File picture: Mannie Garcia/Reuters
File picture: Mannie Garcia/Reuters

A tribute to Colin Powell

By Dr Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma Time of article published Oct 20, 2021

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We learnt with great shock of the passing former Secretary of State for the United States of America, General Colin Powell. Our hearts go out to Alma Vivian Johnson Powell, the children, and the broader Afro American community in the Diaspora.

Colin Powell was a distinguished officer and gentleman who fully dedicated his life to serving people and humanity. We will forever remember him as the first black national security advisor and youngest first African American chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. He was also the first black Secretary of State in the US.

He was also a proponent of the age old saying that goes “a single sparrow cannot make a spring”. Consequently, we will remember him as a supporter and advocate for the first African American president, President Barack Obama who became the 44th President of the United States of America. Working with the Secretary of State, Colin Powell was both an honour and a pleasure because he was forthright. We may have disagreed with him and the stance of the United States many a time as one served in the portfolio of Foreign Affairs, but our disagreements were always civil and with few incidents.

Like any beautiful rock he too had his fault lines. He was first to confess to those fault lines. Thus, we will remember how he said the Iraq war was a “blot” in his implacable foreign policy career. Make amends he did. He said, “I am the one who presented it (the invasion proposal) on behalf of the United States to the world, an [it] will always be a part of my record… It was painful… It’s painful now”. That is what stood out and that is what made him a true leader who recognised his humanness.

The world has lost a capable diplomat at a time when nationalism is receiving greater emphasis to the detriment of multilateralism. We have lost a capable solider to the deadly Covid-19 enemy at a time when vaccine nationalism is the order of the day. He now joins the galaxy of our heroes and heroines in the heavens. From there he shall master the battle to end poverty and underdevelopment with the assistance of our departed Pan Africans such as Harriet Tubman, Rosa Parks, Emperor Haile Selassie, Kwame Nkrumah, Patrice Lumumba, Winnie Madikizela Mandela, Oliver Reginald Tambo, and many others. We dip our national and continental flags in his honour.

Go well gentle giant. Let our heroes and heroines know that the struggle continues, and we will not rest until the African child finds her place in the sun. In remembering and immortalising him in our deeds and hearts, let us recall the words of poet Joey Beighley who wrote:

Fill not your hearts with pain and sorrow,

But remember me in every tomorrow.

Remember the joy, the laughter, the smiles,

I’ve only gone to rest a little while.

Although my leaving causes pain and grief,

my going has eased my hurt,

and given me relief.

So, dry your eyes and remember me,

not as I am now,

but as I used to be.

Because, I will remember you all,

and look on with a smile.

Understand in your hearts,

I’ve only gone to rest a little while.

As long as I have the love of each of you,

I can live my life in the hearts of all of you.

May our hearts become the refuge for General Colin Powell’s love for humanity. May that type of love benefit our communities. May his love and deeds blossom in the hearts of millions of our continent’s citizens, here and in the diaspora. It is our sincere belief that the blossoming of his love and deeds will enable us to realise the Africa We Want, long before the year 2063.

Aluta Continua!!!

* Dr Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma is the Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs

**The views expressed here may not be that of IOL.

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