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His Worship the Mayor of Le Havre and President of Le Havre Seine Métropole, Mr Jean-Baptiste GASTINNE,

His Excellency Prime Minister Edouard PHILIPPE,

The President of the Supervisory Board of Le Havre Harbour, Mrs Emmanuèle PERRON,

The President of the Seine-Maritime region, Mr Pascal MARTIN

Mr Hubert DEJEAN DE LA BATIE, representing His Excellency Hervé MORIN, the President of the Normandy region,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is with an abiding sense of humility that I represent my country, South Africa, on this auspicious occasion to honour of one of the world’s greatest statesmen; former President Nelson Mandela.

We in South Africa are proud to be the children of Tata Nelson Mandela and to share his legacy with the rest of the world.

Much as we proudly claim former President Mandela as one of our own, we are alive to the reality that he also belongs to the rest of humanity. He is a global icon.

He remains an invaluable source of inspiration for all those fighting for a just, equitable and more humane world.

On this special occasion, our sincere gratitude goes to His Worship the Mayor, Mr Jean-Baptiste GASTINNE and the people of this beautiful port city of Le Havre – a UNESCO World Heritage Site – for renaming the revamped square after Nelson Mandela.

Le Havre occupies a special place to us because it is where the first black South African soldier was killed and buried during World War One. Private Myengwa Beleza was among the 25 000 other black soldiers from South Africa who had volunteered to serve as what was known as the Native Labour Corps. As you would recall he was exhumed in 2014 and reburied with other fellow South Africans in Dellvillewood. Even those his mortal remains are no longer here, his spirit is still alive in this city.

We are particularly pleased that the great city of Le Havre has decided to honour Nelson Mandela in the month of September, which is heritage month in our country.

During this month, as South Africans we reflect on where we come from as a people and we celebrate our rich and diverse heritage.

Former President Nelson Mandela is an important part of our country’s heritage.

From him we learnt the power of reconciliation and the power of forgiveness.

He taught us humility. He showed us the value of caring for others. He showed us the way to peace, freedom and democracy.

Up to this day, as South Africans, we carry with us find memories of former President Nelson Mandela.

In us his spirit lives on. He remains our inspiration. We aspire to be like him.

His legacy continues to illuminate our path towards his vision of a truly united, democratic and prosperous South Africa, that belongs to all who live in it; black and white, united in their diversity – a rainbow nation at peace with itself and the world.

Once again, thank you heartily for honouring the father of our nation in this way.

Yours is a fitting tribute to Madiba. We value it highly. We deeply appreciate it.

We have no doubt that this gesture will go a long way in strengthening the bonds of friendship and solidarity between our peoples.

I thank you.