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Mbeki: Handing over ceremony of Garden of Remembrance, Freedom Park (08/03/2004)

8th March 2004


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Date: 08/03/2004
Source: The Presidency
Title: T Mbeki: Handing over ceremony of Garden of Remembrance, Freedom Park


Minister of Arts, Culture, Science and Technology, Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka
Minister Essop Pahad
Chief Executive Officer of the Freedom Park Trust, Dr Wally Serote
Members of the Board of Trustees
Distinguished women leaders and dignitaries
Leaders and members of our national, provincial and local legislatures and governments
Mayor of Tshwane, Father Smangaliso Mkhatshwa
Distinguished guests
Comrades, Ladies and Gentlemen.

We have gathered at Freedom Park on International Women's Day to accept from the Trustees of Freedom Park the first phase of the Garden of Remembrance. Here we see the great beginning of what will be a place of peace and quiet contemplation, of the silent remembering of the heroes and heroines who have departed from the land of the living, but to whom we owe the gift of liberty.

This is a place to which all our people of all colours, cultures, ages and beliefs, men and women, will come to pay their quiet tribute to those whose memory will never be extinguished, who will live on in every generation that lives, summoning each to be the standard bearers of the cause of the freedom of all humanity.

Here too will come people from other lands to join us in the process of the renewal of our vows never to betray the memory of those who have passed on, never to dishonour the cause they served, never to forget who they were and what they did.

It will therefore not be a place of grief and mourning but of celebration that we and all humanity have such as they whose names will be inscribed on Freedom Park, to light our way to the genuine emancipation from oppression, from hunger, and from the tyranny of ignorance, that is due to all human beings.

To mourn the death of John Keats, Percy Bysshe Shelley wrote the poem "Adonais". From this work of passion we would like to borrow the following lines:

"He has outsoared the shadow of our night;
Envy and calumny and hate and pain,
And that unrest which men call delight,
Can touch him not and torture not again;
From the contagion of the world's slow stain

He is secure, and now can never mourn
A heart grown cold, a head grown grey in vain;
Nor, when the spirit's self has ceased to burn,
With sparkless ashes load an unlamented urn,
"He lives, he wakes - 'tis Death is dead, not he;
Mourn not for Adonais. - Thou young Dawn
Turn all thy dew to splendour, for from thee
The spirit thou lamentest is not gone;
Ye caverns and ye forests, cease to moan!"

It is with these words that we should salute those to whom this Garden of Remembrance is dedicated. Of them we should say:
"They have outsoared the shadow of our night;
Envy and calumny and hate and pain,
Can touch them not and torture not again;

They live, they wake - 'tis Death that's dead, not they
Mourn not our heroes and heroines. - Young Dawn
Turn all your dew to splendour, for from you
The spirit you lament is not gone;
You caverns and you forests, cease to moan!"

During their day, those to whom this Garden of Remembrance is dedicated knew envy and calumny and hate and pain. They bore them all not because they belonged to a superhuman breed, but because they were supremely human.

They too confronted the danger of being stained by the contagion of a human universe turned ugly and venomous by the inhumanity of human beings. They experienced the times when hearts grew cold even as all around them human suffering cried out for sympathy and mercy for those in pain.

They kept company with men and women bent low and low by the burdens of age, their heads turned grey, ambling through the twilight of their lives with no victory to crown their lifelong efforts.

During their lives, they saw the death of the fighting spirit among those who had been valiant fighters, in whom the fire of passion had been extinguished and replaced by the cold ashes of once-glowing embers whose flames had promised to exorcise the rotten leaves of an oppressive age whose time had passed.

But through it all they kept the faith. They refused that their hearts should grow cold to the fate of their neighbour. They refused to lose the will to fight on until victory was won. Even when death came and took them away, because of what they had done, death failed in what it sought to do.

With regard to these splendid men and women, the poet has said that Death itself died and not they. They did not die because their spirit would not die. When death came, they outsoared the shadow of the night that continues to darken our lives. They lived and live on in a world of light, providing us with the lodestar that will show us the way out of the shadow of our night.

In all future time, the dew that will form on the world of plants and stones that will mark out this Garden of Remembrance will sparkle in the rays of the young dawn to proclaim the splendour of our heroes and heroines. This hill and all its trees will not moan with the shifting currents of the autumn winds, but will whisper a song of joy and not hum the lament of the bereaved.

We are honoured that on this day we have been joined by outstanding women from our country and elsewhere in the world, who have made a seminal contribution to the struggle for the liberation of women and all humanity. Their presence here gives this solemn occasion the dignity and grace that we must extend to those without whose hearts and minds and deeds this Garden of Remembrance would have no meaning.

On behalf of our government and people, I thank them most sincerely for responding to the request of the Board of Trustees of Freedom Park to attend this ceremony. It is they rather than I, who are responsible for dedicating and blessing this memorial, endowing it with the eternal blessing that will ensure that it inspires future generations for all time.

At an earlier time, 90 years ago, the speech of an English woman, Emily Hobhouse, who opposed the cruel war waged by her country against the people of South Africa was read at the ceremony to unveil the Women's Monument in Bloemfontein. On that occasion, she said:

"The old watchword 'Liberty, Fraternity, Equality' cries from the tomb; what these women, so simple that they did not know they were heroines, valued and died for, all other human beings desire with equal fervour. Should not the justice and liberties you love so well, extend to all within your borders?"

She went on to say: "We too, the great civilised nations of the world, are still but barbarians in our degree, so long as we continue to spend vast sums in killing or planning to kill each other for greed of land and gold. Does not justice bid us remember today how many thousands of the dark race perished also in Concentration Camps in a quarrel that was not theirs? Did they not redeem their past? Was it not an instance of that community of interest, which bonding all in one, roots out racial animosity? And may it not come about that the associations linked with this day will change, merging into nobler thoughts as year by year you celebrate the more inspiring Vrouewen-Dag we now inaugurate?"

No such plea needs to be made today. For, indeed, this new monument, the Garden of Remembrance and Freedom Park as a whole, express the community of interest, which bonding all in one, roots out racial animosity.

Those that this Garden honours include women who were so simple that they did not know they were heroines. It pays tributes to these women because in the end what they did has led and will lead to the bonding not only of our people, but of all humanity, born of the recognition of the community of interests of all humankind.

It is therefore right that we have met here on International Women's Day to dedicate this Garden of Remembrance.

We have met here at a time of hope for our people. The justice and liberties that Emily Hobhouse said the Afrikaner people loved have now become the common heritage of all our people. We are building on the liberty we have all achieved, to create a new South Africa that belongs to all who live in it, a South Africa that is doing and will do its best to contribute what it can towards the birth of a better world for all humanity.

Our people are confident that we will continue to reconstruct our country into one that will root out racial animosities that will eradicate poverty and ensure the full and free spiritual and material development of all our citizens. The work we are doing and will continue to engage, to change our country for the better, constitutes our tribute to those whose lives inspire this Garden of Remembrance.

This memorial is therefore both a salute to them and a product of their efforts. Because it is such a product, a particular moment in time of a human work-in-progress, it challenges us to continue the unfinished work of those who have outsoared the shadow of our night, and create a people-centred society.

That night is also marked by troubling developments in many parts of the world. These range from the Cote d'Ivoire in West Africa, to Haiti in the Caribbean, Iraq, Palestine and Israel in the Middle East, and elsewhere.

It is also marked by the misery of poverty afflicting large numbers of people in our country, the rest of Africa and the developing world, as well as the persisting and widening gap between the rich of the North and the poor of the South.

It is characterised by the reality that seemingly, the hearts of the powerful have grown cold, staining the world with the results born out of the imperatives dictated by the use of power when the spirit of human solidarity has ceased to burn.

But we have this gift of the Garden of Remembrance to take us through and beyond the shadow of our night. We have our heroes and heroines who never allowed that the reverses of the day should turn their fighting spirit into sparkless ashes loaded into an unlamented urn.

Their immortal example must tell us to see our problems as challenges, problems that remain unsolved as opportunities for new victories in future.

Their spirit and example inspired us to persist in our struggle, regardless of the cost to ourselves, until we had vanquished the tyranny of racist rule. Their spirit and example must continue to inspire us to persist in the struggle to build a better world for the poor of our country and the rest of the human universe, however difficult the road ahead of us may be, relying always on the light our heroes and heroines will always provide to illuminate our way.

Like Shelley we must dare to sound the bells of hope and say:

"That Light whose smiles kindles the Universe,
That Beauty in which all things work and move,
That Benediction which the eclipsing Curse
Of birth can quench not, that sustaining Love

Which through the web of being blindly wove
By man and beast and earth and air and sea,
Burns bright or dim, as each are mirrors of
The fire for which all thirst, now beams on me,
Consuming the last clouds of cold mortality."

With the emergence of this Garden of Remembrance, rising out of the living world of this ancient hill, we should now say that that light whose smiles kindles the universe now beams on us, consuming not our mortality but the shadow of our night.

I am privileged to commend this place of the renewal of the human spirit to our people, to all future generations, to all humankind.

Thank you.

Issued by: The Presidency
8 March 2004
Source: SAPA


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