Speech by Nelson Mandela at Zionist Christian Church Easter Conference

South African History Online

Speech by Nelson Mandela at Zionist Christian Church Easter Conference

Moria, 3 April 1994

(Begin with a reading from the Gospel According to St Matthew, Chapter 5.
Verses: 1 to 12.)

1. And seeing the multitudes, he went up into the mountain; and when he was
set,

2. his disciples came unto him; and he opened his mouth, and taught them
saying,

3 Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven,

4.Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted.

5. Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth.

6. Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they
shall be filled.

7. Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy.

8. Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God.

9. Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.

10. Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness sake: for theirs
is the kingdom of heaven.

11. Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall
say all manner of evil against you falsely,for my sake.

12. Rejoice and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so
persecuted they the prophets which were before you.

Khotsong Masione! Peace unto you! Uxolo Mazayoni!

Your Grace,
Bishop Barnabas Lekganyane,
Head of the Zionist Christian
Church;
Reverend Gentlemen, members of the Ministers' council and Elders of
the Z.C.C.;
State President F.W. de Klerk;
Esteemed colleague, President
M.C. Makwetu;
Chief Ministers M.G. Buthelezi;
Congregants, fellow
worshippers and friends;

I consider it a privilege to be here with you once more this easter.Permit
me, Your grace, to thank you and the mighty congregation your lead, for inviting
me once more to celebrate easter with you here at the holy city of Moria. This
tabernacle which has become the site of annual festival of renewal and rebirth
attracts pilgrims from every part of this sub-continent.I have come to Moria as
a pilgrim to commune with Your Grace and the Z.C.C. in an act of rededication
symbolised by the resurrected Messiah.

I bring to you all the heartfelt greetings of the entire membership of the
ANC. On their behalf, I say to you Khotso e be le lena! May Peace be with you
all! We bow our heads in worship on this day and give thanks to the Almighty for
the bounty he has bestowed upon us over the past year. We raise our voices in
holy gladness to celebrate the victory of the risen Christ over the terrible
forces of death.

Easter is a joyful festival !
It is a celebration because it is indeed a
festival of hope!
Easter marks the renewal life!
The triumph of the
light of truth over the darkness of falsehood!
Easter is a festival of human
solidarity, because it celebrates the fulfilment of the Good News!
The Good
News borne by our risen Messiah who chose not one race, who chose not one
country, who chose not one language, who chose not one tribe, who chose all of
humankind!

We pray with you for the blessings of human solidarity, because there are so
many who wish to divide us!
We pray with you for the blessings of
reconciliation among all the people of South Africa!
We pray with you so
that the blessings of peace may descend upon South Africa like a torrent!
We
pray with you that the blessings of love may flow like a mighty stream!

Khotso Masione! May Peace by with you!. Uxolo Mazayoni!

Our country has lived through a fateful week. Ours is a country whose
patience had been worn thin by the ever present threat of violence and mayhem.
However we assess the events of this past week, it is clear that a halt had to
be called to the spiral of destruction and death. We could no longer ignore the
fervent wishes of the overwhelming majority of the people for peace.

The dreadful incidents that have occurred must not obscure the essential
truth that what is at issue is a simple principle: that the people of South
Africa, no matter in which province they live, like people everywhere in the
world, have the inalienable right to decide who will govern them. That right
cannot be compromised! That right cannot undermined! That right cannot be
abridged to satisfy any one party, or leader, or political dogma!

Even as we speak there are numerous homes in many parts of our country where
there is mourning. Our heartfelt sympathy goes out to all the bereaved families.
But we mourn also for our country which continues to bleed and lose some of its
best sons and daughters in senseless slaughter which has no purpose other than
to delay the birth of a democratic South Africa.

The cost in human lives lost,in the damage to public and private property all
could have been avoided. Those politicians who have chosen to stand outside the
momentous historical current that is bringing change to this country, have the
untrammelled right to do so. But we plead with them; we implore them;

Yes, we even beg them, please accord us the equal right to be part of this
process of change? Please to not interfere with our right to vote merely because
you choose not to exercise yours.

Uxolo Mazayoni! Khotsong Masione! Peace be with You!

We often hear it said today that South Africans should forget the past and
rather focus on the future. While it is absolutely correct that we must not
permit the past to become a burden that obstructs our capacity to move forward,
it would be equally shortsighted to consign it to our collective amnesia.

South Africa's past is not merely a record of dismal record of failure,though
there has been one great failure.

South Africa's past is nor merely a lot of missed opportunities, though many
opportunities have been missed.

South Africa's past is not a bleak picture which can only bring despair. It
is also a history rich in tales of human courage, endeavour and striving, often
against terrible odds, to create a better future for all the people of our
country.

South Africans of every race, gender,colour, creed, ethnic and language group
have contributed to it. The coming of the democratic elections to this country
is not a miracle. It is the outcome of decades of consistent and unrelenting
struggle by millions of ordinary South Africans - women, men and even children -
drawn from every region of our country who went out on strikes! who conducted
boycotts! who marched in the streets! who were prepared to suffer imprisonment!
who were banned and persecuted! who were beaten, teargassed and shot down in the
streets! who suffered torture and even murder at the hands the racist Security
Police! who went to the gallows! We owe the coming of democracy to these
millions who refused to submit to the superior power wielded by the forces of
tyranny.

As a country and as a people we owe a great deal more to those who dared to
struggle than to the silent conformists.It is those who were prepared to resist
oppression, regardless of the cost to themselves, who have made freedom a
realisable possibility. Democracy is a great opportunity for national
rejuvenation.We must not throw it away! The struggle for democracy in South
Africa has never been racially exclusive or racially defined. It has drawn
support and adherents from South Africans of all races, colours and creeds.It
has always held out the promise of what South Africa could become. A common home
for all its people in their diversity. That is a legacy we shall always cherish.

Khotso e be le lena, Masione! Uxolo lu be nani Mazayoni!

Each easter marks the rebirth of our faith. It marks the victory of our risen
saviour over the torture of the cross and the grave. Our Messiah, who came to us
in the form of a mortal man, but who by his suffering and crucifixion attained
immortality. Our Messiah, born like an outcast in a stable, and executed like
criminal on the cross. Our Messiah, whose life bears testimony to the truth that
there is no shame in poverty: Those who should be ashamed are they who
impoverish others. Whose life testifies to the truth that there is no shame in
being persecuted: Those who should be shamed are they who persecute others.
Whose life proclaims the truth that there is no shame in being conquered; Those
who should be ashamed are they who conquer others. Whose testifies to the truth
that there is no shame in being dispossessed: Those who should be ashamed are
they who dispossesses others. Whose life testifies to the truth that there is no
shame in being oppressed: Those who should be ashamed are they who oppress
others.

Your Grace, Reverend Gentlemen Ministers and Elders of the Z.C.C.,

As a young man I decided to study the law with a view to using what little
talent I had in the service of justice and the cause of my people. Like many
before me and those of my generation, I entered legal practice with a
determination to employ my skills and training to at least alleviate the
suffering of the oppressed if not to reverse it. Years of practice at the
bar,experience accumulated in the course of my political work, vindicated by the
grisly record of repressive actions and legislation that followed year after
year during the four decades of National Party misgovernment, demonstrated that
there was no may in which a system that was inequitable and unjust in its
essence could be modified. To our consternation, as soon as lawyers discovered a
loophole in the oppressive laws, the National Party government took action to
close it. By the 1960s, a comprehensive system of oppressive legislation had
established a near to totalitarian grip over the country.That eventuality posed
a challenge to us.I remain convinced that it was or willingness to rise to that
challenge that paved the way to our present circumstances.

To build democracy from the ashes of decades of apartheid mismanagement will
not be an easy task.But we have a vision and a plan that can translate that
vision into concrete programmes to improve the quality of life of all South
Africans. It is evident that with the advent of democracy investor confidence in
South Africa is increasing.

In order to consolidate these gains requires a government that has legitimacy
and enjoys the confidence of the majority of our people.It requires a government
capable of marshalling the resources of our country in a comprehensive plan to
eradicate the inequalities of apartheid.It requires a government committed to
tackling the appalling levels of unemployment, which are the direct outcome of
decades of apartheid.

We have placed job creation,the restoration of peace and stability, and the
thorough democratisation of South African society at the top of our agenda. We
are persuaded that the most valuable investment our country can make in the
future is effectively harnessing all South Africa's human resources by expanding
the opportunities for education and training. Greater opportunity will enhance
the climate for economic growth,economic growth will create greater
stability,and stability is the indispensable condition for the thriving of
democracy.

The future holds many exciting new prospects for South Africa and its people.
Years of international isolation, imposed because of apartheid are coming to an
end.As a country we must be poised to seize these opportunities.The challenges
ahead should not be seen as the tasks that await the government that will be
elected on April 27th. They are challenges to us as a nation. Every South
African should come forward to shoulder this collective responsibility so that
we can all work together to build a better life for all.

Let me close my remarks on a note of hope appropriate to the festival we are
marking. May this easter bring with it the blessings of our resurrected Lord and
may His love shine upon our land and its people.

May the dawn of democracy bring with it the means to fulfil the prayers of
our mothers and fathers; the means to realise the dreams of our daughters and
our sons; the means to feed the millions who this night will sleep unfed; and
the means to bring comfort to those who this night know despair.

May the Lord Almighty grant Your Grace the wisdom to continue your great work
of spiritual guidance. You shall remain in our prayers, as we shall surely be in
yours.

 

Last updated : 31-Mar-2011

This article was produced by South African History Online on 31-Mar-2011

Support South African History Online

Donate and Make African History Matter

South African History Online is a non profit organisation. We depend on public support to build our website into the most comprehensive educational resource and encyclopaedia on African history.

Your support will help us to build and maintain partnerships with educational institutions in order to strengthen teaching, research and free access to our content.



Donate.