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Mandelaís death challenges a new generation
2013-12-05 08:45:03


Trevor Samson/AFP/Getty Images

The Nation Press -

They had been a long time coming but the inevitable words that rolled from South African President Jacob Zuma’s lips in a televised address still felt like a blow to the solar plexus. Nelson Mandela is no more. The wave of sadness that swelled as Zuma paid tribute was not only for the end of the life of a man we, as South Africans, regard as the father of our renewed nation. It was also for the end of an era that so deeply, indescribably defined me, and so many compatriots, shaping the way we saw our world and each other.

As a young journalist, I was in Mandela’s midst many times and met him only once. But my connection to him, I realize now, was also personal in some way. I was a sheltered 18-year-old college freshman when the news came that Mandela would walk free after 27 years behind prison walls. I was stepping out into a whole new world at the very same time he was.

In trying to find my way in that turbulent time, I remember looking to him – fist in the air, defiant, dancing – for confidence. And the giddy hope that washed over millions of us in the crazy days and months that followed that moment seeped into my view of my drastically changing world: that of a teenage boy moving into adulthood in a country that had been held in the fearful dark, moving into the light.

We went from whispering his banned name in late-night discussions about politics and freedom to screaming it in the main streets of our heavily policed cities. For many others like me, Mandela symbolized that essential human will to be all to overcome all that is holding you back, to live the life you imagine, long before Oprah spun it into a global mantra. 

I doubt that we could have had the same outcome without him as our leader. He wasn’t perfect and many in his movement took issue with his “reconciliation” doctrine, and what it would ultimately mean for the millions of impoverished Black people. Tomorrow, South Africa will wake up to another day, as it does every day, with places to go and things to do, with the same goals, ambitions, resolve and a new measure of maturity. We have Nelson Mandela to thank for that, in large part.

But like the loss of any old parent or patriarch, ever-respected but allowed the dignity of a restful exit, his departure will leave a hole in our collective heart. It will leave a challenge to a new generation – one that never danced in the streets, that never witnessed people singing at the top of their lungs, who never knew the burning hope of what could be – to find their own Nelson Mandela.

But for those of us who grew up under the yoke of apartheid, who came of age in a nation coming of age, led by a giant who carried us across the breach, there will be loss, but we will always have Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela.

Hambe Kahle, Umkhonto, Umkhonto we Sizwe. (Go well, Spear of the Nation.)

Source : The Nation Press Services
 
 
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