Defend Truth


New stones for my Madiba rosary


Jay Naidoo is founding General Secretary of Cosatu, former minister in the Nelson Mandela government and former chair of Gain, a global foundation fighting malnutrition in the world.

The mists clung to the rolling green hills. A shroud filled with blessings. The angels had descended to accompany Madiba to his final resting place in the idyllic and beautiful Qunu. It had incubated his dream and steely determination to the fight for social justice and the human dignity. Now he was returned to its soil.

Madiba’s closest living friend, Ahmed Kathrada, in his tear filled eulogy says poignantly “When Walter died, I lost a father and now I have lost a brother. My life is void and I don’t know who to turn to.”

Listening to Kathrada I see why the Madiba generation is so special. Every cell is pure, humble and filled with the glue of integrity. I wondered who he was talking to, Madiba or us? Have we departed so far from the A-Team he spoke of so longingly that led us to the triumph of democracy?

As we weep, I ask myself, are we serving our people and rising above our party, business and personal interests? Sitting here, I have the impression Madiba is speaking though Kathrada and saying “the only monument I want is that we listen to our people; that you are humble; and that you hold moral purpose in your hearts”.

The residents had lined the streets as I drove in. They had been told to stay at home or watch on public screens. I encounter some of the comrades I had shared the trenches with in the Eighties in the waiting area. They were not going to board the bus. They had no accreditation. I empathise with them.

I barely recognize many of the guests on the buses. I guess the elites always crowd out those who make the greatest sacrifices for freedom. I know the T-shirts, revolutionary songs and toyi-toyi will be brought out when the elections come. Then the ordinary people will count.

But I know that Madiba would have wanted the people from this land who incubated his lifelong struggle for human dignity to be part of this beautiful closing ceremony.

I know how broken Madiba was when he faced injustice, when he saw the poverty, the jobless youth, the rich fields that lie fallow because people have no seeds, the ones, especially the little ones, that go to bed hungry every night. Maybe he has brought us here for a special reason. I look around and see all the work to be done; in his own village. We must not forget where we come from, what we fought for and whom we serve.

It’s is fine, and important, to remember and honour our ancestors and our heroes who dedicated their lives for us to live in a better place but maybe we should slow down on the statues and museums and street names in honor of Madiba and focus on living by his values and his work to deliver a better life to our people.

Joyce Banda, the President of Malawi, the one who we applaud for getting rid of the presidential plane and luxury cars when she came to power, echoes these sentiments when she urges leaders to “Put the common good of our people ahead of your personal interests if you want to live the values of Madiba.”  The rising ovation she got, said it all.

Hamba Kahle Madiba.

I have taken a few stones from your resting place. I will use them as my rosary to remind me each day of the values you stand for. I will strive to live with your human values in my heart each day. I will strive to be a better human being each day. DM