Tuesday, 25 June 2013

Our darling Madiba

Our darling Madiba
24 June 2013

Our darling Madiba is not well at all.  And I fear that to say he is ailing is putting it rather mildly.  Though in actual fact, I believe we are rather kept in the dark as to the true condition of his health.  Still concerns and media reports have been stepped up from “stable” to “critical”.  This does not bode well at all.  In addition, he is surrounded by his family and loved ones and I’m assuming that this is heralding the end of an era.  They have come to pay their last respects and to say their goodbye’s.

I know that at 94, we should grant him a reprieve.  He deserves for us to let him go.  He has served us well.  Has united us all.  Has championed our cause with the rest of the world.  He made us one nation.  He has earned the right to lay down his mantle and just to let go.

Still, we cling.  How can we not?  We love him.

It is rather ironic that his health has taken such a bad turn, on the anniversary of one of his greatest gifts to us.  Eighteen years ago today.  And what was that gift?  It might seem rather trivial, but somehow the donning of a Springbok rugby jersey, was one of his greatest gifts of all.  But why?  Surely it was just a jersey?  Yet somehow, it was more than that.  Bigger than just a jersey.  The Springbok rugby jersey, was a symbol of the sport of the oppressor.  The former government that had called him a terrorist and sentenced him to twenty seven long years in jail.  Well, no actually that’s not right.  They sentenced him to life.  It was simply the foresight of some members of a waning National Party, that had the vision to see that he could unite our troubled nation, and therefore allowed him to be released after a “mere” twenty seven years behind bars.  Furthermore, they knew that the tide could not be stemmed.  It was either release him willingly and freely or face a revolution. 

When Nelson Mandela was released from prison, on the 11th of February 1990, I was an impressionable seventeen year old.  I had no concept of what this would mean for our country.  But what I did know, was that there was a lot of fear.  Insecurity.  Fears of instability and unrest.  An uprising of the black majority.  A white minority uncertain as to how their world would change. 

The writing was on the wall.  Times they were a changing.  The black tide could no longer be stemmed and it was inevitable that this former “terrorist” would one day become our president and leader.  What manner of retribution would rain upon our white heads?  Though it was certainly true that neither me, nor my family, friends, etc. were responsible for his incarceration, and that we were all pretty liberal, we were still “blessed” with white skins.  And might be judged by that failing in a country now heading towards complete and utter black domain and domination.

Would this much feared Nelson Mandela, we knew so little about, leave prison with hatred in his heart?  Would he encourage his people to plunder and pillage?  Would we be safe?  Would he attempt to get us back for his pain and suffering?  Would our lives be disrupted by unrest?  How badly would our status quo be altered?  How much would our lives be changed?  Because one thing I knew with certainty, was that things could not remain the same.  The winds of change were in the air.  The question was, by how much it would change?  And how soon?

I remember watching his release on TV.  Understanding that it was a historic moment, but feeling as though we were on a knife’s edge as a nation, and that the scales could be tipped either way.  He looked so normal to me.  So average and like so many other people.  Ordinary, and not fear-inspiring at all.  Still in those first few seconds on the screen, he seemed powerful to me too.  A man with a purpose.  He was surrounded by so many people.  Peaceful people.  And the image of him and Winnie walking hand in hand, with each holding their free hand aloft, clenched in a fist, will stay with me forever.

Amazingly, he started preaching for peace right from the start.  Even more impressive - he practiced peace too.  He showed with his actions and words that he was a loving man.  A humble man, who wanted to unite all South Africans, irrespective of race, colour and religion.  He was well spoken.  Educated and eloquent.  Charismatic, with a gift for people and communicating with them. 

And on that day, the 24th of June 1994, Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela showed us more eloquently than ever, that he was prepared to put the past behind him and focus on the future.  On building a new South Africa instead.  And in many ways, the Rugby World Cup was not won by the fifteen men on the field (although they most certainly did their part).  Those fifteen men were destined for greatness, because their president spoke to them before the time, and inspired them to give their all, to an adoring home crowd.  He allowed them so see his vision for a united South Africa.  A South Africa that would truly start to become healed by sporting greatness.  Because in its truest form, sport is colour blind.  It has no regards for race or religion.  It is a unifying force and never was this more evident than on that day.
An initially very weary and nervous South Africa, had by the 24th of June 1994 done a complete turn-around.  And as Nelson Mandela stepped on to the field, donned from head to toe (he was even wearing a Springbok cap – bless his soul) in Springbok gear, the capacity crowd of 62 000 people, chanted “Nelson!  Nelson!  Nelson”.  On that day, Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela, became our beloved Madiba and the rainbow nation was truly born.

I include some of his awesome quotes.  These help to give you an essence of the wonderful man.

“We enter into a covenant that we shall build a society in which all South Africans, both black and white, will be able to walk tall, without and fear in their hearts, assured of their inalienable right to human dignity – a rainbow nation at peace with itself and the world."

"Never, never and never again shall it be that this beautiful land will again experience the oppression of one by another…"

"I have fought against white domination, and I have fought against black domination. I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons will live together in harmony with equal opportunities. It is an ideal which I hope to live for, and to see realised. But my Lord, if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die."
What a great man.  We love you Tata Madiba.  We salute you and thank you for all you have done for us.  Your selflessness and your lessons in humility and forgiveness, will linger in our memories.  We hate to see you go and mourn your loss already.

But you have deserved the right to rest now.  Your message has been passed on to us.  Your legacy will live on.  We will continue to strive to make you proud and to honour your memory and all that you stood for.  Our gift to you, will be to continue with your teachings.  To honour your vision.
And I do believe that your passing will be a reminder to us of how far we have come.  Your people, black and white, will weep for you.  How united we are now.  For irrespective of race, religion or culture – we love you.  One and all.  And we will all mourn your loss. 
Rest well Tata.  Rest well. 
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Madiba in a contemplative mood - revisiting his prison cell on Robben Island

Surrounded by some of his grandchildren

Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela

Congratulating the captain of the Springbok rugby team, Francois Pienaar, on winning the 1995 Rugby World Cup and handing over the trophy

Madiba in THAT outfit - so sweet!

1 comment:

  1. A neglected post!
    Your insights are always illuminating!