Mandela Memorial Speech

12.12.13

E ngā iwi, e ngā mana, e ngā reo

E ngā iwi mana whenua, tēnā koutou

E ngā iwi o te motu nei tēnā koutou

E ngā manuhiri tuārangi tēnā koutou

Nga mihi nui ki a koutou katoa

Kua hinga he totara i te wao nui o te ao

Haere rā Rohihlahla

Haere rā Nelson Mandela

Haere rā Madiba

I acknowledge mana whenua representatives of the Taranaki whanui, Your Excellency Zodwa Lallie, members of the Diplomatic Corps, Ministers Joyce and Turia, MPs, religious leaders, Councillors, distinguished guests, people from Wellington, New Zealand and around the world.

We are gathered to pay our respects, say farewell and to celebrate a life dedicated to freedom.

Mandela was a special leader, an inspirational politician, a great totara who has fallen.

You will hear, and have already heard from, many people who have met him, contributed to the overthrow of apartheid and who have taken his lessons to heart.

My role is to welcome you here as Mayor of the Capital, honoured to host this important programme. Thanks to Council staff for making it possible for people to come together to remember, to mourn and to celebrate a life well lived.

We may draw parallels of colonisation and the journey towards freedom in this country.

Our country is now proud of our diversity.  This city’s residents view different ethnicities as adding to the capital’s vibrancy, and making Wellington a better place to live, work and play. We 'get' the diversity advantage here.

I arrived in New Zealand in 1983, into a country shaped and shaken by the 1981 tour and was soon marching down Lambton Quay, chanting “Free Nelson Mandela” in my first, but not last, piece of political participation in Wellington.

When people challenge the status quo or champion an issue, the path is long.  Mandela never gave up hope, never game up working for the cause.  Centuries of racial injustice in South Africa were not overturned overnight.

He was free from prison in February 1990, and he said in his 1994 autobiography, ‘Long Walk to Freedom’ My ten thousand days in prison were at last over”.

He did not seek status or power but yearned for his home.

“My dream upon leaving prison was to take a leisurely drive down to the Transkei and visit my birthplace, the hills and streams where I played as a boy, and the burial ground of my mother, which I had never seen.  Buy my dream had to be deferred, for I learned very quickly of the extensive plans the ANC had for me, and none of them involved a relaxing journey to the Transkei”.

At 75, he voted for the first time and become the President of the Rainbow Nation, South Africa.

Freedom for himself was not enough, Freedom to vote was not enough.

Mandela sought freedom for all people from injustice and from poverty and from war.

“For to be free is not merely to cast off one’s chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others”.

Thank you, Nelson Mandela, for your vision and persistence.

Thank you for your lessons.

It is fitting to celebrate the life of Nelson Mandela in New Zealand’s capital.  Many citizens are dedicated to peace, freedom and justice in this Nuclear Free city, this Fair Trade capital, this leader in the introduction of a living wage.

The totara has fallen and its seeds of thought have grown strongly around the world.

His autobiography ends with the words

“But I can rest only for a moment, for with freedom comes responsibility, and I dare not linger, for my long walk is not yet ended”.

That long walk has ended now; the man returns to his ancestral lands and we are all the richer for his life.

Tēnā koutou, tēnā koutou, tēnā koutou katoa.