tribute ibrahim ibrahim

Madiba

I first met you in Durban with a group of young Indian youth when you had returned from your trip to other African states in 1963. You briefed us about your successful trip, and also about the problems the ANC was encountering on the continent. Many of these were due to the misinformation spread by the PAC about the true nature of the ANC, its commitment to African nationalism, and the nature of the congress alliance. Your meeting us was a great source of inspiration, and we had re-committed ourselves to continue to be disciplined members of Umkhonto weSizwe, and to intensify the struggle for liberation. What impressed me most was that as a national leader you found it necessary to address us youth, and inform us of the problems of the movement.

Soon after that you were arrested in Howick, and I remember the mass rallies we held, and we sang the song "Som Landela Mandela". Your arrest itself was a mobilising factor for us, and we, as soldiers of MK, became very active in that period because our Commander-in-Chief was behind bars. Your trial in the Magistrate's Court was also a great source of inspiration to us, and when the Rivonia Trial took place, I was accused No 1 in the Pietermaritzburg trial. Your lawyers consulted us in Pietermaritzburg, and conveyed the message of solidarity from you, Walter and others, and informed us that the leadership of Rivonia was not going to deny their involvement in the struggle. It was the apartheid system that was going to be put in the dock. You could scarcely imagine what a morale booster your messages were to the 18 of us in the Pietermaritzburg Sabotage Trial.

On Robben Island, although we were not in the same section, I was part of the head committee that represented all the ANC prisoners. You know the type of political polemics we had on the Island, and when we were not able to resolve our political and ideological differences, we appealed to you and the leadership who were staying in the isolation cells. Your very mature political analysis assisted us in resolving the many ideological disputes we had, and you had the ability to unite all of us as ANC prisoners on Robben Island.

When I went back to the Island in the late 1980s, you would call a few others and I to Victor Verster, where you were imprisoned. You would inform us about the talks you were having, first with President PW Botha, and later with President FW de Klerk. You wanted to consult with political prisoners on Robben Island, and get their opinions about these talks. We would go back to the Island, meet with all the prisoners, and come back to you to report their views. We, as political prisoners, had complete confidence in you, and we felt that whatever you were doing was in the interests of the revolution. This later proved correct. I had the honour and privilege to serve with you in the National Working Committee, from 1991 to 1993, at the head office of the ANC. It was a period that I shall never forget because throughout the difficult negotiation process, when many of us thought that we were entering a crisis period, you were able to give us clear leadership, which made the whole process a success.

You also led us through the path of reconciliation, and you always rose above the need for retribution and revenge. Under your presidency in Parliament, the National Assembly was a very vibrant forum, and we always looked to your leadership to make our democratic society a success. When you left the presidency of the ANC and the country, you displayed great statesmanship, and set an example to the cadres of the movement that they should not cling to power and position. Madiba, we missed you very much as the President of the ANC, but we will always carry fond memories of the interaction we had with you.