It is an honour to be asked to pay tribute to you.
Where does one begin to acknowledge your amazing and unfaltering commitment to all of us, the people of South Africa?
Vanashree, Gyana, Kiyan and I are honoured and privileged to have you as our friend and mentor. We have had the benefit of your wisdom and closeness to us, and especially to have been able to share some very special moments with you.
It is so difficult to comprehend that you spent 27 years of your life in prison. If I added up all the other arrests, etc, it's probably closer to 30. People so often forget the immense commitment and contribution that you and your comrades made for us all to be free. For the young people of South Africa, it seems that you've always been there and will always be the symbol of freedom and liberation.
The first time I communicated with you was via Fatima Meer, who was going to visit you at Victor Verster. She was in the process of writing Higher than Hope and I discussed with her the possibility of making a movie based on your life story. She kindly shared with me your humble comments: "Will anyone be interested to see my story on the screen?" and gave me a copy of your beautifully hand-written note.
A few weeks after your release, when you spent the night with Fatima and Ismail Meer in Durban, Fatima called me at about five ‘o clock one morning saying that I should come over as there was someone that she wanted me to meet. This was a highlight of my life! I will never forget that moment, when we sat in their living room and talked about movies and the ability they have to communicate with the masses. I was so impressed by your easy-going and down-to-earth nature and thought how cruel the apartheid system was to put you away for all those years.
My first movie, A Place of Weeping, was an anti-apartheid movie made on the run from the security police in the mid-1980s. This was my little way of responding to the call by you and the ANC that people from all walks of life in South Africa should try, in their own way, to do whatever they could to speak out against apartheid. We talked about this and many other things including the films that I was about to embark upon.
Your special relationship with young people has always been amazing, and we are very fortunate that Gyana and Kiyan have had the privilege to interact with you. I fondly remember the three or four times that you met Gyana and lifted her up; she always cried. Anyway, one of our best moments was when she and you made peace with each other and she then started massaging your legs when we visited with you in Qunu some years ago.
Wherever I go in the world the legacy of Nelson Mandela, as the moral authority of the world, is a topic of discussion. In contrast, the values of some leaders and of many ordinary people have diminished immensely with their pursuit of wealth and power.
Thank you for all you have done, not only for the people of South Africa but for the people of the world.
Thank you for being who you are and for being a part of our lives. Your openness and honesty will always inspire us.