We’d just gotten back to Cape Town from a two- day Internet and TV- free stay at the Karoo, when I read my phone messages at the hotel. One that was cryptic enough from a colleague all the way in Singapore saying:
“You go all the way there and he dies?!”
“Who died?!”, I asked.
Unbeknownst to us happily trailing animals at a remote wildlife reserve, South Africa’s beloved Tata Madiba (literally Father Madiba, in his native Xhosa name)- Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Nelson Mandela to the rest world- had died at 95 in his home in Johannesburg.
It was like holding one’s breath underwater in a public swimming pool: when you stay underwater long enough, you lose sense of what is going on above the surface. And when you bob up after a few minutes, you realize that you’ve shifted elsewhere in the swimming pool and that the whole place has obviously changed. After confirming Mandela’s death on the television, we were suddenly walking along streets where things had obviously changed.
There’s still great debate about Mandela’s legacy in South Africa- whether as hero or villain. But despite many suspicions hurled against his motives and allegiance throughout his lifetime, I personally can’t help but commend a person whose general message in life was harmony amidst hate; opportunity over oppression; cooperation despite the chaos.
“I have fought against white domination, and I have fought against black domination. I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is an ideal which I hope to live for and to achieve. But if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die.”
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