I woke up this morning to find that for my country, South Africa, a light had gone out during the night. That light was Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela, affectionately known to the nation as Tata Madiba. He was a great man, a man who survived 27 years of unjust imprisonment only to forgive his captors on his release, and to work with them to birth the Rainbow Nation.
I wish I could say that he was always an important figure in my life, but the propaganda of the apartheid government during my childhood made sure that he was a shadowy figure who was only to be feared and reviled. It was the courage and foresight of then President De Klerk (and others) that finally allowed him to be released and to become the first black President of South Africa
I remember the day he was released from prison in 1990, the joyous reaction of the crowd, and his smile as he walked as a free man for the first time in 27 years. We wondered then, how he would react towards his former captors. He showed us the way of forgiveness.
I remember him being sworn in as President, hand on the bible, De Klerk at his side as vice-president. Who could forget his radiant smile at the rugby, or his now-famous “Madiba shirts”?
My heart weeps for the passing of this great man from our nation. Who will be the moral compass of our nation now? How long can his greatness affect those in power? We already see the effects of power and corruption insidiously weaving their way into the political life of the country. I want to say to my countrymen, ” Be strong! Hold to the truths that Madiba lived for us – truth, forgiveness, reconciliation, and selfless service. These will help the Rainbow Nation to thrive and grow. Teach our children honesty and truth so they may continue his legacy. Don’t allow corruption and darkness to thrive. We need to speak out against corruption and nurture an atmosphere of service toward one another. Let us not lose our way now.”