Address by President Nelson Mandela at launch of the "Unfinished Autobiography" of Joe Slovo

23 November 1995

Comrade Helena Dolny;
Members of the Slovo Family;
Members of the Leadership of the Alliance;
Distinguished Guests;
Ladies and gentlemen.

It's almost a year since our Joe Slovo departed. And we have come to realise that there was only one JS: A leader who could challenge and enjoyed being challenged. A colleague who could broach any topic, no matter how sensitive. A man who preferred to listen rather than being listened to.

Our NEC meetings miss his provocative thoughts and Cabinet meetings still feel his absence. Young activists miss their commando and political mentor.

The painful reality is sinking into our minds. Joe Slovo has departed from our midst.

Even as we discussed in prison the progress of our struggle, Comrade Joe's name would be coupled with those of Oliver Tambo, Moses Kotane, Yusuf Dadoo, Robert Resha, J.B. Marks, Duma Nokwe, and Moses Mabhida. We knew that on their shoulders rested the future of our country. Despite the warders' gloomy reports, our confidence in these leaders was unshaken. We knew their class and were certain that no amount of difficulties would deter them. We held their hands firmly across the miles.

Across our more than forty years of friendship, one thing shone through Joe's character. The word "surrender" was not in his vocabulary. He was daring through and through. And he fulfilled various roles in the Alliance readily and courageously.

Despite his heavy schedule Joe found time to read and write. His articles were timeous and always generated debate in our ranks. He didn't go for common-place and worn-out topics. Instead he chose the current, critical, controversial and thought-provoking issues.

And it is this quality of Comrade Joe's that we are celebrating today.

In the pages of this Unfinished Biography we feel again Joe's warmth, his humour and his unbridled love of life. We are reminded again of the depth of Joe's courage in the final stages of a relentless and painful disease, when we drew on his strength to accept what was happening to him and to understand our own loss.

I believe that this little window into Comrade Joe's life will be a profound inspiration to many more to follow in his footsteps. Though it reflects only a small fraction of this life, the book's richness shines through every page and chapter. And in its forthrightness it is an inspiration to the talented among us to pick up the fallen pen and complete the journey through London, Luanda, Moscow and Havana to its culmination in the streets of South Africa and the Minister's office in Pretoria. It is a challenge for our historians and analysts to make available in an accessible form the many theoretical works that he penned.

We shall thus be ever more confident to pronounce: Joe Slovo, our Isithwalandwe-Seaparankoe, lives.

Source: Nelson Mandela Foundation