gospel Choir delivered a heartfelt and moving rendition of the National Anthem, followed by celebratory serenades to get the evening in full swing.
An additional treat was the appearance and performances by the Top 3 Idols contestants.
Madiba’s spirit was truly honoured through the exuberance of these outstanding South African youth, who continue his vision that anything is possible.
Click here to view the gallery of images from the event.