FUNERAL OF PRINCESS MANDISI SIBUKAKONKE BUTHELEZI
MAHLABATHINI : August 7, 2004
Today we are in mourning for my beloved daughter. I mourn the death of my daughter who has joined my late son, Nelisuzulu, and the countless other children whose lives have been so cruelly stolen. The pain of Africa courses through my veins. I am numb with pain. I have no more tears to shed. My soul is parched with grief and thirsts for the healing balm of God 's grace.
There is no worse pain than burying one's child and I speak as a man and a leader who has been seasoned by the bitter pain of my people. The only consolation I have today is that my dear daughter is no longer in pain. She lives forevermore in glory in the Holy City where there is no more death, or mourning or crying or pain.
Irene her mother and I, remember as if it was only yesterday, the day Mandisi was born. I can still feel the excitement we felt the first time Mandisi uttered her first words and tentatively took her first faltering step. No matter how old one's child is, he or she always remains one's child. The desire to protect ones child from life's trials and pain is overwhelming. Every parent wants their child to grasp every opportunity and to feel the full tide of life flowing through them. I know these sentiments will resonate with every parent here and throughout South Africa.
Tragically, Mandisi's untimely death should have been averted, for she has also succumbed to the disease that is unmercifully mowing down many of our people. As you know, this is my second child that I have lost this year to this dreadful disease, the pandemic of Aids.
I know that you will understand that I find these matters difficult to talk about. They are the stuff of one's soul. But as a leader, I am compelled to.
I cannot stop thinking of Mandisi. Thinking about the few precious moments we spent together, and the many others we spent apart because of my commitment in politics and the public service. I cannot stop thinking about the many years she should have had, ahead of her. Is it not the normal rhythm of life to live until one grows old, and in turn see our children grow old? I postponed so much of the time we spent together in the hope that the time would come in which the demands of public service could be reduced and we could come together as a family. Now there is no longer time.
As a father, I wanted to protect her from the pain and to hold her back from the clutches of disease and death. The feeling of despair and hopelessness that her mother and I feel, has been experienced by countless anxious parents across the land. Today, I voice their pain as well as mine. I say, on their behalf, as well as mine, 'how much longer must we endure this torment?'
We have achieved too little. We have done too little. We have remained too silent. Death is no respecter of persons, nor is this disease. How much more suffering and pain shall we bear before those who have the responsibility open their hearts? When will our nation and our Government comprehend that we have no greater calling and mission than to deal with this terrible emergency? To me it is one of the priorities this Nation faces, if not the major priority we face at this time as the South African Nation and as the Province of KwaZulu Natal. Indeed as the Continent of Africa. We are all struggling for a better life for our youth, and this is the youth that is being decimated daily by this horrible pandemic which can only be compared to the Black Plague or the influenza of 1918, but is worse than both.
Despite my burden of grief, I believe more than ever in the innate goodness of human beings and the glory of the human spirit to rise, and, rise again. My heart overflows with hope for those of us who remain behind.
Mandisi's race is now complete. Both Mandisi and Nelisuzulu fought a disease, which could not be won, with the doughty courage and spirit of those who never gave up hope. It is from the story of their lives, and of countless others, we derive the strength to continue to hope and fight. Many more lives will be claimed by this appalling disease in the coming years, but many more can and must be saved.
I pray to God Almighty that He will embrace our daughter with all the love of a Father, whose very essence is love. Today I am sure she is in the good company of her illustrious grandmother Princess Constance Magogo ka Dinuzulu. She is today in the company of her illustrious grandfather Inkosi Mathole ka Mkhandumba. She is hopefully in the company of many of her forebears. But more than that Mandisi is today in the company of her brother Nelisuzulu whom we buried here on the 30th of April 2004. She is hopefully in the company of her sister Mabhuku Snikwakonke who with her, looked to us as their parents like Juno's swans as they played in the yard of our home before she died in a car accident in 1966. I can only hope that she is today in the company of saints. As none of us is without sin, may the Lord forgive her for her sins whilst she was with us in this transitory life, Jesus Christ said that no one was good except His Father.
Goodnight my dear daughter. I thank God for the joy my daughter brought into her parents, siblings and friend's lives. She is gone and, yet, she is here. Her memory will never be extinguished from our hearts. In your memory, Mandisi, and of your brother, Nelisuzulu, I will continue the people 's struggle for freedom from this disease. We will take care of your child Zamokuhle our grandson, and keep your memory alive. No one who had the privilege of interacting with you can ever forget your piercing eyes, your husky voice and your pearls of laughter, whenever your were in a good mood.
I thank all of you, my family and friends, for coming today. Your love and support has deeply touched my family and I.