I cannot close the previous chapter without honouring our previous President, Mr Thabo Mbeki,. (Not Mr Matlanthe, who was only a stand in for Jacob Zuma.) Of course I have not agreed with everything he said and did ("AIDS is not caused by HIV!") but I admired him for his gentlemanly ways and his eloquent and beautiful speeches. On 8 May 1996, before he became president of South Africa, Mr Thabo Mbeki made a very special speech in Parliament and I want to share the opening part of it with you in his honour. Mr Mbeki, you will be missed by a great many people in this country and continent of ours.
(The complete speech is available on http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wWTixmmtamE for those who want to hear him or read the whole speech.)
I owe my being to the hills and the valleys, the mountains and the glades, the rivers, the deserts, the trees, the flowers, the seas and the ever-changing seasons that define the face of our native land. My body has frozen in our frosts and in our latter day snows. It has thawed in the warmth of our sunshine and melted in the heat of the midday sun. The crack and the rumble of the summer thunders, lashed by startling lightening, have been a cause both of trembling and of hope. The fragrances of nature have been as pleasant to us as the sight of the wild blooms of the citizens of the veldt. The dramatic shapes of the Drakensberg, the soil-coloured waters of the Lekoa, iGqili noThukela, and the sands of the Kgalagadi, have all been panels of the set on the natural stage on which we act out the foolish deeds of the theatre of our day. At times, and in fear, I have wondered whether I should concede equal citizenship of our country to the leopard and the lion, the elephant and the springbok, the hyena, the black mamba and the pestilential mosquito. A human presence among all these, a feature on the face of our native land thus defined, I know that none dare challenge me when I say -
"I am an African!"
PS: I can truly identify with his words - also with the rest of the speech. The photos were added by me to give emphasis to his words.