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CONDOLENCES: Mandela, Mr Rolihlahla (Nelson) Dalibhunga, AC

 9 December 2013


Mr ALEXANDER (Bennelong) (18:19): I speak to this condolence motion on behalf of the people of Bennelong. Woollarawarre Bennelong was the first Indigenous Australian to befriend the white settlers, and so this may well be appropriate. Around the world over the past week, there has been only a very brief moment of mourning the passing of Nelson Mandela, because, in hearing this news, as one the world commenced a celebration of his life, and that is appropriate. Many people have talked a great deal about his contribution and the type of man that he was. Archbishop Desmond Tutu had a very personal and long-term relationship with Nelson Mandela, and he said:

Never before in history was one human being so universally acknowledged in his lifetime as the embodiment of magnanimity and reconciliation as Nelson Mandela was. He set aside the bitterness of enduring 27 years in apartheid prisons—and the weight of centuries of colonial division, subjugation and repression—to personify the spirit and practice of ubuntu—

or human kindness—

He perfectly understood that people are dependent on other people in order for individuals and society to prosper.

…   …   …

Can you imagine what would have happened … had Mandela emerged from prison in 1990 bristling with resentment at the gross miscarriage of justice? Can you imagine where South Africa would be today had he been consumed by a lust for revenge, to want to pay back for all the humiliations and all the agony that he and his people had suffered at the hands of their white oppressors?

Instead, the world was amazed, indeed awed, by the unexpectedly peaceful transition of 1994, followed not by an orgy of revenge and retribution but by the wonder of forgiveness and reconciliation epitomized in the processes of the TRC—

the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

Quoting Tom Curry from NBC News:

Mandela’s biographer, Rick Stengel, said a decisive moment for South Africa came three years after his release from prison when Chris Hani, a popular leader of the African National Congress, was murdered by an apartheid supporter.

Hani’s assassination came at the moment that the ANC was negotiating with South African President Frederik Willem de Klerk’s white-minority apartheid government on the terms of the transition to majority rule.

After Hani’s murder, Mandela went on the state-run national television network to tell his country, “We must not permit ourselves to be provoked by people who seek to deny us the very freedom for which Chris Hani gave his life.”

Mandela “went on television in South Africa that night—rather than de Klerk—and showed that he was the father of the nation,” Stengel said. He was so calm in a crisis and he rose to that. And he said later that was when South Africa was on the knife edge of a civil war, right then, that was the most perilous moment in their modern history.”

Fergal Keane from the BBC has written:

To the wider world he represented many things, not least an icon of freedom but also the most vivid example in modern times of the power of forgiveness and reconciliation. Back in the early 1990s, I remember then President, FW De Klerk, telling me … how he found Mandela’s lack of bitterness “astonishing”.

His fundamental creed was best expressed in his address to the sabotage trial in 1964. “I have fought against white domination, and I have fought against black domination,” he said.

“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.”

Nelson Mandela often spoke of his human qualities and yet, if we think that his life was such an example of Christian values, understanding that it is ‘human to err, divine to forgive’, and that ‘vengeance is mine, saith the Lord’, we see that he was human, he was divine and he chose not to take any vengeance.

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