When I woke up this morning, it was just another day. Then I heard the news … South Africa’s former president, our Madiba, had passed away the night before.
I’m not even going to try to cover the legacy that this man of peace has left us, because I truly don’t have the words. What I can do though is relate a story of how this man’s actions affected me and millions of ordinary South Africans on a bright sunny autumn day in 1994.
The build-up to this day had had the most incredibly diverse reactions. There were stories of people stockpiling tinned food, bottled water, buying generators, all digging in (quite literally) in preparation for the craziness that was to come during the period that South Africa was to have its first ever democratic election.
Then there was my experience (as was the experience of millions of other citizens). What made it special for me was this:
I had lived in a commune for a number of years. We were absolutely spoilt in that we had two chars who looked after nine residents of the commune. Having never had domestic staff growing up, I believe I was especially thankful and appreciative for the way these two ladies washed, cleaned, ironed, tidied and cooked for all of us.
I happened to form a particular bond with the one lady, Rosie Mkhonza, in that she was like a second mom to me. She came to live on the property when I had my very first home in the area and she worked for me one day a week.
To cut to the chase – nothing can describe the feeling I had having Rosie and her sister, Noki, all pile into my car and arrive at our local voting station, where we proceeded to join a queue of hundreds of people. See, Rosie, as with countless South Africans, had never voted before, so here she was as a 40+ year old woman, about to vote for the very first time for a government and leader of her choice. A landmark moment in the most immeasurable of ways. I cannot begin to describe the pride and happiness I felt standing in that queue with all of these wonderful ordinary people, as we patiently and mostly quietly, waited our turn on this world changing day. As it happened, Rosie and Noki’s vote (I believe) meant that their choice, Nelson Mandela, became our first ever democratically elected President for South Africa.
I think it behoves us all, as citizens of the world, to continue with Madiba’s legacy of humility and peace.
Good night Tata, thank you. Peace be with you and your family.
‘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.’ ~ Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela