Message by Nelson Mandela to Helen Suzman on her 85th birthday

7 November 2002

We regret not being able to attend the birthday celebrations of another old die-hard veteran. Helen's resilience inspires us, convincing us that we are still quite young. It would have been a great pleasure to be present in order to thank her for that example she sets in how to advance with age without retreating.

Happy birthday, Helen. May this day be a joyful one shared with friends and family who love and appreciate you. And may the year ahead and the years beyond be filled with joy and contentment and good health.

It needs not for us or anyone to sing your praises: your place is ensured in the history of this country. Your courage, integrity and principled commitment to justice have marked you as one of the outstanding figures in the history of public life in South Africa.

On your 85th birthday we can but pay tribute to you, thank you and let you know how fortunate our country feels for having had you as part of its public life and politics.

Now, looking back from the safety of our non-racial democracy, we can even feel some sympathy for the National Party members who shared Parliament with you. Knowing what a thorn in the flesh of even your friends and political allies you can be, your forthright fearlessness must have made life hell for them when confronted by you.

Helen, best wishes and thank you for being you. You are a very special person and South African.

Source: Nelson Mandela Foundation