On 18 July of 1918, somewhere in a small village in the world, on the African continent, in South Africa, in the Transkei, in Mvezo, a royal baThembu family was blessed with a baby boy – a boy who rose to become a world icon – a boy who today stands head and shoulders above the rest in terms of height and body build. Like a ship about to take a long trip in stormy oceans with cargo the size of the world, he had this still unformed giant body immersed under water with only the cargo being transported secured and in full view for all to see, while nurturing a body and mind that the world would recognise and acknowledge as being truly great. His gigantic deeds in humility enabled South Africa and its peoples to be free. He has shown the world that commitment and revolutionary thought etched in humility and humanity delivers hope, human solidarity with a visible promise that a better world is possible.
His love of babies and young children and what they embody points out to generations past and present, that a future that is different, a future we yearn for is, indeed within the reach of the newly-born and children.
As we the Statisticians-General of Africa meet here in South Africa today, we experience the blessings of our statistics careers. Two days ago we were at the SAS Institute, a stone’s throw away from Madiba’s residence in Houghton, where we celebrated the achievements of the graduates and those who applied statistical evidence in their work.
Little did we know about the Madiba plan, a plan to take an eternal rest.
This morning we have watched with great enthusiasm how Madiba encouraged, supported and used statistics to direct his new democracy in South Africa as tributes pour in. His message of 20 July 1998, when Stats SA released the Census 1996 results of South Africa, resonated with the theme of our session here in Benoni, Ethwathwa, where the Statisticians-General of Africa are meeting on improving the production of statistics for Africa’s development.
Our colleagues from the continent have showered us and themselves with messages of taking Madiba’s legacy of accountability forward and ensuring that our chosen careers in statistics support a better life. We are celebrating Madiba’s life of hope, that a different future is possible – A future that delivers a better life for all.
On that day, the 18th of July 1918, in that small village, somewhere in the world, on the African continent, in South Africa, in the Transkei, in Mvezo, a royal baThembu family gave the world a gift of humility, humanity and the future…
Let us learn from Madiba and carry his legacy forward.