Death is inevitable. Each time it happens, we are struck with pain and grief. When I heard of Nelson Mandela’s death I was deeply saddened. This is the first time I’ve been affected by the death of someone whom I haven’t had a personal encounter with.
One cannot speak about Mandela without mentioning the Apartheid. In Afrikaans this means ‘separateness’. It came to be a system of governance that discriminated against the black and coloured South Africans. The black and coloured people of South Africa protested against this inequality led by people like Nelson Mandela.
On 11 June 1964 Nelson Mandela and 7 others were convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment for plotting to overthrow the government. Madiba, as he is fondly called by his countrymen, spent his prime years behind bars serving a jail term of 27 years. During this time, his image, words and teachings were banned in Apartheid South Africa. He was released on 11 February 1990.
Soon after his release he started working very hard to end the white minority rule. In 1993 he and President FW de Klerk jointly won the Nobel Peace Prize for their ‘peaceful termination of the apartheid regime and for laying the foundations for a new democratic South Africa’.
On 10 May 1994 at the age of 75, Nelson Mandela was inaugurated South Africa’s first democratically elected President. After serving a single term in office he stepped down in 1999.
Madiba never once doubted his devotion to democracy, equality and learning. He never answered racism with racism. When he walked out of prison, his heart was free of hatred. He didn’t want revenge. All he wanted was to create a free society in which people could live in harmony irrespective of the colour of their skin. Forgiving those who robbed him of his youth was the first step in doing this.
Madiba was truly a people’s leader. As the world mourns his death we need to remind ourselves that it is now up to us to keep his legacy alive. I end with this quote, a personal favourite of mine –
“I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.”
Dear Madiba, may you rest in peace.