Durban:  JULY 17, 1998

The President of South Africa, President Nelson Mandela; the Presiding Bishop of the Methodist Church of Southern Africa, Bishop Mvume Dandala; His Majesty King Zwelithini and the Queen; Cabinet Ministers of KwaZulu Natal; Mr Jacob Zuma, Minister of Economic Affairs and Tourism, KwaZulu Natal; distinguished guests; ladies and gentlemen.

It is a privilege for me to attend the Triennial Conference of the Methodist Church of Southern Africa. I appreciate the significance of this first conference and am pleased that it is being held in KwaZulu Natal. Allow me to offer my sincere wishes towards the success of this conference. May God guide our plans according to His will for this church. I am honoured today to introduce the President of South Africa who has been invited by the Presiding Bishop Dandala to participate in this first Triennial Conference. I believe that the invitation to President Mandela is singularly appropriate as we attempt to bring the leadership of our country under the guidance of the Almighty. President Mandela is a member of the Methodist Church and a professing Christian. I have always admired him for his faith and I am glad that on this occasion he is amongst us to address us on matters of faith and to share with us fellowship in Christ. We as Christians are delighted that he is not ashamed to address this Conference as a child of the Church. To President Mandela, I wish to state that according to Matthew 10 v. 32 that: "Whosoever therefore shall confess me before man, him will I confess also before my Father which is in heaven". The Lord will note what he has done today. I think that it is important that on this occasion the President of our country enters his public acknowledgement of his faith in Christ so that, together, we can humble ourselves before the Almighty. I have always felt that those of us who are burdened with the responsibility of high office, have a special duty to humble ourselves before the Almighty and to do so publicly and frequently. President Mandela is in a position to lead others by his example and I am grateful that this example and testimony is one of Christian faith. All of us are aware that whatever we do on this earth, we all still have to account before our Maker, for how we used the borrowed time which He gave us to serve His people on this planet.

In the past, President Mandela and I had differences and even now we do not share complete accord on some political questions. Yet I have always recognised him not only as my African elder brother, but above all as a brother in Christ, and have therefore never seen him as an enemy to be attacked or destroyed. We have always had the same commitment to our people's struggle for emancipation, but in the past we have stood opposed only on the direction which we believed the strategy for our liberation should follow.

Throughout negotiations on the future of this land, the media liked to present us as opponents. And yet they got confused by the way we remained courteous and warm towards each other. They were puzzled by the way I deferred to him as my elder brother in accordance with Zulu tradition. They did not know of the more than 40 years of relationship between us as young and handsome members of the African National Congress Youth League. They did not know of President Mandela's friendship with my father-in-law, Mr Zacchariah Mzila, and his wife Tabitha, at WNLA Compound in Eloff Street Extension in Johannesburg. They did not know that I introduced my late cousin, King Bhekuzulu Nyangayezizwe Cyprian ka Solomon to President Mandela. The King and I had an occasion to enjoy the hospitality of the young lawyer, and Mrs Mandela, at his home in Orlando in the fifties. When my father-in-law died, I approached President Mandela on behalf of my in-laws to wind up his Estate. They do not know of the communications between us spanning decades while he was incarcerated in prison. The last letter that he wrote to me from Victor Verster Prison was written in 1989 just before his release. In the letter he expressed his deep concern about the violence that was taking place at the time between members of our two organisations. There is no other single person in South Africa who campaigned for the release of President Mandela more than I did, in direct confrontations with Prime Minister BJ Vorster, President PW Botha and President FW de Klerk. All these things are well documented. We have always maintained before us the same goal of economic, social and political liberation for every South African. The Almighty created us equally, endowing us with equal strengths and weaknesses. Both President Mandela and I have never forgotten this truth and we fought for so many years to ensure that this equality of man could be finally recognised at the political level. We now continue our struggle to ensure that also from a social and economic standpoint, the equality of man can be recognised.

Our past is too filled with processes and ideas which have dehumanised many of our brothers and sisters. Christian fellowship is now more important than ever. I held these principles when it was difficult as I felt that even during our struggle, it was our duty to liberate not only the oppressed, but also the oppressor. I believe that we all can be saved, we all need to be saved and we all must be saved. Through breaking the chains of apartheid, South Africa earned the opportunity to challenge evil and reclaim the goodness in this country which has been kept alive by the faith and dedication of people of goodwill. We must acknowledge how President Mandela always remained committed to the ideal of a free South Africa, holding high a dream of faith which guided many people. In doing so, he was a man of God because through him the Lord was able to perform His work on earth. He stood firm, unbending during all the years he was jailed. I believe that it has been through the strength of the Lord that all people of goodwill have persevered. It is important that at this time of uncertainty and social deterioration, the leadership of our country once again give the example and turn their hearts to the Lord. We need a re- foundation of South Africa as a Nation, acting in the fear of God and under the guidance of God. I am saddened by the fact that so many strongholds have taken root in our society which bar us from a full life in Christ. The issues of violence, criminality, unemployment, poverty, an ailing education system and slow service delivery, have become the issues of every-day talk. One can hardly meet with a fellow South African without these issues dominating the conversation. Our meetings are becoming filled with negativity and concern and the healing power of the Holy Spirit suffers from our inattention.

This healing power is our best remedy against the culture of violence, greed, corruption, lack of work ethic, lack of respect for authority and indolence which threaten to sink our country. Our churches need to become strong through their congregations so that they may strengthen all people of goodwill to begin a re- birth of Christian morality. We need to re-focus our attention on what can be done and strive for what lies beyond in the power of the Almighty. As the people of goodwill take up this responsibility, we will be looking towards our leaders for guidance and reassurance that what is to be done will be supported by those who hold political power. The greatest responsibility therefore rests upon the shoulders of our leaders. I have always admired President Mandela in spite of our differences, for the fortitude and enthusiasm with which he has accepted the burden of responsibility for the developmental years of our fledgling democracy. The Lord put on his shoulders a burden much heavier than anybody could ever imagine. It is a rare moment in history that one man is singled out to personify the struggle of thousands. God chose President Mandela to lead us as we embarked upon the difficult journey towards political transition. I deeply respect the strength which the Lord has bestowed upon him to fulfil this task. I also trust that President Mandela will continue on the path which the Almighty has marked both for him and for our country. President Mandela will be celebrating his 80th birthday tomorrow, and with him the whole country will be celebrating this illustrious son of South Africa who sacrificed so much for what he had to do. In our efforts to empower the people of goodwill through spiritual enrichment and practical guidance, I have lent my unqualified support to the work of the Methodist Church of Southern Africa. I pray for the continued growth of the Church and for the guidance and strength of its leaders, so that together we may take up the challenge of Christianity with a renewed enthusiasm and reach out to every South African to rebuild our country.

I thank President Mandela for joining us today to share in the fellowship of faith, and welcome his participation in the first Triennial Conference of the Methodist Church of Southern Africa. It is now my privilege to present to you His Excellency Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela, President of the Republic of South Africa.



Designed and maintained by Byte Internet Services - Copyright © 1998