Speech by Cllr Harry Lister

It is my pleasure, my privilege to second this motion and pay my own respects to a man that means so much. For my part I simply regard him as the greatest, most inspirational living being on this planet.

As a Council we are right to celebrate Comrade Mandela’s 90th Birthday given what he means to us and to our Borough and in some small but not insignificant way what this will mean to him.

Through the long years of struggle some of those who were closest to his and South Africa’s long walk to freedom lived here in Haringey. Amongst the hundreds of political exiles who made Haringey their home were, I need to name just a few:

Dr Yousef Dadoo – who in 1948 brought Asian and African communities together under the ANC banner, a leading ideologue, the first person to be arrested under Apartheid’s Suppression of Communism Act, someone whom Comrade Mandela sought advice from  and who is recognised as an architect of the liberation movement. He lived in Muswell Hill and is buried in Highgate cemetery.

Wolfie Kodesh – his minder while he went underground before his arrest; a white Second World War veteran who came and lived in Muswell Hill before he returned home to South Africa where he still lives.

Brian and Sonya Bunting – Sonya was on trail with Comrade Mandela and when released came and lived with her husband in Muswell Hill.  It’s with sadness that we should note Brian’s recent death.

Harold Wolpe – one of his lawyers in South Africa who because of this and his commitment to the struggle went into exile and  came to Muswell Hill where his family grew up and where they still have close connexions.

And last but not least his closest friend and comrade Oliver Tambo and his wife Adelaide whom we have had the privilege to honour in his and her own right and who lived in Muswell Hill for over 30 years where they brought up their family.

And when we honoured the Tambos we paid tribute to all those exiles who came to us; who made their own contribution to the work we do; particularly in the fields of education and health and as we salute Comrade Mandela tonight we salute them as well. I should add that they didn’t all live in Muswell Hill.

So there is no question of the very special way in which our Borough has been part of the long struggle for freedom in South Africa and as this motion notes, we continue and will always seek to be one of its closest friends.

But let me go back and quickly highlight what we’ve done as a Council to develop this special relationship and to salute this extraordinary individual.

The first was naming a small Council housing development in Muswell Hill, where else, Nelson Mandela Close. Following extensive research, well looking up a London A to Z, I can tell you that there are 11 streets in all named Mandela or Nelson Mandela across Greater London. Our’s being the only one in North London.

In 1990; as George said we all remember where we were, lunchtime, Sunday 11th February when the gates finally and he took those unforgettable steps forward to freedom.

The day after I was part of something that I’ll also never forget. Within the space of a couple of hours we had raised the flag of the ANC above all our main buildings and sent a message to Comrade Mandela; one that mentioned what we did; one that was signed by all those present that day and one that was received  by him within 48 hours. And the response was that he welcomed this simple gesture as something that came from people who had believed in him and the struggle he led and who simply loved him.

Tonight in the salutation we will send him we basically send the same message we sent then when we said in a statement dated 12th February 1990

We, the undersigned, raised the flag of the African National Congress outside the Administrative Headquarters of the London Borough of Haringey to signal to all the people of our Borough our joy at your freedom from captivity.

We do so with the respect, honour and love we feel toward you and as a pledge of our commitment to maintain the struggle to end apartheid.

This ceremony was led by your comrade Denis Goldberg and Councillor Fred Knight, Mayor of the London Borough of Haringey.

Forward to freedom for all South Africans.

Again as George has said his remarkable leadership saw the peaceful transition to democracy in South Africa and when the first election was held in 1992 we provided support through the work that was done by our then Electoral Registration Officer, Norman MacCloud, who as part of an international team ensured this election was conducted so successfully.

So let me end as our card to Comrade Mandela does:

Happy Birthday Madiba!
Long Live Madiba!
Long Live!