I am sure we all will remember exactly what we were doing when we heard the news, how we felt and what it meant to us now that he was no more. I was in Swaziland watching cnn when the news of his death flashed onto the screen. It was my daughter’s 3rd birthday. I was numb for a while, followed by extreme sadness and then by a celebration of a life that inspired the world. The memories of Tata that I had as a child exploded into my heart and seemed to fill it with an avalanche of tears for the man we all took into our hearts as a father during the days when we needed hope, motivation and dignity.
I remember as a 13 year old child, hiding a small squashed up picture of the then banned ANC leader. I clung onto it with my life. I looked at his inspirational face with my head covered in a blanket with just enough light to give him the look and feel of an angel. During the dark days of apartheid, he had become the person I wanted to be like, the savior, the inspiration and the motivation to continue the struggle for equality. The day he was freed from prison, I ran for 5km on a hot blistering day to watch our leader walk out of prison a free man. The day was filled with jubilation and excitement. I remembered watching him being sworn in, to become the first democratic President of our country. The happiness, the celebration seemed to consume our entire country. The manner in which he managed to transform our country from hatred into love, gained him a new fan base that shocked most of our country.
His humility, his integrity, his loyalty to peace, his commitment to equality seemed to define his unshakeable reputation as the leader of all leaders. The question that he posed to Oprah Winfrey when he first appeared on her show, asking her what the show was about bears testament to his humility. The speech he made during the Rivonia trial will be etched into our souls forever, “This then is what the ANC is fighting. Their struggle is a truly national one. It is a struggle of the African people, inspired by their own suffering and their own experience. It is a struggle for the right to live. During my lifetime I have dedicated myself to this struggle of the African people. 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 live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is an ideal which I hope to live for and to achieve. But if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die.” Whenever I heard the speech, it reminded me of what it means to be courageous, what it means to have integrity and what it means to be authentic to your soul. All of which embodies the life of Nelson Mandela.
I think the greatest aspect of comrade madiba and the reason that we all took him into our hearts was because he was an ordinary man who made mistakes, experienced many failures on his journey, stood up and chose a path of authenticity and was always committed to his soul’s purpose, always working in accordance to what his purpose on earth dictated. It’s subconsciously what we all strive to be and become. His failures and mistakes (which has always openly discussed) makes him like you and I. Comrade Madiba. Your values, commitment to equality and integrity in etched into the soul of our nation, our ruling party, our democratic government, of our transformed lives, our freedom. Thank you!
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