On Monday 9 December, the Parliaments of the United Kingdom and South Africa held special sittings in tribute to Nelson Mandela, former President of South Africa, who passed away on Thursday 5 December. These sessions were presided over by the respective Speakers of the two Parliaments and the UK Parliament will also hold a separate event on Thursday 12 December to commemorate and celebrate the life and achievements of Nelson Mandela.
Opening the UK Parliamentary session, the speaker said ‘This is a special day for special tributes to a special statesman, Nelson Mandela’.
In his tribute, The Right Hon Prime Minister David Cameron said:
Nelson Mandela was a towering figure in our lifetime, a pivotal figure in the history of South Africa and the world, and it is right that we meet in this Parliament to pay tribute to his character, his achievements and his legacy.
When looking back over history, it can be easy to see victories over prejudice and hatred as somehow inevitable. As the years lengthen and events recede, it can seem as though a natural tide of progress continually bears humanity ever upwards—away from brutality and darkness, and towards something better—but it is not so. Progress is not just handed down as a gift; it is won through struggle, the struggle of men and women who believe things can be better and who refuse to accept the world as it is, but dream of what it can be. Nelson Mandela was the embodiment of that struggle.
The Right Hon Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg said:
Our thoughts and condolences are with his loved ones, the people of South Africa, and everyone around the world who is grieving his loss. Nelson Mandela’s message transcended the boundaries of nations, people, colours and creeds, and his character transcended boundaries too. On this year’s Human Rights Day and beyond, let us honour Nelson Mandela’s memory by ensuring that the hope he gave, lives on for all of those whose liberties and rights are still denied.
In Cape Town, the South African parliament held a special joint sitting to commemorate the life of Nelson Mandela.
Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe opened the sitting. He said:
Just as we are all united in a frenzy of the Mandela experience, we can, men and women of vision, issue forth change to these odious conditions that face the rest of the world to enable the emergence of a new human experience. Our struggle is against forgetting.
The session was closed by Minister of Justice and Constitutional Development Jeff Radebe. He said:
I am addressing Nelson Mandela directly Mr Speaker, because although he has passed on, his spirit moves in this house.
Madiba, when the sad news of your passing on was received on the 5th of December, many thought the sun would not rise the following day. It did rise, but there was a strong ray missing. The nation should indeed be in mourning but the need to celebrate your life surpasses all our tears. We need to reflect deeply and safeguard all those institutions which you bestowed upon us. One of these institutions is the Constitution, which we are all obliged to safeguard. There is no better way to thank you as Parliamentarians than to ensure that the Constitution you assisted to craft will always reign supreme.