Saturday, December 14, 2013

My tribute to Nelson Mandela in Parliament, 6 December 2013

The Speaker: Thank you, Honourable Member.

            The Chair will recognise the Honourable Member from Pembroke [Central], MP Walton Brown.
You have the floor.

Mr. Walton Brown: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

            Mr. Speaker, over the past 25 years, there have only been three great leaders whom I wanted to meet, to sit down and reason with. One is Fidel Castro, whom I have met and reasoned with. The second is Aung San Suu Kyi, whom I have not yet met. And the third is Nelson Mandela, whom now I will never meet.

            Mr. Mandela was a great leader who embodied strong conviction, courage and vision. He had a vision for his country, for his people, and he fought for it. Mr. Speaker, in the post-apartheid South Africa, there were many people who would jump on what I would call the Mandela bandwagon. And no doubt, in the hours and days ahead, you will hear many people wax eloquently about the life of this great man. But you know, Mr. Speaker, the real test of all those who wish to wax eloquently on Mr. Mandela is, where were you during the dark period of apartheid? Where were you when the struggle most needed support? And that is the Mandela I remember.

            Apartheid South Africa, Mr. Speaker, was a horror of a place to be in. Yes, we have seen it documented in movies. But talk to people who lived there, who lived under it, who were subjected to torture, brutality (like Steve Biko), who were blown up by bombs by the South African government—Ruth First, for example.

            Mr. Speaker, if you want to assess the life of Mandela, we need to assess his life in its totality. He tells us that there are times and there are circumstances when violence is the only option. It is sad to say, but the African National Congress formed in (I believe) 1912 fought a long battle for justice. There was a recalcitrant government. The international community refused to help. Our colonial administrators, the United Kingdom Government, refused to back a ban on sanctions against South Africa.

[Inaudible interjections]

Mr. Walton Brown: I do not want to speak about the Monarchy, Mr. Speaker. Standing Orders do not allow me to. But you can read into my message that at a time when South Africa needed help, many people were not around. 

Nelson Mandela was termed a terrorist because he wanted freedom for his people. But you had a legal framework that denied people the right to vote, denied them opportunities for work, on the backdrop of a brutal system.

            Bermuda played a part in facilitating apartheid. Let us not forget. The Anglo-American Corporation had its head office in Bermuda.


Mr. Walton Brown: Let us not forget. I was here, out on Pitts Bay Road, when we protested the presence of Anglo-American. The Government refused to act. We had a Member who served in this legislature who served on the board of Anglo-American. So, let us not forget, Mr. Speaker.

            He was a great man. But he needs to be understood and accepted for the totality. Violence was an approach that was needed at one point. And when the government decided to listen and negotiate, then peace became the option as well. Great leaders respond to circumstances. That is what Nelson Mandela did.

            Mr. Speaker, most of the decisions undertaken by Mr. Mandela, I embrace fully. One decision that troubled me was that he allowed for those perpetrators of some of the most horrific crimes against black South Africans to go unchallenged. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission did play an important role in bringing South Africa forward, but it allowed murderers to go free. And I still have trouble with that. I understand his reason for doing it; I still have trouble with it.

            I have trouble also with what I call the hypocrisy of the Nobel Peace Prize Committee. Nelson Mandela was the man that brought about peace. Yet, in its need to appear even-handed, the committee granted the peace prize to the man who stood over apartheid for decades, former President de Klerk. That I could not accept, either.  

In closing, Nelson Mandela set a very high standard for public service, for dedication and commitment. He exemplified excellent leadership. The standard he set will be his legacy. And all of us who seek to hold public office, all of us who do hold public office, if we are to respect the legacy of Mandela we should ensure that our policies, our language and our actions reflect his commitment. 

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

[Desk thumping]

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