“Get well, Tata of the World,” declared a Media24 blogger, one of thousands inhabitants of this planet who addressed online get-well messages to Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela.
As news of 92-year-old Madiba’s sojourn in the Milpark hospital in Johannesburg traversed through the world, the messages started streaming in.
The Nelson Mandela Foundation too received 10 000 messages in two days – from American president Barack Obama and other very important people, to plebs, to children.
His illness became one of the major topics of online communication, sparking a universal outpouring of love and concern for the most special of human beings.
Of course Madiba is firstly his family’s beloved tata.
But the deluge of messages tells us that he is also South Africans’ beloved tata and, as the blogger declared, the Tata of the World.
It is true that a family in times of distress needs privacy – the Mandela family more so than other families because they were deprived of his warm presence when he was jailed for 27 years.
And when their tata was released, his time was consumed by the demands of his presidency and after that, by the volume of international and local visitors who vied for admittance to his presence.
His new wife, children and grandchildren did not have nearly enough years of love and laughter with their tata in the warm and private heart of the family.
They may well feel disinclined to continue sharing him now that his life’s shadow is lengthening.
But sharing is again what the world asks of them.
Millions of words have been written about Madiba’s reconciliatory role in South Africa’s tranquil political transition in 1994.
Madiba was the man who, by the way he practised what he preached, gave South Africans the great gifts of the spirit, forgiveness and reconciliation.
And being this man, this unique, warm man, he also conquered millions of souls in other countries, where his face is a symbol of all the good things we long for but seldom get.
He has become the most famous of the world’s icons, a universal inspiration, one of only a few people in history who was deeply loved and admired by all.
Madiba is indeed Tata of the World.
He does not belong to the ANC, the South African government or the administrators of the Nelson Mandela Foundation. He belongs to us.
And this is why it is necessary to share information about his health – not only with the family, the government, the party and the foundation, but also with us.
We love him too.