President Jacob Zuma, relatives of Nelson Mandela, distinguished dignitaries, fraternal people of South Africa, let us pay an emotional tribute to Nelson Mandela, the ultimate symbol of dignity and unwavering dedication to the revolutionary struggle for freedom and justice; a prophet of unity, peace and reconciliation.
Alongside his comrades in the struggle, Mandela has led his people in the battle against apartheid to open the way to a new South Africa, a non-racial and a united South Africa, in its quest for happiness, equality and the well-being of all of its children; a nation bent on overcoming the consequences of colonialism, slavery and racial segregation.
Setting an example of integrity and perseverance, Mandela later led the efforts to eradicate poverty, to reduce inequality and create opportunities for all. Mandela has set out an insurmountable example to Latin America and the Caribbean which are currently moving towards unity and integration for the benefit of their peoples on the basis of respect for diversity and convinced that it is only through dialogue and cooperation that discrepancies can be resolved and a civilized relationship established between those who think differently.
As Mandela’s life teaches us, only the concerted efforts of all nations will empower humanity to respond to the enormous challenges that today threaten its very existence. Cuba, a country born in the struggle for independence and for the abolition of slavery, and whose children have African blood in their veins, has had the privilege of fighting and building alongside the African nations.
We shall never forget Mandela’s moving homage to our common struggle when on the occasion of his visit to our country on July 26, 1991, he said, and I quote, “the Cuban people have a special place in the hearts of the peoples of Africa”.
I remember at this moment his bond of affection with Fidel Castro, a symbol of the fraternal relations between Africans and Cubans. Fidel has said, and I quote, “Nelson Mandela will not go down in history for the 27 consecutive years he spent incarcerated without ever renouncing his ideas. He will go down in history because he was capable of cleaning out his soul from the poison that such an unfair punishment could have planted there and for his generosity and wisdom which at the time of victory allowed him to lead with great talent his selfless and heroic people, knowing that the new South Africa could not be built on hatred and vengeance”.
Honour and glory forever to the great Comrade Nelson Mandela and to the heroic people of South Africa.
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