Tata Mandela is free at last

2013-12-07 00:00

WE did not have a television when Nelson Mandela came out of prison, so on February 12, 1990, I was running alongside a car near the Presbyterian Church in Imbali Stage 1 thinking he was inside, and, indeed, a man in a modest car was inside waving.

We were 10 and 11 years old, excited because one of us said that there would no longer be news on the television so we could watch cartoons and our favourite television shows without our parents switching to the news. Soon Nelson Mandela became more real, not only as we started to see formerly banned images of him regularly but because Mandela, Oliver Tambo and Walter Sisulu, among other leaders, of the ANC were hosted in Umtata and Aunt Vuyelwa was involved. My mother, who had been invited by Aunt Vuyelwa to help, described being so nervous she accidentally spilt a drink on Tambo.

The surname I used to get into a coloured school in 1988 is Rangana, corrupted into an Anglicised Rangan or Rangane (I’d forget to spell), and it is from AbaThembu clan, of which Madiba is a part. Rangana is my paternal grandmother’s maiden name and they are related, although generations apart. My mom’s mother, Agnes, died in 1990, so I learnt from her sisters Gogo Violet and Martha how close the bond was when they would recite Madiba clan names along with praise singers, ululate, wave their hands in the air and run around excitedly. My memory of these old women links me to Tata.

Aunt Vuyelwa has a son who is autistic and it inspired her to open a centre. Tata, ignorant of any ancestral synergy, launched the centre for her in his capacity as South African president and a plaque commemorates this. I guess I embellish the relationship because of my grandmothers, but there is a separation in ancestry from two brother generations ago, which means only some of the clan names are common and not others. My aunt and mom correct (and confuse) me because it is complex information to Westernised me, but they are in pain today.

I am sad but at peace with his death because I definitely continue his legacy daily. I preach and practise peace and unity in everything I do, but never hesitate to defend those unjustly attacked. In tribute, I am wearing a tie Swen Safla had made for me that has the I Have A Dream speech painted on it. This is because I always thought of Nelson Mandela as what Martin Luther King Jnr would have been had he lived. I just wished he lived freer after jail.

Thank God Almighty, he is free at last!

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