All around the world people are doing 67 minutes of good deeds in memory of our country’s founding father and first democratically elected president Nelson Mandela. In a world besieged by nationalist chauvinism and narrow parochial interests evidenced by the rise of the xenophobic Donald Trump and Britain’s vote to exit the European union, a day of mass outpouring of acts of human kindness, in a fuzzy, warm, “We are the world, we are the children”, kind of way, even if only for a token 67 minutes, is a welcome respite from the hatred, greed and horror that hogs our headlines. Here’s what I wrote for the front page of The Herald on December 6, 2013, the morning after Madiba passed away.
SA MOURNS FOR A GREAT SON OF OUR SOIL
A GREAT soul, a freedom fighter, a statesman, a son of our soil, the founding father of our nation, who spent his entire life fighting to change our lives for the better, has gone. In every village, suburb, township, church, school and community hall in South Africa, men, women and children are in mourning for a man who was hidden from history for 27 years, yet lived in our imaginations as the feisty, courageous and utterly human symbol of liberation most of us yearned for.
Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela will be sorely missed by South Africa and the world because of the enormous sacrifices he personally made for us to become the nation we are today.
Madiba’s dazzling life trajectory over the last nine decades, starting from his humble roots in the village of Mvezo near Mthatha in the Transkei, to his life as a young Joburg lawyer and activist, to his 27 years of incarceration on Robben Island, to eventually become our first president and a global icon of reconciliation and forgiveness, is a legacy which will inspire generations to come.
By stepping down after one term as president, Madiba proved he was a true servant of the people who did not desperately cling to the trappings of power and remains a shining example to politicians worldwide
In his inaugural speech as the first president of our republic, Madiba expressed his dream for all who live here, saying: “Let there be justice for all. Let there be peace for all. Let there be work, bread, water and salt for all. Let each know that for each the body, the mind and the soul have been freed to fulfil themselves.”
We all know that we still have a long walk to the freedom our beloved Madiba sacrificed his life for. The glaring disparities between rich and poor, black and white, remains a challenge for all of us to overcome. Corruption, mismanagement, our dysfunctional schools, poor or no service delivery in critical areas of health and sanitation, the political promises that don’t get fulfilled, the lingering racial animosity that rears its ugly head, the ubiquitous violence of criminal elements, all point to the need for all of us, from all shades, cultures, beliefs and walks of life, to follow in Madiba’s giant footsteps.
Born and raised in the Transkei village of Mveso near Mthatha,on,July 18, 1918, to Nonqaphi Nosekeni and Henry Mgadla Mandela, Mandela spent his early life imbibing the lessons of African humanism (ubuntu) and stories of his ancestors bravery in the Xhosa wars of resistance.
Mr Mandela’s rise in the ANC from his work across the length and breadth of the land campaigning for the Defiance of Unjust Laws in the fifties was an inspiration to millions nationally and internationally. His defence of his actions in court was prefaced by his lifelong belief in the equality of all races: “I detest racialism, because I regard it as a barbaric thing, whether it comes from a black man or a white man.”
South Africa has been blessed by the service of a great soul. It is now time for us to keep his memory and legacy alive by heeding the call he made at his 90th birthday celebrations when he said: “It’s in your hands to make the world a better place.” Long live the spirit of Madiba. May you rest in peace.
Heather Robertson, Editor, The Herald