Friday, December 06, 2013

farewell madiba

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.
Hamba kahle Tata Madiba. May you rest in peace.

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.


Secret said...

Beautiful post, Peas.
5fm's morning show was all tributes this morning - which meant I drive to work with tears streaming down my face. I never had the privilege of meeting Madiba, so I can only imagine how it feels for those who know him.

Coffee and Books Cape Town said...

Well said Boo xx

michelle mccrory said...

Peas, I understand the grief over the passing of Mandela is worldwide but I think we musnt forget that Margaret Thatcher was a staunch opponent of Mandela and the ANC and wanted it (and him) eradicated. We must also not forget the people responsible for locking him up for over 25 years. The world mustnt forget those who opposed him when it rewrites history in the media

michelle mccrory said...

Peas on Toast said...

Michelle - I loved Madiba and I have a LOT of respect for Margaret Thatcher. Both of them, in my mind, different and in no way comparable.

Importantly, Nelson Mandela headed up Umkhonta we Sizwe during his time as a freedom fighter in the 80s. This was the military wing of the ANC, which placed bombs in various parts of the country (mainly Johannesburg and one in Krugersdorp if I remember correctly). If terrorists can be defined by the procuring of bombs in public places, then Nelson could be defined as a terrorist.

However, what is important to remember here, is the difference was, Nelsonw as a 'terrorist' for the greater GOOD. Not something I can say for terrorirsts of today.

That's my two cents - and believe you me, have i not heard many people saying to me :But you like Margaret Thatcher, so how could you like Nelson Mandela."
Simple - two different leaders, leading very different policies for two very different countries.

michelle mccrory said...

Peas i completely understand your love for your country and for Mandela who was an incredible pacifist and leader against terrible oppressiona and apartheid - As a British person (half english half scottish) I dont pass judgement on any white south African and their countries history (as I am not South African) even though I have travelled to Pretoria and Joburg for work and had the privilege to see where Mandela lived alongside Desmon Tutu, where Biko was tortured, where they filmed Tsotsi (is that spelled right?!!) I found it all incredibly fascinating - I know your country has a very unique history that puts the white ruling minority in avery precarious position - and i do not judge you for that in anyway - as i have not walked in your shoes. In that respect I do have to say that is why sometimes I have winced slightly when i read your writing of your ardent support for Margaret Thatcher when you didnt live through the Thatcher years in Britain and didnt experience the effects of her econmic policy on the communities within the UK. I know you have said in the past your husband has asked you to tone it down a bit as we are a divided nation on this subject (if you travel north of London!!).

I just wanted to say that we also musnt forget that Mandela was a political freedom fighter who had to fight intense repression - and not forget Margaret Thatcher was one of those who vehemently opposed him - i understand Mandela united South Africa through peace but I also think we shouldnt forget those who also tried to destroy him.

my 2 pence!!

ps am enjoying reading about your pregnancy x