Tribute by Nelson Mandela at unveiling ceremony for Joe Modise, Randburg

6 December 2003

We are proud to be present at this unveiling ceremony, paying tribute to one of the brave freedom fighters of our movement and nation builders of our country.

My association with Joe Modise stretches back over many years. We have shared in moments that I remember with amusement as I now look back. We were comrades in activities that helped shape the future of our country, and I remember him with respect and admiration.

Joe Modise was one of those who gave virtually all of his life to the struggle and to the African National Congress. Before the banning of the organisation he was a brave and forthright opponent of the regime and an energetic organiser of resistance. He went into exile where he played a key role in the leadership of the movement. He rose to the highest rank in our liberation army, Umkonto we Sizwe.

He returned from exile to take part in the early negotiations with the apartheid regime and became the first Minister of Defence of democratic South Africa.

He presided over one of the most important facets of transformation in our country, the integration of the various statutory and non-statutory armed forces into one single South African National Defence Force. He led a process that laid the solid foundations for stability in the new South Africa – a disciplined defence force, loyal to the Constitution and the new democratic order.

We proudly remember this son of South Africa who so splendidly gave his life to the attainment of freedom and the building of a democratic South Africa.

We wish his family well, trusting that they will always take courage from his memory.

And may his example continue to inspire future generations to build in the way he did.

Source: Nelson Mandela Foundation