2 years on – my post then on Mr. Mandela’s death. Today, here in South Africa there are various commemorations going on, past clips on TV. I thought I’d check out my post from 2 years ago, and am re-posting it today –

Our absent father – o how we all need leaders such as he in these troubled times – peace and reconciliation –

 I woke up to the news at 7.00 a.m. this past Friday here in Johannesburg, South Africa. It seems that many had heard the news in different parts of the world before we did. The announcement was officially made some hours after his death at 8.50 p.m on Thursday night.

Did it ‘help’ that we had been expecting his death for a long while now? No, not really. Death is always sudden and shocking – it’s so final –

Friday was wet and cool. I was in my car much of the time; hearing people call in to the radio station expressing their shock and sadness was a release valve for me. I was in tears most of the morning with ongoing pangs somewhere in the region of my heart. I got to the clinic for my afternoon shift just before 1.00 and saw a prominently placed large table inside the clinic with a large head and shoulder framed photograph of Mr. Mandela placed against the wall. There were zillions of small, already burnt candles on the table. Again, that pang – I looked for a lighter but there wasn’t one. The girls at the rooms said that earlier in the morning all the candles were lit and the entire staff of the clinic had gathered around the table singing and swaying. Pat and Lyn said they had never heard anything quite so beautiful or seen anything quite so moving. I can only imagine – plaintive, beautiful singing, chorus, dancing, ululating –

 I remember that day on 27th April 1994 when we cast our vote, black and white, voting for a democratic South Africa for which we had fought so long and hard. O such a day of celebration! – those long, long queues from early morning to late at night, walking alongside fellow human beings to cast our votes, the majority of whom had been denied the vote since 1948. Also, such celebration when he was released from prison in February 1990. We came alight and alive. Such a sense of rightness and gladness, a sense of practical freedom at last in the air, each having a vote, breaking from the bonds of apartheid, and separateness. Voting for Mr. Mandela as president of our beloved country. ‘Never’, said he, ‘Never again. Never again will we have one claiming superiority over another ..’ *

I saw former President Thabo Mbeki addressing people at Oxford Road Synagogue last evening wearing a yarmulke, on TV, emphasising the need to remember Mr. Mandela’s life and all that he stood for; and to remember the constitution as the struggle continues for inter alia economic freedom.

The spotlight on him during his lifetime will be on him again as people from all corners of the world come to pay tribute to him and to mourn his passing. 85 current heads of state as I write, 10 past heads of state, royalty, dignitaries, eminences, the famous, celebrities .. …

We celebrate his life at the same time. A beautiful paradox. Or, if not a paradox, most certainly a bringing together of those two seeming contradictions. We mourn the passing of Mr. Nelson Mandela, and celebrate his magnificent life, for which we are in eternal gratitude. As we mourn our loss, so are we celebrating his life. There is a reconciling of those two powerful emotions, coming together in a magical way, uniting our nation. Us, as South Africans. We, as people. It is a shared pain. And a shared remembrance of all that he stood for. Prepared to sacrifice his life no less. There is unity amongst us, of all shades and hues, of all ages, now, as a nation, as we mourn and celebrate.

The world is arriving on our doorstep here in South Africa. It’s already begun. We have MAJOR security issues to attend to. We must deal with all unprecedented, convoluted logistics in a practical way as we are about to experience a particularly large event in history.

Mr. Mandela will be laid to rest on Sunday, at his home in Qunu in the Eastern Cape, the Wild Coast, the Transkei – on the other side of the Kei River. He was born into royalty of the Xhosa clan, of the abaThembu tribe in Mvezo; his father was deposed as chief magistrate when Mr. Mandela was 5 years old, and Qunu became their refuge and home. He had a happy childhood it seems and developed a deep love for the Transkei and its land, people and Nature. Qunu will be descended upon by thousands, including the villagers from that rural area and further afield. There is a memorial service tomorrow at the FNB stadium, more commonly known as Soccer Stadium, in which we hosted the 2010 Soccer World Cup. There will be thousands and thousands of common people, people like me, as well as heads of state and dignitaries and attendant security. I trust we will rise to this monumental practical task of ensuring security and smoothness for all.

Imagine, on the outer level, as an act of homage to our Madiba –

It is not the time for anxiety right now. We have a common purpose in celebrating and mourning and our attention needs to be there. It is a loss, to each of us in some real way, to our country as a collective, to the wider world …

I would imagine that from next week when all have left to return home, and when the dust begins to settle, we will, as South Africans, sigh a collective breath. But when we gather our  breath again, will we continue to honour Madiba and all that he stood for?

We will have to take a deep collective breath of courage when the dust is at least partly settled. We have huge issues ahead. The freedom of the press is under dire threat. As I write, the owner of Sekunjalo Investment Holdings who recently bought Independent News and Media PIC (for a cost of $194 million) has fired the executive editor from The Cape times for reporting on alleged corruption within – just this past Friday. Our public protector Thuli Madonsela is under fire from parliament and the government for her exposure of corruption in the government. We have gantries for road users that have just come into effect about which we are protesting. We have an election looming next year. There is much else that is of great concern. Education is an ongoing worry and a disaster for the masses.

But, for the moment, it is not a time for anxiety about those matters. It will be though, and we will continue the struggle in Mr. Nelson Mandela’s name. It is necessary to make Mr Mandela’s name continue to be an inspiration to us – keep him alive as a symbol of reconciliation.

I hope that we as South Africans, will rise to this, once the dust drops. It won’t be easy. Hopefully, those who have visited from different parts of the globe will also let his name continue to inspire – we are grateful for your outpouring of shared grief and respect.

Hambe Gahle, Madiba. Go well, rest in peace. We will never forget you. We will honour your legacy. Thank you.

* My son met him some years ago at his home in Houghton when his school jazz band performed for him. He was fit and well and my son knows that he was hugely privileged to have Mr. Mandela shake his hand and beam on him. He made this song some years later in honour of Madiba’s birthday last year in July 2012.

The link below is ‘The Kifnness’ recording of ‘Never Again’. http://soundcloud.com/thekiffness/the-kiffness-never-again

52 Comments on – Mandela – Madiba – Metaphor – Mandala – mourn – celebrate – reconciliation –

  1. A beautiful post, Susan. Very moving. It is so timely, too, given conditions all over the world.
    “Hopefully, those who have visited from different parts of the globe will also let his name continue to inspire.” Let us hope.

    • Thanks Merril for coming by – we’ve had great men and women in times past and present in all spheres, whether politics, religion, social commentators, artists etc who inspire us; perhaps some more than others. But who affirm for me for example: yes this is right, no this is wrong; yes there is a way to peace tricky it may e.g. Gandhi and his policy of non-violence ..

  2. Susan,

    Thank you for your beautiful post and your last line in the above comment. It’s no mistake that for many religions, the Supreme Being is Love: not creeds, not words, not scriptures, not ideals, rules, beliefs or symbols……just love. As you say, Love is the most powerful and sacred force there is, and only by acting from it can we help to bring healing and peace to our world. We are all deeply indebted to Nelson Mandela; his example and his memory will always bring hope and inspiration.

    • Thank you Jeanie for affirming the power of love. And not just between individuals but on more levels, love for the land so that it isn’t trashed, love for the forests so they are not deforested for eg palm oil and the orangutans are displaced..Love for the seas and rivers so that they do not have oil and garbage spilled into them. Love for one’s self, and then with and to another, Love that shows the light in the darkness so that there is no need for blind unconscious desecration of all that is true and beautiful.

  3. As I sit here, reading a very inspirational work of art, I have Oprah’s Super Soul Sunday, in the background. I feel so involved in the power of love. Your son’s video, warmed me. I see little devotion to kindness and matters of caring for others in the political atmosphere today. It isn’t about oneness as much as “I’m the one” these days. The Mandelas, the Jimmy Carters, the Martin Luther King Jrs, seem to be placed in a closed off room, far from our common senses. We as a people are far too wrapped in the material world. It feels fabulous to read a piece that brings me out of recent political events. I do not wish to return to the days when I was drowning in my ideals. Thank you for bringing back to what really counts. Mandela was a loving soul and I must remember that I am also am. What a beautiful being he IS.

    • That is lovely Marsha, thank you. The power of love, vs the love of power. Yes, Martin Luther King was a true hero and still is, Jimmy Carter never went to war, Nelson Mandela was a true man of peace also. So lovely that you feel enveloped by the power of love and are love .. the strongest force that there is …

  4. Free Nelson Mandela! It was a song in the eighties that first got me interested in Nelson Mandela. My mother told me that he was an inncoent man thrown in jail and I could not believe taht this actually had happened. And when he was released we all glowed with excitement over the good that was to come. Over the equality that would arise now in South Africa. Thanks for reminding us of the energy.

    • Thank you Susanne … yes, his legacy lives on in spite of all the turbulence in our country, and world wide. Sadly, things are not yet equal, not by a long stretch. The poor are getting poorer, education is a joke except it’s not a joke … but, the people are saying enough with the corruption in politics and elsewhere ..

  5. This is deliberately late. I have been visiting the very busy home of my son and at the very busy home of my daughter now. I held onto it for my own reasons. I have seen so many go and grieve hard: Ghandi, JFK, MLK, Bobby K, on and on. My heart relived them all with Madiba (I will call him that as he is special to all freedom loving people throughout the planet).

    How could I feel this mournful pain and this happiness for the same event? He was old, more than paid his dues, and those of millions of people who would feel his work, live better as a result, and so much more. He worked so hard for others that he had earned his passing to the other side. I join those who are grateful that his passing was, as his life, a gift of love. He taught that we are all at oneness with God, used a prison sentence that would have made any other person miserable, and gave up so much of what he could have been to be the person he was.

    Susan, I cannot express anything more than what you and others have written and that’s okay. He belonged to South Africa, yet his love showered us all. Thank you for sharing him with the world.

    • Marsha, thank you so much. Mr. Mandela’s time to go had indeed come. Though he will never be gone really. Like JFK (50 years ago), Gandhi, MLK their message of the importance of each individual will never die. They showed us by the power of their convictions that we can each make a difference. Our own Steve Biko … and the 3 that you mention and I do too, assassinated.

      I so appreciate your stopping by Marsha, thank you again.

  6. Thanks so much Samantha! I appreciate this, and so pleased too that you enjoyed the Kiffness music … I told Davey last evening. He loves to hear compliments!
    Yes, Never Again ..

  7. Thank you, Susan, for writing this beautiful piece. I apologize for arriving here at this post so late. I will try to share it on my Facebook page. And, I love the Kiffness’s music. They are extraordinary musicians and performers and the message in this song is so simple and so poignant.

    Let us hope: Never Again.

    Love, Samantha

  8. Wonderfully written and commented upon. Your tribute to Mandela. We all have the privilege to be alive during his time on earth. His magnificence astounds.
    Thank you for your sensitive words expressing such depth of what it is to be and to powerfully change our world but with healing not fracturing.

    • Thank you so much Susan for commenting. Yes it is a privilege that he was among us for so long. He will be long remembered by those of us living and continue to be an inspiration.

  9. A very step by step guide to the personal, in which there is always the transcendent. I so valued being allowed back into Johannesburg on that day a week ago, it brought so much back, particularly those high points of explosive hope!

    Mandela restored the South Africa of my childhoods dreams and my bond with my grandfather who knew exactly how deeply felt were African longings because he shared them. Thanks for this post.

    • Thank you for commenting Philippa. Yes, I think we all have those longings for unity. Who knows what will happen in these coming days weeks months leading up to the 2014 elections but we will remember Mr. Mandela and all for which he stood.
      Do have a listen to the song Philippa .. I think you will enjoy it! And thank you again.

  10. Susan, sorry, but i don’t see where/how i can follow your blog – is it possible for you to put me on your mailing list? Would much appreciate that!

  11. Good morning My Dear Friend,

    As I read your article I had tears in my eyes. Tears shed for a person who has left a legacy, a life with a purpose fulfilled, and what more could we all hope for when our journeys have ended than to know that we have done our jobs, completed the tasks laid before us and that it is time to move on. I believe that Madiba was ready to move on.

    More than that, I believe that Madiba has shown us that life is more than existing on a planet. That life in itself is more than getting together to enjoy ourselves and fulfill our own egoistic wishes. That life is all about having purpose.

    I don’t know how many people live on this planet without direction, without purpose. They get up in the morning and go to bed at night with no plans for the future, no goals to reach out to and change the world.

    Sure, I don’t doubt that they would like to see the world change, but they are unwilling to stand up and be counted and began changing the world by changing themselves. Madiba was not afraid to stand up and began to process of change with himself, even if it meant going to prison for the way he thought.

    A great statesman has finished his journey. His journey had to end at sometime. I only hope that the people in South Africa as well as the people on our globe come to the realization that it is now our turn to step up to the plate. Let us hope that people begin to understand this with their hearts and move towards unity.

    Shalom,
    Patricia

    • nullThank you Patricia, for your deeply felt response.

      We’ll be analysing this all for a long time yet, until the cows come home, and even then it will not be complete. Mr. Mandela’s life – and death – has provided an awareness, or an opening, for others, and an opportunity for each of us to step up to the plate if we are to be a united country.

      As you know, he endured 27 years in exile on Robben Island. Yet, he emerged victorious after his isolation with his heartfelt message of peace, compassion and humility. And above all, forgiveness. He stated that he saw those years of confinement as necessary for his development as an individual in that he gained a broader vision of his place in the world. In his autobiography (Long Walk to Freedom), he stated that the only way to make an impact on society and one’s fellow man, is to effect a change in one’s self. It is necessary, he said, to let your fellow man know that you pose no threat to him.

      We are still a deeply fractious society with so many concerns on our doorstep. I know we are not alone in this. The boo-ing of Mr. Jacob Zuma at the FNB stadium on Tuesday for Mr. Mandela’s memorial service, was a protest, deeply felt by many, at how short we have fallen of Mr. Mandela’s ideal. Many have said that it was disrespectful towards Zuma yet, 6 years ago this is precisely what happened when Zuma ‘took over’ and Mr. Thabo Mbeki, then president, was booed. The fake sign language man, whose signing language was incomprehensible, and who said that he was suffering from schizophrenia is, quite possibly, a very clear manifestation of the schizophrenia in our beloved country. The cracks are deep and it is possible that he cracked under the pressure.

      I hope that we don’t crack under the pressure, and that we keep walking as Mr. Mandela did.

      He is a living example (now dead) of how one person can make a difference and is a living example of what can be transcended. I know that comparisons are odious, but like Ghandi, Mr. Mandela was a great statesman. He was a reconciler of the oppressed and oppressor.

      Thank you again Patricia, and Shalom.

      Susan

  12. Susan, what a moving paean of praise to Mandiba, whom I have always loved. Great men and women who rise like the legendary phoenix out of the anonymous gray masses are precious gifts to us….I know that I have personally been inspired and helped enormously by knowing that these sort of giants erupt every now and again on the planet — to show us what we all can be. You are a terrific writer too…and I am glad we connected. Love!

    • So kind Mira thank you!

      Yes, thanks be to all who have inspired us in some way or the other – we stand on the shoulders of giants and giantesses … each inspiring us to seek the truth of ourselves. We each can be the phoenix that rises … easier said than done!

      You too are a terrific writer Mira and I too am so pleased we met! Thank you! Love!

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  14. Dear Susan,

    Thank you for this beautifully written post; evoking strong emotions and a reminder of the parallel of issues that we as humans all face.

    Love,

    R.

    • Thank you so much Robert for your response. It will be so interesting to see what happens post Mandela – we’re all holding our breath. We all face these collective problems it seems; perhaps we can all rise to the challenge and make the world a little better, bit by bit.

      • I believe it can be done. My life may not last long, due to age, but as long a I live, I will stand hand in hand with those who love others unconditionally. Those who desire peace and freedom. And those who long for the same in all humanity. What a challenge God has provided for us.

        • A challenge indeed Marsha! And for us to know that freedom exacts its own price – a responsibility to be borne. Peace in our own hearts is a good start so that we are able to extend it to others?

  15. What a most wonderful tribute, Susan. I love this line: “we came alight and alive.”
    A great man, indeed, for a country that so badly needed one.

    I thoroughly enjoyed reading this.

    • Thank you so much Sylvia. We watched the service on TV. The heavens were weeping, never has it rained for so long and so hard as it did today. Pres. Obama gave the best speech and said that he knew of Mr. Mandela when he was a student and was inspired by him. He also said that Madiba inspired us to find the best in ourselves.

  16. A great tribute Sis – and I loved Gillian’s reference to the Seagull named Nelson flying from Robben Island. May our Madiba rest in peace, and may his people too, be peaceful. Incidentally, I smsed Cape Talk radio station to ask them to play Kiffness’ “Never Again” – if they did, I didn’t hear it. All radio stations in this past week have been paying tribute 24 hours daily, and ditched their usual programmes.

    • Thank you Sis. Yes, wasn’t Gillian’s reference to Nelson the seagull lovely!
      Thank you re: Cape Talk and request to play Davey’s song … who knows? maybe!

  17. A very moving essay, Susan. I’m grateful to read this perspective from Johannesburg that validates the sentiment felt by many around the world. He was a most inspirational man, whose influence is almost immeasurable.

  18. South Africa experienced and continues to experience a turbulent time. I hope that Mr. Mandela’s spirit remains strong within your people. Excellent post! Thank you.

  19. South Africa surprised the world in 1990-1994. The heart of her people true Ubuntu style rose to Mandela’s dream of making this a great nation where the lion will lie down with the lamb.

    It is indeed a dark cloud on this glory to see the public Protector under pressure and the freedom of the press strangled as we sleep, or when waking only to cheer the next soccer goal. Freedom is hard to win and easy to lose. May this Ubuntu stay alert to the slowly disappearing dream that the Seagull called Nelson brought in from Robben Island and made an ancient prophecy come true. Thank you Susan for your blogging and nudging our memories of the dawn when South Africa was free.

    • Thank you Gillian for your valuable response. There is always a shadow when there is light and we need to be constantly reminded of this, now, and in the days to come. May the spirit of Ubuntu never die –

      Thank you again.

  20. Such an emotional time Susan. With the tears come the joys and realisation that the world will once again be reminded of Mandela’s work which will always be a work in progress. Thanks for a beautiful post. xox

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