Address by Nelson Mandela at the funeral of Reggie Hadebe, Deputy Chairperson of the Natal Midlands Regional Committee of the African National Congress (ANC)

7 November 1992

The family and relatives of the deceased;
Comrades and Friends:

We have gathered here today for the sad purpose of laying to rest the mortal remains of comrade Reggie Hadebe, who was gunned down by a secret murder squad while he was on a mission of peace.

As we meet here our hearts are full of grief. Our eyes burn with the salt of bitter tears. We are thus afflicted because we have lost a young hero of our struggle.

Our nation has lost a patriot who would have contributed significantly to the freedom of all our people and the betterment of our lives.

His family has been deprived of a son and a father. Because he loved these dear ones, he was prepared to make all the necessary sacrifices so that they, if not he, could live in conditions of democracy, peace and prosperity.

Millions mourn with us today and with the Hadebe family, regardless of whether they are members of this family and regardless of whether they are members of the organisations to which all of us present belong.

They mourn with us because they are part of the greater human family which is inspired by the common ideals of human decency, compassion and respect for life and the existence of all living species.

And yet, somewhere out there, there are some who have gathered to rejoice at our sorrow. These have met to celebrate a victory which consists in their successful execution of a brutal and cold-blooded act of murder.

These killers perform their victory dance to the rhythm of the heart-rending cries of the orphans, the wailing of the widows and the widowers and the agony of those who have been driven away from their homes - the hundreds of thousands who have been made internal refugees in the land of their birth.

These murderers, like the carrion birds, feed on death. The blood of the innocents is their elixir of life. They treat the sacred graves of the martyrs as a tribute to their crimes.

As yet we do not know who the murderers of Reggie Hadebe are. We do not know who pulled the trigger. Nor do we know who planned the evil deed or gave the order that it be carried out.

But we know the purposes of the assassins. We know that, having failed to hoodwink the people to support racial discrimination, domination and arrogance, they now want to terrorise the people to accept unacceptable schemes that would perpetuate the system of apartheid.

They want to drive the masses of the people away from their genuine representatives, the ANC and the rest of the democratic movement and thus weaken and ultimately destroy the popular organisations of the masses.

They desire to establish the conditions whereby naked terror will oblige all who seek peaceful and genuine change to abandon this path. Thereby they aim to derail the process of change itself and permit the emergence of the situation which will justify their intended campaign of genocide against the people.

Far too many people have died in this province and elsewhere in our country. Each death that has occurred has been one death too many.

Each death that has occurred has been a condemnation of us who are alive - broadcasting the accusation that, for known and unknown reasons, we were too weak to stop the murderers.

I know that in these circumstances, there are some who argue that no person of conscience dare stand up and urge us to be tolerant and understanding.

I know the conditions which drive some to state that those who have not experienced the pain you have suffered, should not have the audacity to implore us to enter into a dialogue with those responsible for the violence.

You justly ask the question - when those who have appropriated state power to themselves have failed to carry out the attendant duty of the protection of life and property, why is it that they argue that we should allow a state of lawlessness to continue by not taking the law into our hands?

How indeed does one answer the question - what moral right do those have, who have failed to use their power to protect the people, to condemn our acts of self-defence as expressions of unacceptable violence and intimidation?

Anyone who knows the suffering that our people have borne will also understand the fire of revenge that burns in our very souls; the instinct to carry the deadly weapons of vengeance in our hands; the sense of puzzlement when those who have suffered unjustly are asked to carry the olive branch and revere the dove of peace!

As we stand around the still body of a young democrat, Reggie Hadebe, we know under what circumstances he met his death. We also know what he meant to us, our country and people. We have a vision of what he could have done, if he had lived, to advance the cause of the people .

He is now dead. Nothing anybody can do will bring him to life. None of the praises we will and must sing to him and his honour, will enable him to discharge his duties to his family, his organisation and his country.

And all this has become true because somewhere in the bosom of our country there are people to whom true freedom is like a noxious weed which must not be allowed to take root.

Death has become commonplace because somewhere in the bosom of our communities there are people to whom liberation fighters, such as Reggie Hadebe was, are vermin that have to be be exterminated without mercy and the people he led taught the lesson of subservience.

Out of this cauldron of evil, is it possible for every one of us to emerge without feelings of anger and hatred? Does not our very humanity drive us to behave as ordinary human beings, repelled by the callous acts of the murderers, angered by their deeds and driven to a sense of bitterness which we sought to avoid?

Indeed, who can fail to understand the demand that those who do nothing to bring the warmongers to heel cannot sit in judgement, mouthing pious statements about the imperatives of peace and tolerance.

Comrades and Friends:

We must nevertheless remember that this is an occasion sacred to the dead. It requires that we speak with due respect for all those who have departed.

It demands that we who are alive, and can speak in defence of our own actions, do not put on the still shoulders of the dead the responsibility for more deaths, which those who are no longer with us, cannot account for.

Difficult as it may be, it requires that we should commit ourselves in word and deed to the cause which had sent Reggie Hadebe to Ixopo when he met his death.

Reggie went to Ixopo to discuss ways and means of saving lives and not causing more deaths. His mission on that day was, as it had been on other occasions, to stop the carnage that has engulfed this province for so many years.

To honour his memory and pay tribute to this young hero we must cast ourselves in the mould of the peacemakers and not the war-mongers.

There are some in our country who seek to project the Zulu speaking people as lovers of war and violent conflict. They are trying to create a situation in which this great people become identified with death itself.

We must stand up and challenge these false and insulting images. We must speak up so that all may hear and say that the Zulu people love peace and value life.

Throughout their known history they have never resorted to weapons of war for terrorist purposes. When they took up arms it was for a just cause. That is the true meaning of the battle of Isandhlwana. That is the true meaning of the military uprising that Bambatha led which ended in the Nkandla Forest.

Today, there is no cause more just than the struggle to end the criminal system of apartheid and transform South Africa into a united, democratic, non-racial and non-sexist country.

This is the cause to which great leaders of our people such as John Langalibalele Dube, Pixley ka Isaka Seme, Josiah Gumede and Chief Albert Luthuli dedicated their lives. It is for the victory of this cause that they would have been willing to take up arms.

Never would they have visited their wrath on the black victims of the system of white minority domination. Neither should we, who call ourselves their followers, direct our anger away from the system of apartheid, unleashing it instead against our own people whose only desire is freedom, peace and a better life.

In this regard, we need to recall the clarion call made by Pixley ka Seme at the founding of the ANC 80 years ago when he said that "we must bury the demon of tribalism".

Those who try to ride on the backs of tribalism today should know, as Seme knew, that they sit on the back of a demon which will take them down a road of conflict and immense suffering. We call on them to abandon this destructive course.

The day of freedom draws ever nearer, thanks to the struggle that the millions of our people, including the heroic masses of this province, have waged, sometimes under the most difficult conditions.

How soon we will attain our liberation will depend on what we ourselves do. The campaign of murder which has claimed the life of Reggie Hadebe does not take us closer to our goal. It serves to postpone our own emancipation.

To save lives and liberate ourselves sooner rather than later, we must bring the carnage to an end. The killings must stop and stop today and not tomorrow!

I would like to take this opportunity to pay tribute and our respects to our leaders and the leaders of the Zulu people, from Shaka to King Goodwill Zwelithini.

We urge his majesty, King Zwelithini, in an earnest appeal to him to use his power to lead us in a determined effort to end the killing of his people, be they Zulu or Venda, Sotho or Xhosa, Shangaan or Ndebele, be they black or white, young or old.

We trust that His Majesty will note our concern and respond to our plea. His contribution to the restoration of peace will earn him the everlasting gratitude of all our people and those in the rest of the world who wish us well.

We also appeal to all traditional leaders in kwaZulu to support His Majesty in his search for peace. We call on them in their own right as leaders of our people to ensure that those they lead and serve should stop killing one another.

They should also create the conditions which will allow for people to express their political preferences without hindrance and without this resulting in violence.

The whole country draws great inspiration from the example set by the people of Mpumalanga and the leaders of both the IFP and the ANC in this area. We congratulate this community for stopping the killings and for creating an atmosphere in which everyone can live in conditions of peace, and engage in the process of rebuilding what had been a shattered community.

We also welcome and would like to use all the authority at our command to encourage local initiatives taken in other areas of Natal and elsewhere in the country to bring together people from various organisations, in the interests of peace.

We also call on the South African government to discharge its responsibilities to all our people by acting without fear or favour to stop the murderers, regardless of their political affiliations or their station in life.

There can be no more excuses for the failure to protect the lives and property of the people. The need for various political organisations to meet to help resolve the conflict cannot be used as a shield to justify the absence of vigorous government action to end the violence.

We also address a special appeal to the police to carry out their duties as any police force anywhere else in the world would. By law, you bear the first responsibility for the maintenance of peace.

Throughout our country, the people would like to see a situation where you as policemen and women become loved and admired members of our society. All of us look forward to the day when all our communities will be pleased to cooperate fully with you to ensure peace in our localities.

You must act in such a manner that no longer should it be said that you are part of the problem rather than part of the solution. Our own doors are open for you to come into our midst to work out practical measures to ensure proper and impartial policing and to remove the atmosphere which results in our seeing one another as enemies.

We extend the same call to all the armed forces in our country. We say that it is only freedom and democracy that will guarantee a better life for all of us. You, as the police and the army, must therefore lend all your weight to the process of the transformation of our country into a non-racial democracy.

This means that you must not only be the keepers of the peace. You must take pride in carrying out this mission and strive to be seen to accomplish it, as a token of your commitment to serve all the people of our country.

We take this opportunity once more to welcome the international observer missions both to our country and to this solemn occasion. We are confident that as they get to understand better the challenges that face us, they will take all necessary measures to enhance their own capacity to help us.

Various accusations have been levelled against the people's army, Umkhonto we Sizwe, that this formation of heroic men and women has turned its weapons against the people.

But I know it as a matter of fact that neither its commanders nor any of its combatants who are loyal to the cause of the people can ever be driven to carry out acts of banditry against the very people whom Umkhonto we Sizwe was formed to serve.

There can be nobody who carries the proud title of a combatant of Umkhonto we Sizwe who would carry out acts of terror against the people. If there are some who have done so, by that act they have defined themselves as no longer members of the people's army.

Let the matter be clear once and for all that we will never allow it that anybody should, in the name of the ANC and Umkhonto we Sizwe, carry out acts of violence against the people, whatever the political affiliation of the people concerned.

We can never seek to become the government of South Africa by climbing to that position on the corpses of the innocent people of our country. If we were to embark on this criminal path we would deserve the condemnation of all our people and the whole world and lose our very right to exist.

It must also be clear to all self-defence or self-protection units that their task is to protect the people and not to wage war against the people. These units must understand that they are not secret societies or underground groups.

They must be openly accountable to the communities in which they are based, deriving their legitimacy from their acceptance by the people as their true defenders, enjoying the support of the people as a result of their correct behaviour.

I would also like to inform this gathering and our country as a whole that the leadership of the ANC has taken various decisions intended to help us focus more sharply and continuously on the continuing crisis facing us in this province.

Among other things, we have therefore established a special sub-committee of the National Working Committee on Natal and decided that the next meeting of our National Executive Committee will be held in Natal.

It is vitally important that we continue from where Reggie Hadebe left off and ensure that the ideals he was working for come to fruition.

We therefore support the proposal that a special meeting of the Natal-KwaZulu Regional Dispute Resolution Committee convenes as a matter of urgency. Given the crisis that confronts us, we also endorse the suggestion that such a meeting should also be attended by members of the National Peace Accord Executive Committee, the National Peace Secretariat and members of the international observer missions.

From its deliberations should emerge a set of emergency interim measures that would be binding on all participants, aimed at addressing the violence that has engulfed this region. We believe that no one who loves peace can oppose this serious proposal which is directed solely at saving the lives of our people.

Apart from addressing this question with the immediacy it deserves, the meeting we are suggesting could also lay the basis for various bilateral meetings as well as prepare for the meeting of signatories of the National Peace Accord which will also have to be convened without undue delay.

Comrades and Friends:

Whatever the origin of the current wave of violence, we are all caught in the spiral it has generated. This calls for careful, honest and critical self-examination of ourselves as individuals and as organisations. Each organisation is duty bound to put its house in order.

This is no longer the time for finger-pointing and mutual recrimination. It is not our quarrels that will bring about peace but our cooperation in rooting out the scourge of violence. Such cooperation will not be brought about by the setting of pre-conditions but by working together to create a climate which will allow us to address all problems facing the country, in conditions of peace.

The struggle for peace is not a prerogative of leaders only. It is a challenge that faces all our people in their entirety. We therefore call on everybody in all walks of life to engage in the common effort to secure an end to the violence. Let all of us consider ourselves members and activists of a common front of the people of South Africa for peace and democracy.

Our freedom is in sight. Let us do nothing which delays the coming of that glorious moment for which Reggie Hadebe and others before him laid down their lives. Let the vision of peace and democracy be indelibly inscribed on our hearts and minds. Let that vision instruct our thoughts, our words and our deeds.

As leaders we must live up to the expectations of the people and become daily combatants for peace and life and for a new South Africa that will know no conflict and no deaths caused by political intolerance or the pursuit of the ambitions to which we are all prey.

We extend our deepest condolences to the Hadebe family and can only comfort you by assuring you that your grief is ours as well and by repeating the words so deep with meaning - kuf' ayayo!

May our dear comrade, Reggie Hadebe, rest in peace! Hamba kahle qhawe lamaqhawe!

Source: Nelson Mandela Foundation