Known to the world as Nelson Mandela, named Rolihlahla by his father and commonly referred to as Madiba (his clan name, which is considered more important than a surname) in his native South Africa; we all know what he signifies. In the last few days it has emerged Madiba is critically ill in hospital from a recurring lung infection, rumoured to be the result of a tuberculosis infection he caught in prison in 1988.
I had an uncle who was born in the same year as Madiba (1918); he passed away in December 2012 at the age of 94! Some may say he had a ‘good innings’, especially living in Ghana which doesn’t have the excellent medical facilities of the developed world. It was still painful to let him go because he had been the pillar of the family for so long, but he was tired and after playing his role he was ready to leave, which he did peacefully.
I think Madiba is ready to go too. He has fulfilled his destiny and it’s selfish for us to want to keep him. Total African development and freedom will not come through one man alone. The steps required to see the fruition of these concepts are a team sport and everyone has to play their position. It’s the duty of all 1 billion people on the continent and those in the diaspora. Freedom fighters like Madiba and Steve Biko many not have been perfect, they were human, but they stood for something, so that they wouldn’t fall for anything! Madiba, along with a host of others has demonstrated the courage required to stand up for equality and freedom. We have seen it; history has it documented, now the sons and daughters of Africa need to play their position. Despite all the sacrifice Madiba has made, (South) Africa has her problems which I used to think would disappear once ‘good people’ came into power. The truth is that Africa is still indebted by agreements and policies sanctioned decades ago and corruption is endemic. This is why even after the Black Economic Empowerment Act, until this day wealth is still not evenly distributed among the races in South Africa. Yes there has been progress, but not enough.
When he was released, like many people my mother sobbed in front of the television – tears of joy, tears of sadness, tears of relief, and tears of disbelief… Emerging into a South Africa where little white children (who didn’t know any better) would sing nursery rhymes, “Eenie meenie, miney moe, catch a nigger by the toe” and eat liquorice sweets called ‘nigger balls’; Madiba preached unity and forgiveness, not revenge. In a South Africa where ‘blacks, coloured and Asians’ could not use the same toilets or stand in the same queues in shops, Madiba still believed that a change would come and didn’t let the tsunami of bitterness surge through him after having 27 years stolen.
Still labelled as a ‘terrorist’ by America (after the apartheid regime classed the ANC as a terrorist group in the 1960’s). God in his mercy gave Madiba more years than most people in this lifetime get (even with advances in medical science), and when it is time for him to leave (South) Africa has to let him go. Celebrate him of course! The whole world will (well those that matter unlike the UK BNP leader, who allegedly made rude comments on twitter about Madiba’s current health). It’s time for the baton to be passed on and for Africans to continue their journey to reach their destiny.
Many of Madiba’s great saying will be recited for ever ( I already have some of my favourite ones here), but to get a greater appreciation of the man I will read his Long Walk to Freedom autobiography, which I have had for a few years but never got round to reading (I know shame on me)!
Now in his mid-nineties, it will soon be time for Madiba to leave us, even though hearts will be heavy as departures are never easy, Africa must ensure that his efforts and those of other freedom fighters was not in vain….team sport remember?!
In 1964 while on trial for sabotage, in which he faced the death penalty, Madiba addressed the courtroom with the words from what became known as the ‘Speech from the Dock’,
“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.”
We all have to play our position and never forget the amazing life / legacy of a man born in the village of Mvzeo, the first in his family to attend school (Where he was given the English name Nelson) and the first black South African to be democratically elected as president. I think Madiba has fulfilled his destiny…
Photo credits – Nelson Mandela Centre of memory (AFP PHOTO ALEXANDER JOE) and Bing Images