Swaziland woke on Friday morning to the news of the passing of Nobel Peace Prize winner and South Africa’s first democratically elected president, Nelson Mandela. Living in Southern Africa, I was asked by a reader to write about this important occasion, I guess with the anticipation that such a profound event for Southern Africa would be met with an equally profound reaction locally. I fear the real response may be disappointing.
Certainly, condolences and memories of Tata Madiba quickly choked up the email system throughout the day, but generally life in Southern Africa carried on as usual. With 95 years under his belt, 27 years in prison, several years in-and-out of hospital with cancer and lung infections, and hordes of greedy family members hovering and fighting over his savings like starved vultures, the reaction to Madiba’s death was a nationwide sigh of relief. Finally he can be at peace.
While Mandela may have passed on physically, the general sentiment is a hope that his legacy has not. Right up until the last few months of his life, Madiba reminded us that justice, equality and common humanity remain a fight worthy of all our attention and efforts. As I read the emails of condolences, the message that comes through the loudest, though, is not one of fighting, but one of humility and a willingness to admit error and question one’s own judgement. This is the legacy that now lies in our hands.
“A good leader can engage in a debate frankly and thoroughly,
knowing that at the end he and other side must be closer, and thus emerge stronger.
You don’t have that idea when you are arrogant, superficial, and uninformed”