Toast to President Nelson Mandela on
the Occasion of his 80th Birthday:
Proposed by Thabo Mbeki, Gallagher Estate, Midrand,
19 July 1998
Master of Ceremonies
President Nelson Mandela and Mrs Graça Machel,
Happy circumstances have conspired to give us the rare
pleasure today to celebrate both the four-score maturity
of the President of our democratic Republic, Nelson
Mandela, and his marriage to a gracious lady, Graça
Speaking to his daughter, Cordelia, the old King Lear
of Shakespeare's tragedies says:
"Come, let's away to prison:
We two alone will sing like birds in the cage,...
So we'll live,
And pray, and sing, and tell old tales, and laugh
At gilded butterflies, and hear poor rogues
Talk of court news; and we'll talk with them too,
Who loses, and who wins; who's in, who's out,...
And we'll wear out,
In a wall'd prison, packs and sects of great ones,
That ebb and flow by the moon...
Upon such sacrifices...
The gods themselves throw incense."
Happily, Mr President, you and your bride will have
no occasion to go to prison, there to sing alone like
birds in the cage.
As citizens of the world, the property of all humanity,
we invite you to treat the world as your stage, there
to continue to sing, uncaged, of freedom, of peace,
of human dignity, of the eradication of poverty, of
friendship among the peoples.
As Lear wished for himself and his offspring, we too
urge you to live, and pray, and sing, and tell old tales,
and laugh at the gilded butterflies which will continue
to come to you to tell you all manner of idle gossip
about who has lost and who has won and hi is in and
who is out.
But above all, we thank you for the your sacrifices,
which brought hope to the people of the world.
You have shown fortitude in the face of the Mozambican
blood that was needlessly shed at Mbuzini on our own
territory and the cruelty of almost three decades of
imprisonment by those who had no moral authority to
You refused to sink into bitterness and despair, driven
by the reality of having been the intended victims of
The fact that, still, you live and smile and laugh
and give hope to the children and those who have suffered
less than you have, constitutes an injunction that we
celebrate the birthday of such great human beings and
celebrate also that you, Madiba, have been joined in
matrimony with another who gave so much to ensure that
we too, could live in conditions of liberty and prosperity.
You too, like the Duke of Albany in "King Lear",
could have lost faith in our unjust world and repeated
"If that the heavens do not their visible spirits
Send quickly down to tame these vile offences,
'T will come,
Humanity must perforce prey on itself,
Like monsters of the deep."
Rather than lose faith, you took the decision that
you would give more of yourselves, to ensure that humanity
does not, like the monsters of the deep, prey on itself
as some of that humanity had sought to prey on you.
Upon such sacrifices, the gods themselves throw incense.
We are privileged that we sit here as part of our world,
to absorb the fragrance of the incense of the gods,
sprinkled on two outstanding African whose entitlement
to an accolade of the gods none can question.
May I request everyone to rise and to share in a toast
as we say:
A happy 80th birthday, Mr President!
Long may you live and proper!
A happy married life to Mr and Mrs Nelson and Graça
To the President and the First Lady - Siyinqaba!