“Let us now sing the praises of famous men, great men in their generations….They ruled their governments wisely, were known for their valor. Their counsel displayed wisdom, they saw things from afar.” (Ecclesiastics 44:1-3)
With these words we, the Catholic Church in Southern Africa, express our gratitude to uTata Mandela for the sacrifice he made for all peoples of South Africa and for the leadership and inspiration he gave in leading us on the path of reconciliation. He never compromised on his principles and vision for a democratic and just South Africa where all have equal opportunities, even at great cost to his own freedom. Despite great suffering throughout his life he did not answer racism with racism and his words at the treason trial still inspire:
“I have fought against white domination and I have fought against black domination. I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities”.
When Tata was released on 11th February 1990 the country was in turmoil and blood was being spilt almost daily. Through his leadership at that time, reinforced when he became President in 1994, he led the country on the path of reconciliation and peace, calling on South Africans to throw all arms of destruction into the sea. For this we shall always be indebted to him.
As with all people he made mistakes and had shortcomings – we all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (cf. Romans 3:23). Thus, we commend him to the Lord and pray that he will rest in peace. May perpetual light shine on him.
We assure you, his family, friends and colleagues – as well as all South Africans – of our prayers for you and for our country. May you be consoled.
The greatest way we can acknowledge the life of Nelson Mandela is to strive for the ideals he cherished: freedom, equality and democracy, and to defend these ideals from those who would corrupt them.
Lala kakuhle Tata, sobonana kwelizayo.
Archbishop of Cape Town
President of the Southern African Catholic Bishops’ Conference