NELSON Mandela who personified justice and freedom remains a global unifying figure even as his body lies in state at Union Buildings in Pretoria.
From royalty to commoners, black and white, diplomats, eminent persons, former presidents, incumbents, the able bodied and the infirm, the young and the old we are all united in grief as we pay tribute to this remarkable man who endured untold sacrifice to free his people.
Mandela not only forgave and reconciled with the architects of “apartness” who jailed him for 27 years, but he was the soul of reconciliation despite a thousand indignities perpetuated by apartheid and its machinery.
Even at the time of the negotiations for a new democratic South Africa, Mandela with his steely resolve remained disciplined when South African security forces tried to derail the peace talks by killing over 40 people in Boipatong on the night of June 1992. This was at the height of the Congress for a Democratic South Africa (Codesa) negotiations when apartheid forces instigated Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) malcontents from the Kwa-Madala hostel to go on the rampage.
The Bisho massacre followed in September 1992 in which 28 ANC supporters were slain for requesting the reincorporation of Bisho into South Africa.
The assassination of the charismatic South African Communist Party leader Chris Hani in April 1993 outside his home in Dawn Park in the suburb of Boksburg put South Africa on the brink of civil war.
Tens of thousands of South Africans, most of them black, took to the streets in major cities in an outpouring of grief and rage with the intent to launch tit-for-tat attacks on whites.
But it was an upright Mandela who with unrivalled statesmanship pulled his country from the brink of the Armageddon over twenty years ago when he appealed for calm on national TV.
Mandela at that time not only saved his nation from civil war but he also saved the peace talks that led to the resumption of those tense negotiations that birthed a democratic nation.
Founding Father of the Namibian Nation, Dr Sam Nujoma, rightly pointed out that the legacy of the late icon is a reminder of the values of compassion, tolerance and forgiveness.
Nujoma further implored all people to embrace the virtues of peace and reconciliation that the African political giant advocated.
President Hifikepunye Pohamba who addressed the global audience at Mandela’s memorial service described Madiba as a son of the African soil whose legacy will never be forgotten.
Pohamba echoed Nujoma’s sentiments saying Mandela was a unifier who chose forgiveness over retribution, along with reconciliation and peace.
And to paraphrase a family friend of the grief-stricken family, Andrew Mlangeni, Mandela touched many hearts and souls and left a lasting impression on millions across the world.
U.S. president Barrack Obama described Mandela as the “last great liberator of the 20th century”.
“In the arc of his life, we see a man who earned his place in history through struggle and shrewdness; persistence and faith,” Obama said.
Indeed, Obama rightly said the sprit of Ubuntu is a reminder to humanity that we are all bound together in ways that can be invisible to the eye and that there is a oneness to humanity.
The memorial service also saw Obama shake the hand of Cuban leader Raul Castro – a historical gesture.
The handshake would have been insignificant had it not been for the fact their nations have been embroiled in unbearable Cold War antagonism for over fifty uninterrupted years.
In death as in life Mandela, personifies reconciliation and peace and it is our duty to ensure we emulate this icon’s spirit of Ubuntu.
By The Editor