President delivers Nelson Mandela’s centenary birthday lecture in Accra

President Akufo-Addo and Ms Lulu Xingwana  admiring the potrait of the Late Nelson Mandela

President Akufo-Addo and Ms Lulu Xingwana admiring the potrait of the Late Nelson Mandela

President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, on Wednesday night, delivered a lecture in Accra to commemorate the centenary anniversary of the birth of the famous South African, Nelson Mandela, and described him as the greatest African leader whose memory will linger for generations.


He said the life of Nelson Mandela, who spent 27 years in prison, fighting for injustice and inequality in South Africa, was an example of sacrifice, dedication to principle, and devotion to freedom that was without equal in the annals of Africa’s modern history.


The lecture was attended by former President Jerry John Rawlings and his wife, Nana Konadu Agyemang Rawlings, the South African High Commissioner, Lulu Xingwana, and the United Nations Resident Coordinator for Ghana, Ms Christine Evans-Klock.


Others were the South African Minister for International Relations and Cooperation, Dr Lindiwe Sisulu, South African Deputy Minister of Rural Development and Land Reform, Mr Mcebisi Skwatsha, Ministers of state, among other dignitaries.


President Akufo-Addo said Nelson Mandela had managed to leave an indelible imprint on his generation and humanity as a whole, adding, “Madiba might have left us almost five years ago, but I do not exaggerate when I say that it is thanks to him that South Africa is today a strong democracy, with active and working institutions”.


He recounted the time the name Mandela first came to his consciousness as a young man, following the proceedings of the celebrated Rivona trial in 1964, and described the period as a “poignant time” in his personal life, as it coincided with the incarceration of his grandfather, Dr. J.B Danquah, a member of the Big Six.


“When, in 1964, Mandela and his colleagues were sent to prison after the Rivonia trial, there were deep misgivings around Africa, but I doubt that there was anyone then who imagined that it would take 27 years before they would be freed”.


“At the time, we all naively imagined that the jailing of Nelson Mandela and his colleagues, the heroic Rivonia 10, would be like what happened in other parts of the continent, and they would spend a few months, or at the very worst, a few years in jail, and, then, walk into the Union Buildings in Pretoria in triumph as the true leaders of a free, democratic South Africa”.


“Sadly, it turned out we had all underestimated the obduracy of the proponents of apartheid. My early adult years, therefore, were marked with the story of Mandela the prisoner, and the long struggle to bring democracy to South Africa,” he said


President Akufo-Addo said Mandela came from prison in 1990 with the most recognised name in the world, even though nobody had any idea what he looked or sounded like after 27 years behind bars.


The most remarkable thing about Mandela, the President said, was how he unified the country, irrespective of its history of suffering and betrayal.


“For many black South Africans, there had been too much suffering and too many betrayals for them to allow their leaders space for a negotiated settlement. Their white compatriots were equally unwilling to believe there could be a negotiated settlement. And there were a frightening number of people ready to maim and kill to prevent a negotiated settlement.


“The experts all predicted disaster. Somehow, he managed to avert a civil war. He held his nerve, and disarmed, with his calm dignity, the most determined of those who wanted a fight to the death”.


President Akufo-Addo quoted some of the famous speeches of Mandela and added that the South African leader illuminated the truth that the quality of a man’s life was, indeed, the legacy he left behind.

By Yaw Kyei

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