- Posted December 8, 2013 by
This iReport is part of an assignment:
Nelson Mandela: Your memories
Madiba Will Live Forever
As I sit down to encapsulate my thoughts, I find that the world is in mourning for wonderful, glorious Madiba. The world is also, in parallel, celebrating the amazing life of this man whom we all claim. The scenes of dancing and singing and “toy-toying” outside the Johannesburg home of Nelson Mandela speak volumes. Is there a person on this planet who doesn’t know who Madiba is, and who isn’t sad at his passing? And is there a person on this planet who has a bad word to say about this giant of a man?
And, just stop and think for a moment, is there anyone else, anywhere, who evokes the same love and adoration? Is there another politician anywhere in the world who will be mourned like this? Actually is there another politician who will be mourned? Period. Possibly, such persons come across the horizons of humanity once in a millineum.
Sickened by corruption, sickened by inefficiency, sickened by venal politicians. I am not sure how many politicians are genuinely loved. As in loved and revered and admired – say the way Gandhi was. Or Madiba. These were two men who had principles and vision and such a profound love for humanity, that they ignored and rose above divisions. Gandhi was heart broken at the idea of India being divided along religious lines. Despite having suffered at the hands of the abhorrent racist apartheid régime, Madiba stood firm that the new South Africa was for all South Africans – black, white, Indian, coloured.
Madiba was adored. He was credited with having almost single-handedly prevented civil war after 1994. He was the President for every single person living in the country, not just his own race or clan. A man for all people, like our own Bapu. I am still racking my brains to think of another politician of that class. Another man or woman who evokes such love and respect and tears and smiles. And on the day we mourn Madiba (and celebrate, never forget we should also celebrate such a life) what do we have on our political scenario anywhere?
My recollection of Nelson Mandela- Madiba, as he is called- reminds me of Jacaranda trees, that in my humble opinion, are the most majestic of all the trees, lending their grace and beauty to an assortment of lands the world around. Their vivid color and grand stature command your attention, sometimes enough to lure you, like a curious child, to stand beneath them and stare up in awe at their branches festooned with dazzling purple blooms
These magnificent trees hold a special place in my heart, as they transport me back to the glorious landscapes of South Africa, where the capital city of Pretoria is known as “The Jacaranda City.”And that is where I met this exquisite specimen of homo sapiens. Come springtime, Pretoria becomes a sea of purple, awash with endless rows of flowering Jacaranda trees. It is a rather august sight to see, this florid assembly of nature ruling over the urban landscape. It’s no wonder the university students in Pretoria have a sweet little legend that when passing underneath a Jacaranda tree, if a petal falls on your head, you will surely pass your exams.
The farewell to Nelson Mandela will be an event like no other – a major organisational challenge posed to people each dealing with the deeply personal loss of a man everyone called "Tata", father.
The burial of former president Mandela will be in accordance with the traditions of his Xhosa tribal roots and a private, family event although a handful of the celebrities and dignitaries closest to him are thought likely to be invited. Xhosa tradition usually includes the slaughter of a cow or sheep, periods of prayer, singing and silence, and the possessions of the loved one placed inside their grave to help them in the afterlife. As a lover of good food, whose personal cook is a celebrity Mr Mandela foresaw such an eventuality in a letter he wrote to Zulu chief Mangosuthu Buthelezi from prison on Robben Island in 1968.
“The death of a human being, whatever may be his station in life, is always a sad and painful affair,” he wrote. “That of a noted public figure brings not only grief and mourning but very often entails implications of a wider nature.”in her own right in South Africa, Mr Mandela is likely to have stipulated that a final feast be held in his honour.
Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela is sometimes called by other names. Each name has its own special meaning and story. When you use them you should know what you are saying and why. So here is a brief explanation of each name, as he explained them to me during our first meeting.
Rolihlahla – This is Mandela’s birth name: it is an isiXhosa name which means “pulling the branch of a tree”, but colloquially it means “troublemaker”. His father gave him this name.
Nelson – This name was given to him on his first day at school by his teacher, Miss Mdingane. Giving African children English names was a custom among Africans in those days and was influenced by British colonials who could not easily, and often would not, pronounce African names. It is unclear why Miss Mdingane chose the name “Nelson” for Mandela.
Madiba – This is the name of the clan of which Mr Mandela is a member. A clan name is much more important than a surname as it refers to the ancestor from which a person is descended. Madiba was the name of a Thembu chief who ruled in the Transkei in the 18th century. It is considered very polite to use someone’s clan name.
Tata – This isiXhosa word means “father” and is a term of endearment that many South Africans use for Mandela. Since he is a father figure to many, they call him Tata regardless of their own age.
Khulu – Mandela is often called “Khulu”, which means great, paramount, grand. The speaker means “Great One” when referring to Mandela in this way. It is also a shortened form of the isiXhosa word “uBawomkhulu” for “grandfather”.
Dalibhunga – This is the name Mandela was given at the age of 16 once he had undergone initiation, the traditional Xhosa rite of passage into manhood. It means “creator or founder of the council” or “convenor of the dialogue”. The correct use of this name when greeting Mandela is “Aaah! Dalibhunga”.
Other names – Of course, Mandela’s family use many terms of endearment for him. His grandchildren use variants of “Grandfather”, like “Granddad” for instance. Mrs Graça Machel frequently uses “Papa”.
I am moved by the way in which his words directly link to his values and principles and these are what make Nelson Mandela one of the most loved and admired individuals of the twenty-first century. He chooses his words deliberately, he means what he says and he wants his audience to easily grasp their meaning. As he said on 14 July 2000:
It is never my custom to use words lightly. If twenty-seven years in prison have done anything to us, it was to use the silence of solitude to make us understand how precious words are and how real speech is in its impact on the way people live and die.
His emphasis on the importance of connecting with an audience through the clarity of words is further demonstrated by this quote from a speech he delivered on 21 September 1953:"Long speeches, the shaking of fists, the banging of tables and strongly worded resolutions out of touch with the objective conditions do not bring about mass action and can do a great deal of harm to the organisation and the struggle we serve."
I was impressed by his well known for his sense of humour and his ability to find amusement in even the most challenging circumstances. He explained the value he placed on humour:"You sharpen your ideas by reducing yourself to the level of the people you are with, and a sense of humour and a complete relaxation, even when you’re discussing serious things, does help to mobilise friends around you. And I love that." He was passionate about being a real human being: "We of the ANC had always stood for a non-racial democracy, and we shrank from any action which might drive the races further apart than they already were." And then he remarked: " I hope that our movement will always hold that commitment to non-racialism dear in its thoughts, policies and actions. It is that commitment, even in circumstances where we could have been pardoned for deviating from it, that amongst other things earned us the respect of the world."
I spoke of the tough chalenges that face us and he responded: "Difficulties break some men but make others. No axe is sharp enough to cut the soul of a sinner who keeps on trying, one armed with the hope that he will rise even in the end."
He told clearly that he is very selective. While accepting all human beings as equal, he restricted his friendship. " I like friends who have independent minds because they tend to make you see problems from all angles." This does not negate his cioncept of equality, as he remarked " I have never regarded any man as my superior, either in my life outside or inside prison".
Like othe rvisionaries he was not afraid of death. Like Oliover Wendell Holmes, he knoew its inevitability and said: " Death is something inevitable. 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 I have made that effort and that is, therefore, why I will sleep for the eternity."
Her did not believe in a life that is just existence and I was moved when he said: "What counts in life is not the mere fact that we have lived. It is what difference we have made to the lives of others that will determine the significance of the life we lead."
Wedid talk of integrity and honesty and when I lamented tghe failings that are so prominent in most of politicans, he remarked :" Those who conduct themselves with morality, integrity and consistency need not fear the forces of inhumanity and cruelty.".
Verily, Madiba, you are a Collosus that have moved across this world in a time when all human values are at stake. Centuries later people would wonder Could such a man really exist?