Jacob Zuma said it best “Our nation has lost its greatest son. Our people have lost a father.” In reality we have all lost.
It was he who transformed a world from one where we picketed Barclays Bank to one where we could embrace the idea of a truly multi-cultural society – let’s set aside the pernicious effects of religion here and speak only of men of this world!
We know he wasn’t the only figure, there were many – including Rosa Parks and the Montgomery bus boycott in Alabama USA – but Madiba transcended mere national boundaries and became a global unifying force for good. He was able to capture the hearts and minds of a generation through his dignified struggle against Apartheid.
Listen to Martin Luther Kings “Free at Last” speech, listen to “Biko” by Peter Gabriel, listen to “Free Nelson Mandela” by the Special AKA – just 3 of the many voices that began to merge into a single message. It was like a wall of pressure building up and for the South African government of the day – things just had to change – and once they changed there they changed (almost) everywhere.
I remember the wonderful, joyous day Mandela was released from jail and the measured way in which he spoke – a warm and inclusive message from a man who had every right to judge society coldly and harshly. People like him are few and very, very far between.
For us silly middle class people who like to play “who would you invite to dinner” Mandela was most likely to be high up on the list. I would have been honoured to have met him but at least I was alive when he was – and that in itself is a blessing.