Notes for Ramaphosa eulogy to Mandela
by Professor Padraig O’Malley
7 December 2013
Cyril Ramaphosa, who will succeed Jacob Zuma as president of South Africa was Master of Ceremonies and a speaker at this morning’s National Memorial Service for Madiba at FNB Stadium in Johannesburg.
Cyril asked me to prepare a few sentences he might include in his eulogy. Here are the remarks I prepared — most of which he used.
I feel so privileged
7 Dec 2013
We gather on this sad & solemn, yet celebratory day, not to sing Madiba’s praises, not to recite his accomplishments which are too many to enumerate; not to extol him for the statesmanship he brought to the global stage, not to bless him for leading all South Africans to freedom, but to reflect on the life of a man whose inner concept of self encapsulated the essence of a moral life – a life that transcended the fault lines of our humanity, a life that took under its care the millions of South Africans, oppressed by apartheid and took their pain, their humiliations & the dignity there they were stripped of & made them his own.
And with the weight of that burden on his shoulders, he brought us home so that we all –Black, White, Indian, Colored and Afrikaner could embark on the journey to reconcile with each other, to forgive transgressions, bury hatred with mercy, to step into his foot prints & begin the task of a long & arduous odyssey to become whole, to become a nation that speaks in many tongues but one voice that melds into a chorus of unity.
He was our teacher, our mentor, not haranguing us for our failures but acknowledging that despite the rage & resentments that sometimes engulfed us, we are all frail & vulnerable & can only succeed if we reach out to each other & join our hands in service to the ideals he inspired us to reach for; in service to the nation we are building where the virtues he exemplified — respect for each other, no matter what our differences; tolerance of others, no matter how racist they may be; compassion for the weak & poor; perseverance, above all perseverance, in the face of adversity; fortitude in the face of fear; forgiveness in the face of humiliation, and humility in the knowledge that we are all equal — & that we will fail only if we allow the false gods of greed & avarice to bring us to our knees; that to be one with one another we have to be at one with ourselves; that serenity in the face of provocation heals us.
In a life during which he endured much personal pain & loss with stoicism Madiba drew on reserves of solitude to make a stronghold for the mind; he forged a will outside the makeshifts of human society. He was often alone, but never lonely. He mourned for others, but never for himself.
Madiba’s moral being epitomized the principle that gave him the strength of will, the iron cast commitment to social justice; the steel-tempered character that at once shielded him from the indignities he was subjugated to by those who treated Black people as an inferior species. He understood that all that is needed for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.
He faced evil; he tamed it and endowed the country he loved so much, for which he sacrificed a lifetime with the gift of empathy. The truth, we are told, is rarely pure & never simple. He took us down the path of truth & made us face ourselves, a task that was often ugly & loathsome, but a task that was necessary if we were to heal ourselves & move forward.
In the streets of Soweto on the night he died, youngsters & oldsters, children & their parents celebrated with dance & song & joy: the father of the nation had died; his job was done; time for Madiba to rest in eternal peace in the embrace of all South Africans who fought the struggle & died for our freedom; time for us to pick up our shovels & build the South Africa he knows we are capable of building. Brick upon brick until we the edifice is complete & he can look down & smile that mischievous smile will linger with us all our lives.