Tata Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela

The Funeral of the late former President: Tata Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela

At Qunu on 15 December 2013:

Preacher: Bishop Ziphozihle D. Siwa. (Presiding Bishop of the Methodist Church of Southern Africa)

Reading:Matthew 25: 14 - 30

“Well done, good and faithful servant; you have been faithful over a little, I will set you over much; enter into the joy of your master.” (Matthew 25:21).

Greetings and condolences

His Excellency the President of the Republic of South Africa, President Jacob Zuma, the World Leaders here present, Mama Graca Machel, Mama Winnie Madikizela-Mandela and the Mandela family, and all God’s people here and far, I greet you warmly in God’s Name. AMEN

The life we celebrate today is contrary to the idea of William Shakespeare’s Macbeth when he says: “Out, out brief candle! Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player that struts and frets his hour upon the stage and is heard no more. It is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury signifying nothing.” This life was not brief and its impact will be with us for many years to come. It is a life that will continue to echo on the stage of life for many years to come. It is not a tale told by an idiot – has no sound and fury but is oozing with dignity, meaning, integrity and focus. It is not simply entertainment on the stage but quality actions that led to transforming outcomes in an age of many entertainers and few transforming leaders. We salute you Tata!

Let us look at the lessons from the life of Tata Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela and the parable we read:

  • There are 3 slaves in the story and each one has a lesson to learn
  • The third slave interests me the most: he has the guts to look at justice issues at a great cost to himself – true selflessness and sacrifice
  • The 1st and 2nd have a different approach – they make use of available opportunities
  • The story leaves a legacy and rays of hope ;for generations to come

In the passage in Matthew’s Gospel Chapter 25:14-30, the master is said to have entrusted a huge amount of money in the hands of the slaves in order for them to do business for him in his absence. The three are comrades – they are slaves TOGETHER. My special comrade is the third slave. Let me take you through what he did:

In him we see the cost of standing for Justice:

To start with, he is less resourced than the other two who are given five and two talents respectively. He is given only one. He acts from a position of disadvantage and makes the best use of the disadvantage. He is my hero:

  • He shows deep understanding of the economic paradigms
  • And he had the courage to speak the truth and in this instance exposes the unjust system in a brilliant, courageous way even though dangerous to himself,
  • He acts in a way that will give him a platform to address and expose the unjust system. Did not Mandela do the same at the Rivonia trial? This third slave acts in a way that is contrary to the conventional way of cooperation with the unjust system. He hides the money away and brings it back with no interest. When confronted he uses that platform to make his point:
  • He says to the master: ‘I know you, you are a hard man, reaping where you did not sow… so I was afraid less I make a mistake and lose your investment – you would be ruthless.” So he kept it as it was and returned it as it was. Powerful act of civil disobedience and protest. A deep cry for just economy base on the principles of Ubuntu: “I am because we are.”
  • It hit so hard on the system that it exposed the injustice of the system. Listen to this: The system admits; “You know that I reap where I did not sow” but goes further and reveals something else in verse 29: “To everyone who has will be given more and he will have abundance; but from him who has not, even what he has will be taken away.” The injustice is exposed! The truth is revealed but this brilliant thinker and activist had to pay dearly. He was thrown away into weeping and gnashing of the teeth. What a waste…? (27 years in prison and great harm to his health and family). He faced the full wrath – but refused to be anything else.

Making use of Opportunities

The other two are also my comrades:

  • Except for one gripe I have with them: They cooperated with the system and did not stand by him when his only talent was taken away from him. They just watched when he was thrown into darkness and failed to act on the side of justice. They abandoned the fellow comrade to slavery.
  • They were not courageous enough to challenge the ruthless system but instead looked for the best thing to do in the circumstances – used what was available at the time
  • Apart from my gripe we still learn from my comrades that opportunities must not be allowed to fly by – as long as we do not forget the justice issues. In 1985 Tata Mandela refused to leave the fellow comrades behind and waited for an opportune time.

It is important to notice that the two responses are juxtaposed: To expose the evil system as much as we can and at the same time make use of the available opportunities – but as shown in this story; the benefit must be for all and not only the masters. “We have to make use of what we have to reach our goal.” (Sunday Independent)

The reward:

  • God of all grace, God of life will reward all who live justly according to the abundance of His mercies.
  • It further teaches us that the reward extends beyond the term of office. These two wealth managers’ term of office had come to an end, but the job well-done is given recognition that will carry on even beyond the term of office – even to eternity. Faithfulness begets celebration that knows no end, whilst the guilty become gripped in fear that will make them prepared to walk on the blood of fellow human beings
  • Good leadership has no fear of what will happen at the end of a term of office – but simply focusses on giving of self in the manner of Jesus who emptied himself for the sake of creation. May that selflessness be the leaf we take from the life of Nelson Mandela.
  • We salute this example which has been laid before us – in a culture that seems to be producing more takers than givers.
  • “Well done, good and faithful servant; you have been faithful over little… enter into the joy of your master.

Leaving a legacy

People who live life so well, and are faithful to the cause of justice, leave a lasting legacy behind:

Kahlil Gibran the poet, philosopher and artist of Lebanon wrote a timeless piece of work entitled; “The Prophet.” In it, he tells the story of a character named Almustafa who is said to have waited for 12 years for the ship that was to take him back to the place of his birth from a particular island. In the twelfth year, he climbed the hill to check if the ship was coming and he saw it appearing from the mist. “The gates of his heart were flung open, and his joy flew far over the sea.” But as he descended the hill, sadness came upon him and he thought in his heart. ‘How shall I go in peace and without sorrow? Nay, not without a wound in the spirit shall I leave this city.” There was pain of leaving behind the people he loved dearly, but at the same time the thought in him was that the eagle takes off and flies across the sky, leaving its nest behind. Let us join the people of that village as we bid our icon farewell. They said as they watched him go: “You have been a noontide in our twilight, and your youth has given us dreams to dream. Let not the waves of the sea separate us now, and the years you have spent in our midst become a memory. Your shadow has been a light upon our faces.”

He lived a life that sent rays of hope to those he was leaving behind. May it be so, with Tata Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela. The best tribute we can pay is to strive that our lives become both recipients and transmitters of light of hope and vibrations of life to others. As we bid Tata Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela –“Goodnight” - waiting for the morning of the resurrection – the fitting tribute will be that we strive for the fulfilment of his dream.

To the family and nation: I want you to take this image with you:

Bishop Brent of St George’s Chapel, Windsor, England, wrote: “What is dying? A ship sails and I stand watching till she fades on the horizon and someone at my side says, “She is gone.” Gone where? Gone from my sight, that is all; she is as large as when I saw her. The diminished size, and total loss of sight is in me, not in her, and just at the moment when someone at my side says “She is gone,” there are others who are watching her coming and their voices take up a glad shout, “There she comes!” and that is dying.

Well done good and faithful servant. Amen!