Address by President Nelson Mandela at the funeral of Nokukhanya Luthuli
22 December 1996
Members of the Luthuli family;
Minister and Premiers;
Leaders and veterans of the ANC;
Members of the diplomatic corps and distinguished guests;
Friends; comrades and fellow South Africans.
In history, men and women of rare qualities make a mark that the scorched-earth policies of an evil system can never erase.
The good that they do inspires generations.
Without prompting, millions converge around them and seek to be associated with their legacy. Their mere presence inspires the good in all human beings to come out and to flourish.
When South Africa's history is properly recorded, the duo of heroes - MaBhengu and Inkosi Luthuli - will occupy that niche.
And today, we converge to draw a curtain on that unique association, those unique friends who were to us brother and sister, father and mother, mentors and role models.
We have come from all over the country to bid farewell to a fighter and leader.
Mama Nokukhanya shared the trenches of struggle with our beloved leader Chief Albert Luthuli. After he was taken from us, her leadership continued to be felt in her community of Groutville and in our movement.
That stout heart has stopped to beat forever. Nine decades of a towering presence have reached their end.
Yet because she dedicated her life to the betterment of others, MaBhengu could afford to close her eyes for the last time in peace. We know that when she quietly bade us farewell, she was satisfied that all her life had been dedicated to the finest of causes.
As we accompany you to your final place of abode, our hearts are filled with grief and with pride.
Grief that that awesome presence is with us no more.
Grief that we have to share an honour of witnessing the closing of a chapter of an epic contribution to freedom and justice.
But we are also filled with pride.
Pride that the vales and the thousand hills of KwaZulu/Natal spawned such an asset to our people.
Pride that we had in you a Mother of the Nation par excellence.
We shall forever remain grateful to your unflinching sacrifices and tireless efforts to bring about peace and democracy.
Mama Nokukhanya was one of those leaders who contributed to our struggle away from the limelight. But she will go down in history as a member of the battalions of resilient women whose spirit could not be broken by the pain and suffering which the apartheid government imposed on them. She was a woman of rare and distinct qualities.
Mama Nokukhanya was one of those leaders who made a difference to the lives of those around them. Her understanding, her wisdom, her love and care for others were apparent to anyone in her presence. That was a privilege that I often had, on many occasions, particularly when I had to go to Groutville to consult with Chief Luthuli after he was banned and, as an underground leader, to report to him on the progress of our efforts to set up the people's army, Umkhonto weSizwe.
Our age and the bravado of underground soldiers aside, we deeply cherished that motherly care and hospitality. And we did not fail to notice that stern and knowing look that said to us: be brave, be good; but be careful and avoid recklessness!
It is thanks to Mama Nokukhanya in her own right that the Luthuli name became a colossal symbol of peace and unity, far beyond the horizons of Groutville and the borders of South Africa. As the world and the nation revered Chief Albert Luthuli for his efforts to unite our people, regardless of political affiliation or race, so too did those with a closer view of our struggle cherish the name of Nokukhanya.
We stand today upon the shoulders of such giants; able to see further and to share the limelight of the African National Congress, a movement they helped to forge; an organisation they protected like the apple of their eyes.
And though she may not be physically with us, we can hear Mrs Luthuli's voice; and her words that in their profound simplicity will continue to reverberate among us, irrespective of parties to which we may belong, irrespective of our religions and languages, irrespective of whether we reside in urban or rural areas: Let there be peace!
As we lay MaBhengu to rest, we cannot ignore the wise counsel that she has left us: Let there be peace! One death on account of political differences, is one too many!
As members of political and other organisations, as communities, as organisers and activists, and as political leaders, we should leave no stone unturned to ensure that we finally and permanently banish the violence that has haunted this province for far too long.
Above all, it is the political leaders of today who will be held responsible by future generations, if their failure to co-operate creates the space for those who thrive on tension and conflict; if their failure to handle political differences in a mature manner, gives cover to the forces of darkness to unleash their evil deeds.
Let us all join hands to ensure the peaceful conditions that create the space for the emergence of the good men and women in all communities who are the true leaders of our nation; the good men and women who are prepared to join hands and eradicate poverty, illiteracy, disease, homelessness and other scourges that continue to haunt our people.
This is what Mama Nokukhanya fought for. This is what Chief Luthuli fought and died for. This is our mission today as a nation.
And we resolve, as we lay her to rest, that we shall continue from where she left off, to strive with all the strength we can muster, to build a better life for all.
To members of the family, we say; we know you feel this pain even more deeply. We cannot grasp the depth of your grief. But please be comforted by the fact that the nation shares your sorrow, and that we shall always be there for you.
As we mourn the death of this patriot, we do so comforted that she will rest for eternity, peaceful in the knowledge that South Africa is free; proud in the knowledge that she lived to see a government based on the ideals for which she and her husband lived and sacrificed.
Farewell MaBhengu! May your soul rest in peace!
Source: Nelson Mandela Foundation