Eulogy by Her Excellency, Minister, Dr. Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma at Mike Terry’s Memorial Service, Saturday, 24th January, 2009, London
Master of Ceremonies Ms Leila Kogbara and Lord Bob Hughes
Mrs Elizabeth Terry and the entire Terry family
Excellencies, Ambassadors and High Commissioners and members of the Diplomatic Corps
Honourable Members of Parliament
Comrades and Friends
Mike Terry’s life began in a small English family into which he was born. He departed this world as a member of a gigantic extended family that straddled continents, a family of many nationalities and a tapestry of cultures and races.
Through his own life and his work, he created his own extended family. This celebration of his life this evening bears testimony to that. Of course, there are many more who are not here physically, but who are with us in spirit.
Norman Cousins, the recipient of the United Nations Peace Medal in 1972 said the following about the importance of hope and humanity; ‘The capacity for hope is the most significant fact of life. It provides human beings with a sense of destination and the energy to get started.’ Mike did not only have hope, but he inspired hope in many.
Clearly, Mike had hope that Southern Africa in general, and South Africa in particular would be free. Having understood that men and women are born free and equal, he also understood that no human being can enjoy complete freedom whilst other human beings are oppressed or enslaved.
This evening, we would like to celebrate Mike‘s belief in us as a people and in humanity as a whole, his belief in the human spirit of a people determined to be free. And believing that our determination as a people was unshakeable, he went on to mobilise and inspire so many, not only in the United Kingdom, but all over the world.
He built a titanic solidarity Movement. In turn, that solidarity gave us hope, a sense of destination and the energy to carry on. It is that energy and hope that realised the release of Nelson Mandela and other political prisoners. It was that sense of destination that brought to fruition the negotiations and eventually the birth of the democratic South Africa which Mike and many of you in this country and across the globe played midwife to.
As we celebrate Mike’s life, South Africa is moving towards elections for the Fourth Parliament. There will be robust debates as parties account to the electorate and elaborate their plans for the next five years. We owe it to Mike and many others in our country and beyond to have a free and fair election as we have had in the past. But of course, there is no indication otherwise; even though there will be many parties this time.
Mike said of our elections in 1994 for our First Parliament ‘ the images of the South Africans patiently queuing to cast their first democratic vote on that historic day on the 27th of April will forever be engraved in my memory’. Their faces shone with the hope for a new future for South Africa and an end to all humiliations and brutality which the Apartheid system represented. Of course, this time there will be queues, but they will not be that long simply because we will have many more polling stations and because we will be more efficient than we were then.
Mike had a strong sense of justice. He fought injustices wherever they existed. He had courage, but remained very humble. He had tenacity and resilience, but he was also a brilliant human being.
I am glad that Mike had the opportunity to visit the new South Africa and witnessed the achievements thus far. More importantly, he was not only a passive witness, but he was an active contributor to those achievements.
Some of the many achievements he witnessed including :
- The growing of our economy from an agricultural based and mining based economy to a services and manufacturing one. He witnessed that more than 80% of the population now have access to running water and electricity. He witnessed that Primary school enrolments was over 98%.He witnessed that 2.7 million houses have been built providing shelter for more than 13 million people in just 14 years. He experienced that the democratic institutions in South Africa were in place and were strong.
Of course, he also witnessed that there are still enormous challenges but there is also progress. Mindful of the vision of solidarity and having learnt from what solidarity can do for a people, South Africa has taken a decision to share our limited resources to bring about peace, stability and development, in other sister countries, hence our involvement in the, DRC, Burundi, Sudan and in Zimbabwe, even though we have not succeeded yet, but we will not walk away from it until we succeed.
Today, President Kgalema Motlanthe was in Mali at a Handover Ceremony of the new Building called, the Ahmed Baba Institute in Timbuktu. This prestigious institution, will have a library and also be used to conserve the most important collections of African manuscripts in the world, the flagship NEPAD project in the domain of culture and heritage.
These manuscripts cover a range of fields like history; philosophy, literature including poetry, music, astronomy, mathematics, religion, traditional medicine, trade, politics, law, social sciences and natural sciences amongst other subjects.
This for us is important, because there is a belief that Africa was a dark continent and the true heritage of Africa has never been exposed, and this (Handover ceremony) is part of that process and this is inspired by many people including Mike and all of you who have done a lot for us and taught us that with the support of others you can reach your goals. So, we are trying to support others as well.
We also have a trilateral co-operation with Mali and Cuba. Cuba supplies the doctors, we support them and Mali benefits from those doctors. A similar arrangement we have with Rwanda as well. Again inspired by your own solidarity and the solidarity of the world, we have a Trilateral Co-operation with Vietnam and Guinea Conakry. South Africa supports the Vietnamese experts who are assisting Guinea with the production of rice in the quest for food security.
In Guinea Bissau, we have an agricultural project which we do together with India and Brazil and in Haiti, we have a project for young people for refuse collection.
We do a lot in Palestine and support Polisario materially and politically. We have projects in Lesotho and we have just released R300 million rands worth of Humanitarian Aid to Zimbabwe, so these are just few examples of what you have taught us and what we are trying to do in return and I am sure that Mike would appreciate these projects.
Coming back to Mike, Mike considered Oliver Tambo as a mentor and a personal friend and he considered his association with Oliver Tambo as the most defining influence in his life. Of course, both were science teachers at different times of their lives and Mike as a strategic thinker ,used this fond bond and their relationship and love of science to build the foundations for the lasting solidarity between schools in South Africa and Haringey as you have heard from the students here.
And of course, I must also say, that Mike was an unpaid Ambassador of South Africa. High Commissioner Mabuza received the salary, Mike did a lot work and a lot of strategizing. I know this because from time to time, the High Commissioner, will phone and say, we are trying to do this and that, but I am waiting for Mike, and in fact, we are trying to put up this committee and that; and in fact she said to me, you know, I ‘m glad I will be leaving my post in July because it was going to be very difficult to work without Mike, because I feel as though my one arm has been cut off me and that’s what she told me that’s why I can say, without fear of contradiction that Mike was an unpaid Ambassador of South Africa in this country.
Of course, through Mike’s boundless energy, we know what has happened about the Oliver Tambo Tribute which grew from one thing to another, and I will not go into everything that has been done, but we know that many of you played a role in the 90th birthday anniversary of Oliver Tambo and we are grateful as South Africans.
And of course, Mike Terry as a teacher ( the students have spoken) but he was’nt only a teacher in class. I ‘m quite sure a lot of us sitting in this audience can recall many lessons that we have learnt from him through working with him and through association with him, so he was a teacher in class and outside of the classroom – so he had lots of students, including myself. I must say recently when in South Africa, our Minister of Science and Technology together with our National System of Innovation unveiled and launched the South African designed battery operated. Our Minister of Science and Technology, Mosibudi Mangena had this to say during the launch, ‘On a practically shoestring budget, a small company of talented South Africans has developed a product that is now poised to enter a multi billion rand industry’.
‘As South Africans, we believe that this car has special attributes to make it highly valuable to our country and the motor industry. This electric car will serve as tangible proof of the opportunities in science, engineering and technology and inspire our youth to follow their dreams in these careers, which are in desperate need of their talent’. It will also be a major contribution to environmental preservation and decrease of carbon emissions. I could’ nt help thinking about what Mike was doing in our schools encouraging young people to go into science and that hopefully many more from the schools where he has taught and many more will produce such innovations.
Whilst we celebrate Mike’s extraordinary life, we are also aware that you are still dealing with the reality of the finality of his departure from the family, from the community and from the larger extended family. Whilst we cannot pretend to understand how each and every one of the family feels, we do hope that our presence here tonight, will communicate a message that Mike made a historic contribution which saw hope and justice triumph over evil.
His legacy will live on here and in South Africa with the strengthening of all our institutions of democracy, with the pushing back of the frontiers of poverty and underdevelopment, peace and stability and the efforts towards creation of a better life for all in South Africa, and Africa. And of course his legacy will live on through his students because he understood that to invest in the future, you have to invest in the young.
We shall continue to work towards achieving all the things he held so dearly and struggled for.
Please from our government and from our people accept both our gratitude for having supported him in his work and our condolences and hope that the pain will gradually fade away and will be replaced by fond memories and pride that will remain forever.
I was thinking but why is it that always we only know the full human being when they are no longer there, and I got an answer from a book called In Arcadia, by Ben Okri, somewhere he talks about living and death, and he says of living “Living ought to be the unfolding masterpiece of the loving spirit. And dying ought to set this masterpiece free. Set it free to enrich the world. “A good life, is the masterwork of the magic intelligence that dwells in us”. Thus, it is only at the end of your life, when you are dead, does the grand tapestry of your life gets revealed, and that’s what we see tonight!
I thank you!