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“A Pan-Africanist Hero”: Nelson Mandela Remembered by African Union Commission Chairwoman

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African Union Commission Chairwoman Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, the first woman to lead the organization, spoke at the memorial service for Nelson Mandela. She is a former anti-apartheid activist who served as South Africa’s minister of health from 1994 to 1999 under President Mandela. She recalled how Mandela was part of a broader Pan-African struggle for independence. “Wherever he went on our continent, doors were opened, he got military training, and he got support for the struggle,” she said.

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This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: But we’ll turn back now, today’s memorial to Nelson Mandela. We turn to Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma. She’s chairwoman of the African Union Commission, the first woman to lead the organization, former anti-apartheid activist, served under President Mandela as South Africa’s minister of health.

NKOSAZANA DLAMINI-ZUMA: From north to south, from east, central and west, Africa is in mourning, together with the rest of the world, for the loss of its greatest. At the same time, they are celebrating the life of a gallant fighter, an ANC leader, leader of the South African people as a whole, leader of the African people and the rest of the world. We stand proud of you, Madiba, who represents the best Pan-African values of freedom, solidarity, service to the people, equality, sacrifice and defense of the human dignity.

Throughout his life, he lived these values in struggle, always willing to serve, prepared to listen and respect all views, including those that differed from his. His humility, compassion, commitment, courage and openness meant that working and engaging with him or listening to him, talking to him, was always a lesson. At the same time, he could be resolutely firm and stand his ground, especially when it came to the defense of the oppressed and the poor.

Madiba is part of the ranks of the many Pan-Africanist heroes and heroines whose commitment to the liberation and renaissance of Africa and to the equality and justice remains steadfast throughout their lives. As one of the young militants of the ANC Youth League in 1944, he said he understood that South Africa’s struggles were closely linked to struggles of the oppressed people across Africa, and indeed the world. And he said to the young Youth Leaguers in 1951 at their Congress, “History is on the side of the oppressed.”

The growing Pan-African movement, the increasing number of independent African countries and the unflinching support and solidarity of the struggles of those still under the yoke of oppression was a source of inspiration to him and his peers. It was this solidarity that Madiba counted on when he was sent by the ANC in 1962 to mobilize support for South Africa’s turn to armed struggle. His campaign to mobilize support took him across the continent, to Ethiopia, Egypt, Algeria, Tunisia, Guinea, Morocco, Mali, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Senegal and many others. Wherever he went on our continent, doors were opened. He got military training, and he got support for the struggle.

AMY GOODMAN: Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, the first female chair of the African Union Commission, speaking today at the memorial for Nelson Mandela in Soweto.

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