Address by Nelson Mandela at unveiling of Steve Tshwete's tombstone

3 May 2003

It is right and proper that we gather here today to once more pay our homage to Steve Tshwete and to erect this symbol of our abiding memory of him and his life. He was indeed one of the great pillars of strength of our liberation movement and in the democratic reconstruction of our country.

Steve Tshwete was what one can call the totally rounded South African revolutionary because he combined in himself so many of the experiences of the liberation struggle. He was a Robben Island prisoner; a leader of the internal mass movement and underground; and part of the movement in exile and of the armed struggle. This complete grasp of all of the aspects and experiences of our movement equipped him excellently to play the role he did in the liberation and subsequent transformation of our country. He had the ability to bring and hold together people of differing opinions and backgrounds. Hence the almost universal expressions of loss and sadness that followed on his death.

As we erect and unveil this tombstone, it is not only as a token to the past; it is more importantly a commitment to the future. We remember Steve Tshwete and his life's work; and we dedicate ourselves and future generations to continue that work and to uphold the values Steve lived by and lived for.

We can look back with considerable pride on our national achievement in these first nine years of democracy. That racially divided country, suffering under the brutal oppression of racial minority rule and poised on the brink of civil war, had made a remarkable turn about. Today its serves as a model to the world in terms of national reconciliation. The social transformation to undo the legacy of discrimination and inequality is steadily progressing: more people have access to basic services than ever was the case in the history of this country. And people are assured of their basic human dignity.

Steve Tshwete's name can be written boldly and prominently amongst those that made possible those achievements.

We also recognise that much more needs to be done and that the challenges before us remain large and daunting. Poverty remains the great scourge in our society. Our government continues, in word and action, to commit itself to the eradication of poverty and deprivation and to the creation of a better life for all.

Once more, the guiding example of Steve Tshwete is there to inspire and direct us. Both as Minister of Sport and Recreation and later of Safety and Security he worked tirelessly to make our country a better and safer place for all its citizens, particularly for the poor and marginalised. Redoubling our efforts to achieve that better life for all will be the most fitting tribute we can pay the memory of Steve.

As always, we cannot pretend to be compassionate about the bigger picture if we neglect the small and immediate. We think particularly of Pam and the children, wanting them to know that our remembrance of Steve will not end with the unveiling of this tombstone. We shall always be there for you as Steve was there for us

Source: Nelson Mandela Foundation