"As I walked out the door toward the gate that would lead to my freedom, I knew if I didn't leave my bitterness and hatred behind, I'd still be in prison."
One of the legacies that Nelson Mandela left his country was the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which was set up by the Government of National Unity to help deal with what happened under apartheid.
The pursuit of national unity, the well-being of all South African citizens and peace require reconciliation between the people of South Africa and the reconstruction of society. This required a secure foundation so as to transcend the divisions and strife of the past, which generated gross violations of human rights, the transgression of humanitarian principles in violent conflicts and a legacy of hatred, fear, guilt and revenge.
It was spelled out that there was a need for understanding but not for vengeance, a need for reparation but not for retaliation, a need for ubuntu but not for victimisation.
The promotion of this approach took great courage and true leadership. It would not have been possible from someone who was still trapped in prison – physically or metaphorically.
It was a nation's chance for restorative justice – the chance to speak the truth, acknowledge what had been done, own up and take responsibility for personal actions, whether directed or otherwise, and to express sorrow – a genuine apology for the wrongs that have been committed against others.
Recording the history – laying down the truth - and apologising for wrongdoing is at the heart of our Treaty settlement process here in New Zealand.
Reconciliation cannot come without truth, because it requires forgiveness. And that cannot be offered to someone who denies the truth.
This knowledge should guide all in leadership positions as it did Nelson Mandela, who understood that so completely.
In South Africa, we can only imagine what the alternative could have been.
Archbishop Desmond Tutu said in his address to the first gathering of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission:
"We have seen a miracle unfold before our very eyes and the world has marvelled as South Africans, all South Africans, have won this spectacular victory over injustice, oppression and evil. The miracle must endure. Freedom and justice must become realities for all our people and we have the privilege of helping to heal the hurts of the past, to transcend the alienations and the hostilities of that past so that we can close the door on that past and concentrate in the present and our glorious future."
This was a truly extraordinary gift from a great man, who we honour here today in Christchurch. Nelson Mandela has been quoted as saying
"When a man has done what he considers to be his duty to his people and his country, he can rest in peace. I believe I have made that effort and that is, therefore, why I will sleep for the eternity"
He is a man who inspired a nation, inspired the world and has now earned his right to rest in peace.