Nelson Mandela aka Tata (Father) has died. The eulogies came flooding in along with my sadness and memories about Madiba. My family had listened to news about his negotiations with the leader of the minority government, Frederik Willem (F.W.) de Klerk, on the radio. He had been a hologram of hope projected on the political consciousness of his countrymen who were struggling under the yoke of apartheid. We marveled as we listened to a prisoner negotiate his way to freedom and set the stage for ultimately becoming president.
On 11 February 1990, Mandela became real to millions of South Africans, as he emerged from Victor Verster Prison, a facility located on the outskirts of my hometown, Paarl. He traveled to Cape Town, where the first words from his speech, Amandla! Amandla! iAfrika! Mayibuye! (Power! Power! Africa it is ours!), brought cheers of jubilation from the crowd gathered on The Grand Parade. Miraculously, years of resistance to apartheid and solitude in prison, had not hardened the man. His calm stewardship of a jittery nation continued to inspire me, especially following the assassination of Chris Hani, chief of staff of Umkhonto we Sizwe, the armed wing of the African National Congress (ANC). He helped to defuse the serious tensions that could have returned the country to a path of violence with the following words: “Tonight I am reaching out to every single South African, black and white, from the very depths of my being. A white man, full of prejudice and hate, came to our country and committed a deed so foul that our whole nation now teeters on the brink of disaster. A white woman, of Afrikaner origin, risked her life so that we may know, and bring to justice, this assassin. The cold-blooded murder of Chris Hani has sent shock waves throughout the country and the world. ... Now is the time for all South Africans to stand together against those who, from any quarter, wish to destroy what Chris Hani gave his life for – the freedom of all of us.”
South Africans and the rest of world will now bid farewell to an inspiring leader, echoing his wisdom. ”When a man has done what he considers to be his duty, to his people and his country, he can rest in peace. I believe that I have made that effort and that is, therefore, why I will sleep for the eternity.”
Hamba Kahle Madiba.