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Pre-recorded message by President Cyril Ramaphosa on the occasion of the 80th birthday celebrations of former President Thabo Mbeki

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Chairperson of the Thabo Mbeki Foundation, Ms Geraldine Fraser-Moleketi, Members of the Board of the Thabo Mbeki Foundation,
Dignitaries, Distinguished Guests, Comrades and Friends,
 
Our celebrant and the guest of honour, President Thabo Mvuyelwa Mbeki, My dear Comrade, Brother and Leader, Congratulations on your 80th birthday.
 
It is cause for celebration to have reached this milestone in good health, carried by good spirit and, as always, good humour.
 
Eighty years is said to be an oak jubilee, with the oak tree symbolising strength, endurance and wisdom.
 
Such is your place in South Africa’s public life.

You continue to enrich our country’s public life with your presence, your participation and your counsel.
 
As a former President and one of our continent’s most revered statesmen, yours could well have been a retirement of contemplation and study far from the public gaze.
 
But this was not to be your destiny.
  
Not with the cause of national liberation still incomplete.
  
Not whilst the task of making the promise of a better life for all still being work in progress.
 
Not without seeing the emancipation of the African continent from the shackles of poverty, inequality and underdevelopment.
 
Mr President,
 
It is an honour for me and the government that I lead to have been able to count on you for advice and support over the years.
 
It has been a comfort to us, and to me personally, to know we continue to rely on your honesty when we are not living up to the expectations of our people.
 
Your appraisal of the work of government and our movement, though at times strident, is always tempered by a deep appreciation of the difficulties of overcoming the legacy of our past.
 
On the 20th anniversary of the adoption of our Constitution, you said:

“The first thing that any leadership needs to do is not to tell lies to itself, but to understand what the situation in the country is, what are the challenges, and indeed, why were we elected.”
 
Understanding, as we do, what the challenges are in South Africa today, it is more important now than ever that we remember why we were elected.
 
We have not been elected to serve our own ends or interests.
 
We were not elected to betray the founding values of our Constitution.
  
We were not elected to distract our people with false hopes and empty promises.
  
As we celebrate your life, your service and your unmatched contribution to South Africa, we want to tell you that we are steadily rebuilding our country.
 
We are wresting it back from the thieves, charlatans and the imigodoyi of which you have spoken.
 
We are rebuilding the state, restoring the economy and creating opportunities for our people to enable them to lead lives of meaning and dignity.
 
The democracy you helped build, of which you are a founding father, will rise to reach its full potential in your lifetime.
 
I have no less than the utmost confidence that in striving to do so, we can count on your support as an elder, as a patriot and as a lifelong, dedicated servant of our people.
 
Like the mighty oak whose roots holds the tree firmly to the soil, your wisdom and commitment to our people strengthens us and enriches our democracy and extends across the vast expanses of our continent.

The people of South Africa and indeed our beloved continent shelter beneath the branches of your wisdom, and your rich ideological legacy that restored our pride in our Africanness.
 
For all of these achievements and more, for your courageous voice and for your solidarity with the cause of rebuilding South Africa, we thank you.
 
Dlamini, Jam' aka Sjadu, Fakade, Ngxib'inoboya! Siyavuyisana nawe. Happy Birthday.