Nelson Mandela breathed his last on 5 December 2013.

It is two years since we bid the greatest statesman of our times a final, fond and fitting farewell. The world was moved emotionally as we were. We knew that his passing away was taking away with him something special and something spectacular in politics.

His work was very admirably and honourably done. It was done with great clarity of vision and high moral integrity. Ours is still in the process of doing. Unfortunately, there is such sordidness and such greed in present day politics that most of what is being done is shorn of any nobility of purpose.

Nelson Mandela invested goodness in the political sphere and everyone basked in the radiance of its glory. His most remarkable feat was the accuracy with which he communicated his ideals. On the 90th birthday celebration of Walter Sisulu on 18 May 2002, Mandela shared this pearl of wisdom with the audience:

“What counts in life is not the mere fact that we have lived. It is what difference we have made to the lives of others that will determine the significance of the life we lead.”

That is indeed the criterion by which he and his close friend Sisulu lived and by which we should therefore judge Nelson Mandela also.

He made an enormous difference to the lives of others in our country and everywhere else. On 22 August 2003, four years after he left office, Nelson Mandela bemoaned the fact that “South Africans have no concept of time and this is also why we can’t solve poverty and social problems… It’s now 10 years since the fall of the Apartheid government and we cannot blame Apartheid for being tardy”.

It was painful for him to see the enormous political capital being wasted through tardiness. More latterly, regrettably, government has become even tardier. Furthermore, poor policies, rampant corruption and active attempts to erode the rule of law have seriously impeded economic growth and allowed for the frittering away of scarce resources on the gratification of the political elite. Therefore, poverty and social problems have remained as acute as ever.

Each year, when we take a moment to reflect on the passing away of Nelson Mandela we should check on what progress the nation made in the course of the year to relieve poverty and to find lasting solutions to the many social problems that are growing in intensity.

For us in COPE, 13 December each year will be a time to renew our commitment to the Constitution and to keep alive the vibrant and unparalleled legacy of the father of our nation. While he is gone to his everlasting rest, his words remain fresh and forceful still to guide us and to motivate us.

Mosiuoa Lekota
COPE President

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