– The headlines scream this out. The headlines have been prepared well in advance.
Earlier in the year, Mandela was hospitalised and the world waited with bated breath, prayer vigils were held. When his children squabbled over his burial place, we ignored them and focused on Mandela and what he stood for.
At the time of his death, we celebrate his life, we give thanks for his life. As a nation we are eternally grateful to Mandela for uniting us. “Some are born great, some achieve greatness and others have greatness thrust upon them” so goes the oft quoted verse from Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night. But it is exceedingly rare to be born great, into a royal family, to achieve greatness by standing up against oppression and then to have greatness thrust upon you. We are lucky to have experienced this in our life times, we are indeed fortunate to have had Madiba.
Madiba was loved the world over. His charismatic personality, keen intelligence and seemingly humble attitude won over those he met. His love for children was enormous and his support for the weak legendary. For some he was the loving husband and father who was denied the opportunity to be with his wife and children for twenty seven years. For many he was a shining beacon of hope in times of trouble. For a select few members of the apartheid apparatchik he was the irritating “kaffir”. For many others he was the noble native, educated, erudite and ethical. For many, many others he was the courageous freedom fighter, the underdog who took on the might of apartheid and won. He was born great, he achieved greatness and the world thrust even more greatness upon him.
As South Africans we bathed in the afterglow of his achievements and successes. The mid-1990’s in South Africa was a halcyon time. Madiba helped us win the rugby world cup. Foreign investment started flowing into the country. There was a sense of optimism and hope. We were inspired. Wisely Madiba helped us to realise that we needed to learn to stand on our two feet and that he couldn’t carry us forever. He stood for just one term, but remained committed to supporting the children and the weak. He gradually retired from the political world and exerting political influence.
South Africans mourn the loss of a leader, a great man, a father, grandfather, friend, a moral compass, a one of a kind, unique individual who inspired not just a nation but the world.
Viva Mandela! Viva! Hamba Kahle Tata Madiba!