President Cyril Ramaphosa and his predecessor Jacob Zuma used yesterday’s Nelson Mandela centenary celebrations to tell the rest of the world that the iconic statesman never sold anyone or anything out.

Instead, they argued that he paved the way for the South Africa we now live in by bringing in political freedom.

“He never had it in him to sell anything,” said Ramaphosa. “What he created was a platform to continue with the struggle. He enabled the future.”

Zuma said Madiba fought for the country, made sacrifices and was the longest-serving political prisoner.

“What people are doing is [taking a failure] to take South Africa forward. Now they blame it on the man who brought political freedom. If we failed to use it to bring economic freedom and security, let us not blame Madiba. Let us blame ourselves,” he said.

Ramaphosa said Mandela belonged to a remarkable generation that rose against injustice and played a pivotal role in establishing the ANC Youth League, which strengthened the ANC. He said Madiba never saw himself as the wisest man in the the country and was always open to sound advice.

“There is no place for racism, there is no place for tribalism in this country. There is no place for ethnic chauvinism in this place of Nelson Mandela.”

Ramaphosa said Madiba would want those at yesterday’s event to root out sexism to enable women to play their role in society. “His whole life was driven by principle. Not slogans or words.”