The main lecture, which was delivered by former US President Barack Obama on Tuesday afternoon, took place on the eve of what would have been Mandela’s 100th birthday, which is celebrated globally under the banner of Mandela Day.
Obama’s speech was preceded by speeches from high ranking dignitaries, who reflected on Madiba’s legacy, as the late Mandela was affectionately known.
The lecture is an initiative of Nelson Mandela Foundation in partnership with the Motsepe Foundation.
To honour the centenary of Madiba’s birth, the lecture’s theme was ‘Renewing the Mandela Legacy and Promoting Active Citizenship in a Changing World’. It focused on creating conditions for bridging divides, working across ideological lines, and resisting oppression and inequality.
Bidvest Wanderers Stadium was packed to the rafters with a 15 000-strong crowd.
The event was graced by former United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan, former Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, members of the Mandela Family, government ministers and leaders various political parties.
The much awaited lecture was addressed by programme director Busi Mkhumbuzi, Mandela Foundation chairperson Professor Njabulo Ndebele, Motsepe Foundation founder and CEO Dr Patrice Motsepe, activist and Madiba’s widow, Graça Machel and President Cyril Ramaphosa before Obama spoke.
Ndebele said the world had welcomed Obama’s election to the US Presidency in 2008 and that he had inspired universal belief in human unity.
“In Mandela, one could see the coexistence of power and beauty. He was clear and steadfast in moments that required him to be courageous,” he said.
Addressing the audience, Motsepe, said the presence of everyone in the stands was living proof that the “legacy and spirit of Nelson Mandela is alive”.
Machel said Madiba’s centenary was an opportunity to celebrate him “in all his incredible uniqueness”, and also to celebrate him as a representative of a broader collective leadership that had led South Africa and South Africans to freedom.
Machel called on young people to take inspiration from Mandela’s life and carry the baton forward.
“Madiba was wise enough to recognise the limits of the achievements of his generation. The youth must now carry forward the baton.
“To honour Madiba’s legacy is to search and find those values, embrace them, make sacrifices and be of service, to make a better South Africa,” said Machel.
President Ramaphosa said the Nelson Mandela Annual Lecture, from the very beginning, had been “global in its ambition, and broad and inclusive in its outreach”.
The President said that his “Thuma Mina” (send me) message was “none other than Mandela’s message” of personal service.
“Madiba is sending all of us to deal with corruption, and to root it out of South African soil.”