Item 944 - Tribute to Walter Sisulu at the unveiling of his tombstone, December 2003

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Tribute to Walter Sisulu at the unveiling of his tombstone, December 2003


  • 2003-12-16 (Creation)

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Transcription of speech made by Mr Mandela

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(18 July 1918-5 December 2013)

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Migrated from the Nelson Mandela Speeches Database (Sep-2018).

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Unveiling of Walter Sisulu's tombstone

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  • English

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It is a great privilege and honour to join all of you here today at this unveiling to celebrate and honour my friend and comrade Walter Xhamela Sisulu.

Today is doubly significant because reconciliation is what Xhamela lived and worked for, and his contribution to our struggle has given us the freedoms we now enjoy.

My association with Walter began in 1941. Over the next 62 years we shared dreams and hardship, friendship and tears, youth and old age.

We watched each other as our backs bent lower and lower over the years. (I didn’t think my short friend could get any shorter!)
We watched our dark, proud heads of hair turn grey and our grasp grow weaker. What was once a strong, manly handshake between comrades, over time became a quiet, smiling nod.

Our eyes, once sharp and alert, became tired. Aaah yes – our bodies grew weaker. Time always wins, but not without a fight! And not for Xhamela! For my friend and comrade is timeless. He is ageless. His spirit and legacy lives on. He is Walter Xhamele Sisulu – son of Africa. Warrior. Freedom fighter and citizen of this great country.

His quiet disposition, courage and self-confidence gave us strength when it mattered most. He was a great leader who wore the cloak of leadership so lightly. He encouraged others and never asked of others what he was not prepared to do himself.

He brought people of different beliefs and cultures together – and he’s still doing it today Just look around you.

But don’t for one second think that he was all sweet talk and honey. Walter was not afraid of taking the unpopular stance. I might have been the boxer, but Walter certainly knew how to throw a few left hooks and upper-cuts – but never below the belt.

He loved vigorous debate – as long as we were better off for it. He actively worked to develop a culture of vigorous debate without vindictiveness within the ANC.

I will be a very sad and tortured man if this unveiling, and the memory of Comrade Walter Sisulu, goes to waste.
On reconciliation day, and every day, we must recommit to our fellow South Africans.

Reach out - a simple smile, a greeting, a helping hand or an act of courtesy says: I am nothing without you. I am richer for you. I respect you for who you are.

Let’s recommit to work towards our common goal: a nation where all of us are winners, all of us have shelter, food and education. Let’s build a nation of champions. Let’s continue to build a nation that Walter Xhamela Sisulu can be proud of.

When I see him in the next life I need to take good news to him, you see. If I don’t - he’s bound to have a thousand questions – and I better have the answers!

So build South Africa. Build its people. Build its future! Make Reconciliation Day a reality. Make Walter proud!

Albertina, you and your children can hold your heads high today. Your husband and father lives on proudly.

God Bless you.

My friend, my teacher, my comrade - Till we meet again, Hamba kahle, Xhamela. Qhawe la ma Qhawe. (Go well, Rest in Peace, Xhamela. Hero among heroes)
I thank you.

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Acquisition method: From hard drive ; Source: Nelson Mandela Foundation Prof J Gerwel. Accessioned on by




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