“Sometimes it falls upon a generation to be great. You can be the great generation. Let your greatness blossom” - Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela A great leader and a great human being has passed on. It would be remiss of me not to make this blog about Tata Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela. The question is, of course, which part of this giant I choose to pick up and write about? His compassion? His commitment to uplifting society? His focus ongreatness, making a difference and leaving a legacy? In all my blogs this year I have touched on a lot of these themes. This is what I value, this is what I live. I am no Nelson Mandela, and I get that in order to live a purposeful life, these have to be the things I hold dear in everything I choose to do in the world. I have asked you what you stand for? I have asked you to be compassionate. I have said that success cannot exist in the absence of failure, nor courage in the absence of fear. And as we post quotes and pictures of Nelson Mandela, I am reminded that these are the things he stood forand they are currently relived through these words, pictures and memories.
On the 10th of December South Africa had a memorial service to honour Madiba. It was a memorial service with a difference - a combination of a people’s rally as well as a memorial service which included dignitaries, heads of state, royalty and the entire world via TV channel networks. I was there in the stadium to listen to the speakers. To listen to the thousands of people sing and chant, South African style, to honour a human being who occupies such an important space in the consciousness of the world. I was there, standing in the rain to honor this great man. The trip to the stadium was amazing in itself, as it reminded me of my student days, pre-1994, during the State of Emergency imposed by the Apartheid government. It was a trip to pay our respects to a man who gave us hope. The singing of freedom songs on the Rea-Vaya bus was filled with such hope. Hope and honour. And following in the wake of this event, we choose to focus on the booing of Jacob Zuma, Barack Obama’s selfie and Michelle Obama’s seat switch at the service. I was embarrassed by the booing. I was one of the voices drowned by booing, I was shouting, “no, we can’t do this”. I don’t care about Obama’s selfie and my heart goes out to President Zuma from a place of compassion for another’s humiliation. And even that is not something I choose to focus on. I choose to focus on the reverberation of voices in response to “Amandla” and the ringing of melodious voices as they sang the national anthem. And it was a memorial service withfocus on the speeches and not on the people who were willing to stand in the pouring rain, the universe’s own outpouring of grief.
For me, the invitation to the public to be at the memorial, gave the impression that the struggle hero would be honoured in line with the struggle history he was committed to. Not giving a platform to the release of pain through the one way we as South Africans know, how we honour greatness with singing and dancing about freedom and hope, was a huge mistake. We were there for the speeches as well as for ourselves and above all to properly honour Madiba. And at the end of it all I am called to ask, what it is all about? Is it about hope, courage, freedom and compassion? Will we place focus on the people of South Africa and make them central to a living legacy? And can we live into that legacy? Or will we continue to focus on the mundane and mediocre and forget to focus on the values and wisdom of a great man? What legacy will this generation leave behind? What are you going to do to live into your own greatness and above all the greatness epitomized by Nelson Mandela? What steps will you take in the footsteps of a giant? Lala ngoxolo Tata! Lala ngokuthula Madiba. Rest in Peace. Rest in Power. Siyabulela!