South Africa Bids Farewell to Nelson Mandela

December 6, 2013 3:17 pm

For to be free is not merely to cast off one’s chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others.” – Nelson Mandela

nelson mandelaBeing a South African today feels strange, almost surreal. The sun is shining as usual, the wind softly whispers through the trees. Midday traffic goes along, noisily as usual. Yet time seems to have slowed down somehow. And everyone is wearing the same strangely distracted expression on their face. It is because today we are a country in deep mourning, for we have lost the father of our nation, our ‘Tata’ Madiba.

Thursday night, at 8.50pm, Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela died at his home in Johannesburg, surrounded by his wife and members of his family. Today, newspaper posters of his benevolently beaming face are pasted all over South African cities, shop fronts are filled with portraits surrounded by candles, and condolences from all corners of the globe are sent to the Mandela family who has for so long shared their father, husband, brother with the rest of the world.

On 18 July we celebrated what has now become Mandela’s last birthday. At 95 years of age he has lived a long and full life, and has left the world a better place than he found it. An intelligent, well-read and driven man, Mandela found himself at the forefront of the struggle against the racist and oppressive Apartheid regime during the 1940s and 50s in South Africa. He was soon imprisoned for acts of terrorism against the state and, facing a life sentence, was sent to Robben Island alongside numerous other political detainees.

In his silent suffering, Mandela became a global icon and inspiration in the fight for a free South African society. Though he was very much removed from the Struggle’s forefront during this time, protests and posters were emblazoned with his face. These depictions where often only a blank silhouette, the government feared Mandela so much that even depicting his portrait became an illegal act.

After 27 years in jail, Mandela was finally freed and allowed to continue his quest for a unified and egalitarian society. With open arms he embraced not only black South Africans, but Indians, mixed-race, all creeds,end apartheid all colours, and even those who were responsible for his very imprisonment. In 1994 the new ‘rainbow nation’ South Africa was inaugurated, with Mandela becoming its first democratically elect African president. After his single term in office, he devoted the remainder of his life to the universal betterment of humanity. Through continued activism and philanthropy he established countless foundations and funds.

It is however not merely South Africans who mourn the loss of such a great and generous man. It is the whole world that has lost Nelson Mandela. He was an international symbol of peace, reconciliation, forgiveness, freedom and unconditional love. These things all transcend nationality, race and ethnicity and speaks to all of us. Mandela was a great example of the indomitable human spirit and the love that lies at its heart. In his autobiography A Long Walk to Freedom, Mandela wrote:

“No one is born hating another person because of the colour of his skin, or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.

Mandela brought a divided nation together once before. And so too today, a nation comes together to honour a great leader and a great human being. It is not merely with sadness that this day is filled, but with reflection, deep affection, and thankfulness for all that he has done.

Hamba KakuhleMadiba. Thank you Nelson Mandela.

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