Yes, I am pretty sure the world has heard it by now. Nelson Rohihlahla Mandela died on December the 5th, Tata finally got to rest. Not another Mandela honouring post, you’d say. If I had time earlier, I would have written earlier.
The thing is, I DO get to write about it.
I am South-African.
And Mandela died.
December 5th is Sinterklaas evening in Holland. I was busy watching Law and Order and half a movie (recorded the other half), happily avoiding the white old man in a dress with his pitch black helper boy. (Off topic: that puzzled me for years… and now the Dutch are angry because the UN are equally puzzled by this. At some point I figured it must have been black FROM soot… until recently somebody pointed out it’s black LIKE soot… and I shall continue to be puzzled).
I was about to go to bed when TDH told me to check the news. I did, I checked the Dutch news as I assumed it would be something about around here. Apparently Madiba had died. I checked the South African news websites, as they at least knew the difference between Nelson Mandela and Morgan Freeman. It was true.
As it sunk in, I sung and I prayed, apparently like a proper South-African. What I remembered of the original Zulu version of ‘Nkosi Sikelel’i Afrika’ seemed most appropriate, given the meaning. I am thankful for Madiba, for what he has done for us all. And I pray our people will keep his legacy alive, and show the world what we’re made of rather than fight each other. There have been speculations about the effect of Madiba’s death on the country. Regardless of how far I am from it, and how long I’ve been away from it, it’s still my country with my people in it.
And I realised I owe my freedom to Mandela too. Nobody was free under the Apartheid rule, and Madiba also made it very clear that White South-Africans are South-Africans too… Apartheid was going to end, no matter what… Mandela allowed us to be free together with the others. I know, I know, not JUST Mandela. (There were more. He even shared the Nobel prize with F.W. de Klerk). While they were at it, women and the disabled were being empowered too.
I grew up in the middle of it. I remember my mum chatting to our domestic worker about Mandela being free. I remember the same air of uncertainty that has been hanging around my childhood in South-Africa in the ’90s. I wasn’t raised with Apartheid ideologies, on the contrary. I witnessed it’s tail, I witnessed what it did. I remember my mum casually chatting with the domestic worker about what was happening, no tension between the two at all.
I remember 1994, I was 8 years old. Our primary school teachers had to explain things to us, still trying to make sense of it all themselves. My school was white, my school was Afrikaans. We had a large picture of F.W. de Klerk and the flag hanging in every classroom. I remember my sister, 5, running around in the garden just before the elections, shouting ‘A.N.C.’. I remember not being able to make out what was right and wrong, having heard too many different views. When you’re 8, you want a right and wrong. I remember getting elections day off. They were voting in our school. I could see the queue from our house; it had to be at least 300m long.
I remember Nelson Mandela becoming president, and I remember changes. We had Mandela hanging in every classroom now, we had a new flag, look, it stood for unity, and we were high on the concept of a Rainbow Nation. One of the first changes I remember was banning physical punishment in schools, as it directly affected me, of course. I remember 1997 Environment day, my very white school and two very black schools decided to play together that day. Kids being kids, there wasn’t very much inter-school mingling. It WAS weird, because these kids seemed different from us and visa versa. We had been taught they were different for years. I was one of few who actually thought the intermingling was fun. I remember sharing food with two girls from one of the other schools.
And 1995 rugby world cup.
I remember listing Mandela as one of my heroes when I was 16. I hadn’t read ‘A long walk’ then, I just was old enough to understand. And I did believe, and still believe, that Madiba had the Lord on his side. I know he was a Christian. I was old enough to look back, and realise what he’d done and what he stood for. Our wise old man, who was prepared to die for OUR freedom.
We need more leaders like Mandela.
Tata, thank you, and see you in heaven. I WILL remember what you taught us, and I WILL live it.
Oh, and here’s the reason I don’t trust the Dutch news very much…
No, it’s not a hoax, yes, that’s Morgan Freeman being called Nelson Mandela. If I were Morgan Freeman I’d be honoured, apart from the dead bit.
They changed the photo soon enough…
But come on!
They look nothing alike! Black man with grey hair, that’s as far as I come.
Yes, Morgan Freeman played Mandela in Invictus. Because they look nothing alike, I spent the whole movie mentally filling in Madiba’s face every time Morgan Freeman was on screen.