Monday, December 9, 2013

Nelson Mandela's Legacy : A 7 Year Old's View


It was a warm and humid Thursday evening and we had just left a beautiful prayer evening ready to embark on our individual journeys home. Standing around our vehicles and saying our goodbyes, someone had turned their ignition on and the sound of a breaking news radio report came booming across the driveway.

It was the voice of our President, Jacob Zuma, informing us that the father of the nation and the most loved and respected man in the history of our beloved country had passed on.
The time was 11:07pm.
You could hear a pin drop.
We knew that Madiba had not been well, and we as a nation were preparing ourselves for this day. Yet nobody anticipated the shock and despair we would feel when the day finally arrived. We later learnt that Madiba had passed on peacefully in his sleep at 8:50pm that night.

We went to pay our respects at Madiba's Houghton home on Saturday night and the mood was simply electric yet somber. 
How is this possible you ask?
Imagine an intersection in a leafy suburb bursting with throngs of people, South Africans and foreigners alike, the young and the old, black and white and every other color of the rainbow, lighting candles in one corner, laying wreaths in another, writing eulogy notes on scraps of paper, saying silent prayers, singing struggle songs and dancing, all while rejoicing the life that was Nelson Rohlihlahla Mandela.

The worlds media were there in droves. I imagine they still are, as they have been since the day Madiba first went into hospital almost a year ago.
Through all the dancing and singing and clicking of cameras, I heard a tiny whimper next to me and looked down to see my 7 year old daughter Sabreen in tears.
I kneeled down before her thinking she was afraid of everything happening around her. Kids at this age are easily scared of crowds and boisterous activity. I assumed she needed me to hold her hand and assure her of her safety.
I whispered and asked her why she was crying.

She replied through soft tears and an even softer voice, "The best President we've ever had has died Dad!"
My own tears seemed to defy my steely composure and soon flowed freely.
Nelson Mandela was a man she had never met and had at best only ever heard about. 
Remember that from 2010 he had reclused himself from public life as his health deteriorated. She would have been 4 years old at the time. There was no context for Sabreen to place Madiba's greatness. She hadn't seen nor lived through his Presidency.
Yet the outpouring of love and admiration and respect on the night that she was witnessing left her in no doubt that this was no ordinary man. 

Such is the legacy of Madiba.
Many have written and spoken about the effect he has had on their lives, and he has touched so many lives.
Until that night I hadn't realized how astounding an effect he had on the youngest amongst us.
We will forever be grateful for having lived during your era, and for the sacrifices you have made so that we could call ourselves free. For me personally, I shall be eternally grateful each time I look at my daughters, knowing that they enjoy the lives and rights and privileges they do because of you Madiba.

Hamba kahle Tata.

This was the photo my wife Shakera took outside Madiba's home on Saturday night.