By Denrele Animasaun
“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 Mandela.
Last Thursday, a bright light dimmed but will never be extinguished. That beacon of light will continue to light the way through the darkness for years to come.
Our elder,Tata Rolihlahla Nelson Mandela has gone to meet with our ancestors, so we should celebrate for a life well spent in the service of others. We can not be sad, we have to rejoice that this man will lived because his ideal lives on.
“A man’s goodness is a flame that can be hidden but never extinguished”
We honour and celebrate his life as so others in and around the world. Every superlatives has been used to describe the man,elder statesman,leader and an all round fantastic human being so I will not even try to out do others. I will register my pride,happiness and profound sadness that I feel a bit empty by his departure.He has done very well by his people, his race and the world.We cannot ask him for more. We witnessed a star that comes once in many generations, and we are privileged to be in the midst of its radiance.
He is at peace with himself and the world. He is at peace and deserves the accolades.
His light definitely lit our way as when he showed that forgiveness is possible, reconciliation,a must; that good does triumphs over evil, oppression and violence. We pay witness to those who proclaim that; good cannot triumph, that only violence is the way to deal with violence, as the answer to governing the masses.
People often do not forget where they were when seismic event in history happened. These are one of those times. I knew where I was when Mandela was released from prison and I knew where I was when his death was announced.
Both occasions filled me with indescribable emotions. It was a feeling like no other and unless people had been part of the journey in one way or another then it will be difficult to describe. I know I was deliriously ecstatic that I know that that moment I was there to witness.
“As I walked out the door toward the gate that would lead to my freedom, I knew if I didn’t leave my bitterness and hatred behind, I’d still be in prison,” This was the mark of the man.
In our time, we too, can say we know of a man that stood tall, forthright, determined ,resolutely refused to be compromised and would not negotiate his freedom at the expense of the majority until everyone is freed of this heinous system that was a blight to humanity. Mandela lived up to his name Rolihlahla. In his Xhosa tribe, his name means ‘pulling the branch of a tree or troublemaker’, he did pull the branch of the tree of oppression and made trouble for the persecutors.
I cut my teeth on the novel, CRY THE BELOVED COUNTRY as it gave a eerie and candid account on how life was like for majority under apartheid, It was my reawakening and I can only imagine others who felt the way I felt an abhorrence of injustice and human cruelty.
“Cry, the beloved country, for the unborn child that is the inheritor of our fear. Let him not love the earth too deeply. Let him not laugh too gladly when the water runs through his fingers, nor stand too silent when the setting sun makes red the veld with free. Let him not be too moved when the birds of his land are singing, nor give too much of his heart to a mountain or valley. For fear will rob him of all if he gives too much.” CRY THE BELOVED COUNTRY -Alan Paton
Alan Paton, the writer of this popular book was a white South African and later became an anti-apartheid activist, and also testified on Mandela’s behalf at his sentencing trial. That was the strength and the allure of Mandela. One of the maxim that Mandela lives by is very much a leaf off the book; “hate no man, and desire power over no man”
Mandela never forgot the debt he owed to supporters in the United Kingdom. In 1996 he used a speech to both Houses of Parliament in London to give his thanks.
“We take this opportunity once more to pay tribute to the millions of Britons who, through the years, stood up to say: No to apartheid!”
One of the stories I was told by a close friend was, how two young men,sneaked in to the building that Mandela was due to be opening in Brixton. They found Mandela was already in the building having requested to meet and greet the cleaners. They did meet and spoke to the man too!.
“Difficulties break some men but make others. No axe is sharp enough to cut the soul of a sinner who keeps on trying, one armed with the hope that he will rise even in the end”.
When Nelson was making his famous speech,I was too young to know that this great man will change the course of history.
“I have fought against white domination, and I have fought against black domination,” he said. “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.”
I feel truly honoured to live through these times to see a great human being make so much sacrifice in spite of his suffering. He was determined to extend a hand of forgiveness to his tormentors and move his nation to the path of healing; and the world watched and learns from such magnanimity.
“I was called a terrorist yesterday, but when I came out of jail, many people embraced me, including my enemies, and that is what I normally tell other people who say those who are struggling for liberation in their country are terrorists. I tell them that I was also a terrorist yesterday, but, today, I am admired by the very people who said I was one.”
It is incredible how many of the leaders in the stadium were amongst those who accuse him of terrorism and passively and actively did business and turned a blind eye to apartheid regime. He was on the U.S. terror watch list. Just imagine that, Mandela wasn’t removed from the U.S. terror watch list until 2008 at age 89!