Author: Saaleha Bhamjee

Step up in honour of Madiba, South Africa

“During my lifetime I have dedicated myself to this struggle of the African people. 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 with equal opportunities. It is an ideal which I hope to live for and to see realised. But if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die.”

For far too long, as a nation we’ve watched our father, Nelson Mandela, cling to life even when there was so little life left to cling to. I remember being shocked by how disoriented and shrunken he looked during the 2010 World Cup. But he’s had a full, rich life, I reasoned. His service to our nation, remarkable.

Yet, he clung to life for another three years because, as a nation, we would not let him go. We needed him still because he had become, over these last 20 years, an embodiment of the force that keeps us moving forward, however haltingly. He had come to represent our Hope.

Without it we feared we would not withstand the protracted, agonising birth of a vibrant democracy. He was a symbol of the triumph of the will of the people over oppression and indignity. A symbol of courage. A symbol of the power of forgiveness. A symbol of the resilience of the human spirit and a reminder that the desire to succeed should always be matched by a determination to stand up again each time life brings you to your knees. However deeply divided we may be as a nation, on one matter we remained united. The day this rich African earth, with its rolling hills and much too wide sky welcomed Nelson Mandela to its breast, was the day we as a nation were blessed.

His passing will see many voices raised in lament, and as many raised in celebration of his life. It will see a near beatification of the man. The adoring voices will finally dull enough for us to hear the murmurs of dissent. The voices that decry. That avow his role in our continued suffering. That is the point that you and I, who value his contribution and understand just how much he has made possible for each of us, need to remember: that while Nelson Mandela was at the helm, he had with him an able crew. South Africa’s slaying of the Monster of Apartheid was not a one-man show. His achievement could never have been possible without the contribution of millions of South Africans.

As a nation, WE made it happen.

“I have walked that long road to freedom. I have tried not to falter; I have made missteps along the way. But I have discovered the secret that after climbing a great hill, one only finds that there are many more hills to climb.  I have taken a moment here to rest, to steal a view of the glorious vista that surrounds me, to look back on the distance I have come. But I can rest only for a moment, for with freedom comes responsibilities, and I dare not linger, for my long walk is not yet ended.”

His death comes at a crucial time in our history. We’re an angry nation. Disillusioned. Divided.  Nkandla continues to sour our mouths. State coffers continue to be plundered while millions still live in near inhumane conditions. Many of us view our unstatesman-like president as little more than a moron. Elections loom, like a bank of angry clouds on the horizon. We’re plagued by uncertainty and more and more, we have the sense that South Africa is roiling. One small catalyst away from a massive implosion.

It is moments like these that, throughout history, have birthed leaders. True leaders. Sons and daughters of South Africa, step up. The shoes you have to fill are massive, but as Nelson Mandela said, “It always seems impossible until it’s done.”

Volcano drum majorettes perform in honour of Nelson Mandela on December 7 2013 outside his home in Vilakazi Street, Soweto. (Pic: Gallo)
Volcano Drum Majorettes perform in honour of Nelson Mandela on December 7 2013 outside his old home in Vilakazi Street, Soweto. (Pic: Gallo)

Hamba Kahle, Tata Madiba. A nation mourns, but we shall celebrate your legacy by fighting the good fight. For you. For ourselves. And for the generations to come. Your courage lives on in each son and daughter of South Africa.

“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.”

Saaleha Bhamjee is a writer, social media addict, confectioner and mother of five from Benoni, South Africa. She is a columnist for The Review, an East Rand publication. Visit her blog here.