I cry alongside every other South African today.
My heart is heavy, I feel incredibly homesick, and I have been sporadically bursting into sobs while thinking about his life continuously since the news broke last night.
I am very honoured to have met Madiba (twice!) in my lifetime. The first time, I was 16 and my father was working as a councillor for the Democratic Party in my hometown of Howick.
He was arrested on the outskirts of Howick, and in December 1996 he came back to unveil the first capture monument there. My family met him, and even then as a spotty angst-filled 16 year old, I was blown away by his presence. He had a presence like no other. He even wrote me a little note, which I still have.
In December 1996 Nelson Mandela
was awarded "The Freedom of Howick". This followed his arrest some 34
years before, on 5 August 1962, on the main Durban-Johannesburg road, as
it was then — more particularly, between Howick and Lidgetton West.
A small monument showing the site where he was arrested by the Security
Police may be seen on the southern road side of the R102 in a dip in
the road. - Wikipedia
It has since been rebuilt as a striking sculpture as most will know.
Very aware of being alive and conscious when the change he bought to South Africa happened. Being 13, I remember clearly the days of the first democratic elections, and how everyone was on tenterhooks about what would happen next. Would there be war? What would happen?
The second time I met him was less of a special 'event,' I was 23 and working as a fledgling reporter at a press conference in Johannesburg.
There is no leader or statesman that I can think of, ever, that has been loved and respected as much as Nelson Mandela. All politicians are loved and hated to some degree, and yet here was a man that managed to rise above a political agenda, creed and hue - who else could say they endeavoured to do that?
Incredibly reflective Friday this will be. Especially in light of the disparity that is the president of the country today. A corrupt, diabolical man, frankly, whose greed and corruption seems to mar the legacy Mandela has left. And could you get any two people sitting on the opposite of a spectrum as Mandel and Julius Malema? One was filled with forgiveness, saw a bigger picture and strove for peace. The other...well, we know about Julius.
That's the most heartbreaking thing here. Not that Mandela is finally left to rest in peace at 95, but because of who leads the country at this moment.
Still, even in death Mandela manages to bring people together across every divide. So many of my friends back home are popping into his house in Houghton to dance, cry and pay their respects.
I wish I was home today.
I'm streaming Highveld. It's just not the same.
Update: Look what I made! Well, it could've been a child, to be fair.
There's a gingerbread decorating gig happening in the corner of the office today, so I made a mini Madiba. Complete with jazzy shirt as a tribute.