A Tribute Speech to Ambassador Makeba by Minister Dlamini Zuma

Honourable Ministers

Members of the Diplomatic Corps

Ladies and Gentlemen:

Mama Africa

I have been asked to say a few words about Miriam Makeba in recognition of her outstanding qualities and immeasurable contribution to the liquidation of the ignoble system of Apartheid. Quite frankly, I do not know where to begin to talk about this gentle giant, the larger than life Miriam. Born in Johannesburg, Miriam rose from the conditions of obscurity to occupy a centre stage in the lives and struggles of our people.

With the ascendancy to power of those that have deigned themselves our superiors, Miriam continued to soothe and re-assured us that ours was a just struggle through her sweet and melodic voice. When at times it seemed that ours would be an unending suffering, she remained ever so optimistic that the victory was certain. As she stood to address the United Nations on Apartheid, and consistently mobilised peoples and governments around the world against the repugnant and dehumanising system of Apartheid she knew that she carried the aspirations of the heroic people who were determined that no matter how difficult it seemed, there was no stopping history, their freedom was within their reach.

As we try to defy the expression that " Prophets are not honoured in their home countries", we asked Miriam to be South Africa’s Goodwill Ambassador to Africa. I must add that, we are merely formalising an appointment that Miriam had performed with amazing distinction for many years without due recognition by those who treated her as less than equal.

I think, Miriam, as a true African patriot must be equally enraged about all that is wrong in the continent. When she was asked to grace the august Assembly of the African Heads of States and Government at the founding of the Organisation of African Unity , she had hoped with gay abandon that the African star of optimism that was hoisted into the night sky of Ethiopia would bring peace, prosperity and development to Africa. We can say, unequivocally, that save for the successful decolonization process in Africa, little else has been achieved in the continent.

Despite, all that is wrong, Miriam believes like all of us with the exuberance of the youth that Africa like a phoenix is rising from the ashes. Like all of us, she agrees that conflict still rages from Angola, to Algeria, to Liberia, to the DRC, but she also believes that it is within our reach to resolve what seems to be intractable conflicts. She also believes as we all do that with the advent of the African Union the continent is geared for a take-off. She also believes like all of us that with the economic blueprint adopted recently by the outgoing OAU, that the continent is poised for integration into the global economy. As the warrior of African Renaissance, I think, she will do all in her power to ensure the re-birth of the continent.

Sis Miriam, today we pay a special tribute to your resilience, to your indomitable spirit, to your irrepressible spirit in face of adversity. You are, undoubtedly, and unquestionably, a jewel in our crown, a child of the soil, a daughter of Africa we salute you. My only request, is that you envelop us with the warmth and moving spirit of Pata-Pata

Thank you

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