Nelson Mandela with Jay Naidoo, first GS of COSATU – By Walter Theledi Throughout the world, workers, political leaders, and mostly ordinary people are mourning the passing of the first President of the Republic of South Africa, Comrade Nelson Rolihlah …

Walton Pantland
Nelson Mandela with Jay Naidoo, first GS of COSATU

Nelson Mandela with Jay Naidoo, first GS of COSATU

– By Walter Theledi

Throughout the world, workers, political leaders, and mostly ordinary people are mourning the passing of the first President of the Republic of South Africa, Comrade Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela, affectionately known as Madiba by millions worldwide.

We too express our heartfelt condolences to his family, and all those whose lives have been touched by this beacon of freedom and democracy.

Even at this early hour, so much has been said and written about the momentous contribution he has made to humankind, and the sacrifice he and his comrades suffered in order to help bring down one of the most repressive regimes of modern times, and we wholeheartedly endorse these sentiments.

There are two aspects of Madiba’s approach to life that we particularly would want to celebrate and honour at this time.

The first is that he tried to live his life consistent with his political principles, and by example has shown future generations of political activists that this is not only possible, but the most effective way of helping to bring about change.

Secondly, at every stage, he modestly reminded us all of his fallibility, and when he made a mistake, was prepared to publicly acknowledge it, apologise and change course. We believe this to be an example of superb accountable and responsive leadership.

Our beloved Madiba had many other fine qualities, but at this time it is these that we shall be forever thankful for. Madiba did not ask or seek our admiration and love, he earned it, by being of the people, for the people and being guided by the people. We are honoured to have lived in your lifetime.

We dip our revolutionary flag in honour of a giant of human affairs, and commit ourselves to completing the long walk he embarked upon to transform our country, our continent and our world to one where equality, peace and common prosperity are there for all.

– Walter Theledi is General Secretary South African Municipal Workers Union (SAMWU)


This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License.
Author avatar

Walton Pantland

South African trade unionist living in Glasgow. Loves whisky, wine, running and the great outdoors. Walton did an MA in Industrial Relations at Ruskin, Oxford, and is interested in how trade unions use new technology to organise.

Read All Articles