09 December 2013

Remarks at the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory

Ban Ki-moon

The world mourns the loss of Nelson Mandela, one of the towering figures of our time and indeed of any time.

We join together in sorrow for a mighty loss and in celebration of a mighty life.

Nelson Mandela's principled stand in defense of the fundamental equality of all human beings was decisive in dismantling the system of apartheid.

His remarkable compassion upon his release from prison after 27 years set South Africa immediately on a path of dialogue and reconciliation.

He was a giant for justice, equality and human rights.

He touched our lives deeply and taught us what is possible in Africa and across the world.

Nelson Mandela was more than one of the greatest leaders of our time. He was a teacher, and he taught and practiced by example.

I was privileged to meet Nelson Mandela at his home in February 2009.

When I thanked him for his life’s work, for what he did to end apartheid, he refused to take the compliment. Instead, he stressed that there were many hundreds of heroes – some known, some unknown – who had helped him, and who deserved just as much praise and perhaps even more.

When I thanked him again, he corrected me again.

I was deeply moved by the way he put the well-being of others first, by his humility, modesty, humble mind, and human decency.

That is wisdom for today as we strive to help the vulnerable, end armed conflict, protect human rights and create the better world for which Nelson Mandela gave so much.

The people of South Africa and the entire world have lost a hero. His legacy is profound, immortal and will continue to guide the work of the United Nations.

May Nelson Mandela rest in peace.

Lala ngoxolo. ("Rest in peace" in Xhosa language)

Tutwini. ("I present my condolences")

Ndiyabulela. ("Thank you")