President Cyril Ramaphosa and his predecessor, Jacob Zuma used the centenary celebrations of late former president Nelson Mandela in Mvezo to reassure South Africans that the global icon never sold out the nation.
Ramaphosa and Zuma were among the speakers at the centenary celebrations at the birthplace of the former president who died in December 2013 after a long battle with illness.
Ramaphosa berated those who called Madiba a sell-out, saying they were armchair critics who do not appreciate the sacrifices he had made for the country.
“As founding president of our democratic state, Madiba made sure that he laid a foundation for the great progress that we have made since 1994 in improving the lives of our people in a number of areas with regards to basic access to services, such as water, electricity and education,” he said.
Ramaphosa also praised chief Mandla Mandela for continuing with the legacy of his grandfather by doing work that is uplifting his community.
The usually quiet and dull village of Mvezo on Wednesday saw plenty of activities as the world descended there to celebrate the global icon.
Prior to the main event where speakers included a keynote address by Ramaphosa and speeches by former presidents Kgalema Motlanthe and Zuma, a clinic was opened for the first time in Madiba’s birthplace.
The Nosekeni Nongaphi Mandela Clinic was opened by Ramaphosa near the Mvezo Great Place. The clinic is named after Mandela’s mother, Nosekeni, who gave birth to the global icon 100 years ago exactly 2km away the first clinic of Mvezo. Previously villagers had to travel about 20 km to access the nearest clinic in Nywarha near Dutywa.
Some of the VIP guests included former Kenya president Raila Odinga, Mineral Resources Minister Gwede Mantashe and Speaker of Parliament Baleka Mbete.
Also present was Western Pondoland king Ndamase Ndlovuyezwe Ndamase, Eastern Cape Premier Phumulo Masualle, labour deputy minister Phathekile Holomisa and his counterpart at telecommunications and postal services, Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams.
Some of the activities on the day included the handover of a machine to make sanitary towels for young girls in Mvezo, 100 bicycles to be used by pupils in the village where Madiba was born.
Local artists including Simphiwe Dana and Amanda Black entertained the 500 guests with tantalising musical performances.
The large dome which was erected a kilometre from the Mvezo Great Place was similar to the one used when Madiba was buried five years ago in Qunu.
The glittering event was held under tight security and protocol which frustrated some of the guests who could not find their names on the list of invitees.
Those who did not make it into the giant dome, including government officials, were accommodated in a tent nearby where they watched the proceedings from big screens.
Former president FW de Klerk sent a pre-recorded video message which was beamed on big TV screens at the venue as he could not attend the event.
Mandla Mandela said the day was special for him and the people of Mvezo.
“As I extend a word of welcome, I want to take a moment to explain to you why this gathering is so important and I dare say as important as if Madiba were here in person. On the day of my coronation as Chief of Mvezo this is what my grandfather, the great soul, had to say and I quote: ‘That my grandson has taken the chieftaincy I was supposed to have, that he is to rule here at Mvezo will make me sleep forever a happy man in my grave.’ Your coming to Mvezo is to honour the man, to honour his legacy, honour his vision and make him sleep forever a happy man in his grave.”
“As rightful heir to his legacy we seek to work with all who pursue the vision he set before us. As a nation he led us from the precipice of racial hatred and the brink of civil war to work together for the realisation of the goal of nation building, national reconciliation and social cohesion. We remain dedicated to its fulfilment and to devote our lives for its realisation and achievement,” said Mandla