It is not normal for a society to be this unequal, hence we cannot adopt a classical approach to our challenges, writes Ralph Mathekga.
Winnie Madikizela-Mandela. Photo by Halden Krog
Multimedia · User Galleries · News in Pictures
Send us your pictures · Send us your stories
something about grief. Eight years ago, almost to the day, I saw the feet of
the man I loved more than life itself sticking out from behind the bed on our bedroom
floor. We had spent two amazing years together. He was an extraordinary man –
larger than life, funny, generous and kind. And for a short while he was mine…
until that awful day in April 2010.
I looked down on his lifeless body, my long, painful journey with grief began –
a journey that only those who have walked a similar road can fully understand. It
was in that moment that I became a member of a club
that everyone of us will find ourselves part of at some point, but none of us
ever wants to join.
last eight years, I have come to understand a lot of what that membership
entails and how people who do not share the membership react. I have learnt,
for example, that you never "get over it". As a woman in Ireland told
me decades after her husband's death: "Grief is like a handbag that you
pick up the day your loved one dies, and you can never put down again. The best
you can hope for is that with time the handbag becomes lighter and that you
might eventually, for a little while, forget that you are carrying it."
years, my handbag of grief has indeed become lighter and there are now days,
sometimes weeks, where I forget that it is there.
have also learnt how cruel people can be in the face of grief. Sometimes they
mean well, with misplaced words of "comfort" ("Don't worry, he
is much better off in heaven") or by telling those left behind not to cry
or to just keep busy.
But it is the
deliberate cruelty, heartlessness and even the sadistic pleasure of some that continue
to take my breath away.
It can take
many forms, such as old enemies suddenly claiming central positioning at the
mourning rituals. Or denying those who were truly the closest the space to bid
farewell. But the worst injury occurs when the ones that have died are insulted
or maligned at a time when they can no longer speak for themselves and when they
have lost the legal protections they were afforded in life.
is done to someone who was well known the destruction of that person's legacy
can happen in hours. To those who are left behind this means having to deal
with a second death as devastating (or perhaps even more) than the first.
So why am I
writing about grief in a political column?
because I know all too well that when the person who died was in the public domain
the grieving process becomes political – as we have also seen so clearly with
Ma Winnie's death.
It was all
there – the positioning of those who wanted to claim that they were her closest
and best friend, as well as those who wanted to use her death as a way of
promoting themselves. There was the battle by the family to somehow retain
control, or at least a role, during the rituals of her final journey.
And then there
were the unbelievably mean and hateful reactions by many on social media, radio
and in the press.
whether those who did this have any idea of the pain and damage they caused?
Not only to the biological family, but to the broader "family" of the
millions of people who saw her as their political mother?
lose someone you love, it is as if your emotional skin is torn off and therefore
the insults do so much more damage. When I read and heard the cruel words of
those who showed no compassion to, or understanding of, the woman who died, her
family or the millions of grieving South Africans, I wanted to weep with sadness and fear.
because of the additional, and totally unnecessary pain that was caused to our
already traumatised country. Fear, for the long-term damage it might do.
experience I know that the death of a loved one scrambles your emotional DNA and it takes a long, long time to figure out
how to put it back together again. Some people never succeed and even those who
do are never the same as before.
I hope that
the strength and extraordinary spirit of the majority of people in this country
can again overcome the hurtful events of the last two weeks.
But I can't
help wondering how many times more they can be called upon to forgive, before
something cracks irrevocably.
- Melanie Verwoerd is a former ANC MP and South African Ambassador to Ireland.
Disclaimer: News24 encourages freedom of speech and the expression of diverse views. The views of columnists published on News24 are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent the views of News24.
24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.
Channel big bag energy this Black Friday.
Mitsubishi's new Mirage will once again be making its way to SA.
'This is going to change the face of Durban.'
Here's where you can shop similar cleavage hacks.
Are you ready to do what it takes?
Queen Elizabeth is quite fond of it though.
Datsun now has an automatic GO model in its local line-up.
5 local women share their experiences
ConstantiaPeoplefinder Career Placements
Cape TownE-Merge IT RecruitmentR899 000.00 - R900 000.00 Per Year
Cape TownProServ South Africa
Apartments / Flats
R 12 500
Apartments / Flats
R 16 500
Apartments / Flats
R 11 500
We subscribe to the Press Code.
You choose what you want
News24 on Android
Get the latest from News24 on your Android device.
Terms and Conditions
24.com Terms and Conditions - Updated April 2012
Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.
This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.