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Nelson Mandela Memorial Lecture, Bram Fischer Building, Mangaung

19 July 2014

Programme Director,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

Let me begin as we all began when we joined this movement, the African National Congress. Though we may have joined at different times and under different circumstances, we all made the same basic pledge:

I, Cyril Ramaphosa, solemnly declare that I will abide by the aims and objectives of the African National Congress as set out in the Constitution, the Freedom Charter and other duly adopted policy positions; that I am joining the organisation voluntarily and without motives of material advantage or personal gain; that I agree to respect the Constitution and the structures and to work as a loyal member of the organisation; that I will place my energies and skills at the disposal of the organisation and carry out tasks given to me; that I will work towards making the ANC an even more effective instrument of liberation in the hands of the people; and that I will defend the unity and integrity of the organisation and its principles, and combat any tendency towards disruption and factionalism.

It is appropriate that we repeat this solemn undertaking as we gather here to reflect on the life and contribution of South Africa`s greatest son and one of the pre-eminent global leaders of our age.

This is an opportunity to pay tribute to Nelson Mandela for leading us in our struggle for freedom, to celebrate a life lived in service of the people, and to consider what we can learn from his example.

A lecture on the life of Nelson Mandela is as much about the present and the future as it is about the past.

While his life spanned a finite period, beginning in 1918 and lasting for 95 years, the meaning and impact of his life will continue for generations to come.

The people of South Africa are fortunate to have been led by extraordinary women and men. Madiba was a giant among giants, a hero among heroes. The freedom fighters of his generation were remarkable for their courage, wisdom, humility, perseverance and fortitude. When we celebrate Madiba, we celebrate them.

From Madiba and those of his generation, we learnt that there is no greater act of humanity than selfless service to others.

Many languished in jail, many spent years in foreign lands, many were tortured and detained and murdered. They did all this because they believed that all men and all women should be free.

And although the prisoners have been freed and the guns have been silenced, and although no South African need live in fear for the beliefs they hold, the pursuit of selfless service is just as relevant and important today as it was then.

In many senses, it is even more important. For as long as we look only to our own interests, for as long as we seek only our own material advancement, we will never progress as a society.

Programme Director,

We learnt also from Madiba that the achievement of one`s ideals is often not realised quickly or easily. It requires great effort over many years, and often demands great sacrifice.

There are some who tell us that we can undo centuries of dispossession and exploitation in a matter of just a few years. They espouse policies that, when viewed in the cold light of day, are actually more reckless than revolutionary.

Yet our experience tells us that the struggle for freedom is difficult and protracted. It takes great effort and sustained commitment.

Madiba taught us that in this struggle, it is important to be unwavering in commitment to one`s principles, but pragmatic in the means of advancing those principles. The objective remains the same, but the tactics may vary depending on the circumstances.

We live in a world that is increasingly interconnected, interdependent and complex. In navigating this world, we should never waiver in our determination to achieve the complete liberation of South Africa from all forms of discrimination and oppression. But we need to be guided in our actions by an objective assessment of the conditions under which we must pursue this objective.

It may be surprising to those unfamiliar with the history of our movement to learn that one of the most important learns that Madiba taught us is that no individual is greater than the collective.

It was not mere modesty that led Madiba - one of the world`s greatest individuals - to proclaim that he was at all times subject to the decisions and discipline of the African National Congress.

It is only through a collective effort that the struggle can be advanced, and it is only through democratic debate that effective policies and programmes can be developed.

With every great achievement in the struggle, there are always more challenges that need to be overcome and more struggles that need to be fought.

As we celebrate the outstanding contribution that Madiba has made to the achievement of democracy and the establishment of our democratic institutions, we must acknowledge that the struggle he fought is not complete.

While we are a united democratic country, there is still much that we need to do to ensure that the masses are empowered and have the means to make decisions on all matters that affect them.

Among other things, this means we must make the institutions of government at all levels more transparent, more accessible and more accountable to citizens.

While we have a bill of rights entrenched in our Constitution, there is still much that we need to do to ensure that every South Africa is equally able to exercise those rights.

We need, in particular, to progressively and without undue delay address the achievement of the socio-economic rights contained in our Constitution.

While we have achieved political liberation, there is still much we need to do to achieve economic emancipation.

This task stands at the centre of the current phase of our struggle - we need to work together to dramatically reduce unemployment, eradicate poverty, develop skills, and ensure that black and women South Africans are properly represented at all levels and in all roles throughout the economy.

While we have achieved a peaceful transition, there is still much we need to do promote reconciliation.

To do this, we need to work to address the material differences that still exist between black and white - effectively reducing inequality; integrating our cities, towns and rural areas; and promoting the cultures and languages of all South Africa`s people.

We are a free nation today thanks to Madiba.

Thanks to him, we stand today in a better position than we have ever been to address the needs of our people.

Thanks to him, we have a clear example of the qualities and values that will be required to meet the needs of our people.

The most effective tribute we can pay to Madiba is to ensure that we achieve the free, united, prosperous and just South Africa to which he dedicated his life.

The struggle continues. Aluta Continua.

I thank you.