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Ashwell Glasson
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Madiba and his love for our widllife, land and people

09 December 2013, 10:03

So a restless night and much self-reflection about Madiba after stopping at the interfaith Service and seeing Cape Town ignited in mourning and here are a few thoughts for you all. There are so few individuals in life that truly transcend so much of humanity’s pettiness and Nelson Rohlihlahla Mandela was one of those rare few that could see South Africa’s potential, what lay beyond the undiscovered country. At a very personal level I have been blessed to have spent time with Madiba and Graca several times, once as a young field guide working at Bongani Mountain Reserve and to be honest there I was completely awed by his deep appreciation of our wildlife, land and people. He delighted in everything that he saw on safari, from the smallest dung-beetle to lumbering steps of the Elephants. That delight and joy was a wonder to share in. Later again with Graca Machel at Phinda Game Reserve, in which she was leading a UNDP fact-finding mission, to do more for local communities and the sense of focus and drive was amazing to see. Such an amazing couple, both so driven. Graca with boundless energy and Madiba with reserve and a deep well of strength. I later had the privilege to attend his birthday party where he took the time to chat with me and my mother and that humble and caring approach was again awe-inspiring in all respects.

There is a risk in just perceiving Madiba with a golden glow and with naivete. Before deifying him, we must remember he was a man, an incredible man, but not perfect, not some messianic figure. He worked hard, made mistakes, led as best he could with purpose and great vision. I learned that he truly had purpose and fought to achieve that purpose in every action, every day of his life. It was his beautiful way of striving for a better country and world that was one of his most amazing attributes. In that striving he inspired me and many across the world. 

I want to remember him as that man, not some untouchable figure. His influence and forthright sense of justice tempered by his profound belief in humanity has been a guiding influence in my life ever since and I hope to sustain that measure of his spirit throughout the rest of my life.

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