Waking up to the death of Madiba

Today South Africans will wake up with heavy hearts as we mourn the passing of Madiba.

We will fly flags at half mast and we will have moments of silence before official gatherings. We will weep openly outside his home and we will fight back tears in our places of work. We will remember where we were when he was released from prison, when he became president, and when we heard the news of his passing. We will try our best to explain to our children and the born-frees why this man was so great. We will desperately cling to news reports and twitter feeds as the airwaves saturate with the words “Madiba is gone”. We will pass people in the streets, in taxis, in trains, in buses, in malls, in townships, in traffic, all in silent acknowledgement of a shared loss. We will speak to fellow South Africans with a different tone, united by a common sense of mourning. We will look at people and see them as siblings – children of Nelson Mandela – children who have just lost their father.

We will also complain of how Madiba’s successors were not nearly as good as he was and we will lament on how we have not been true to his vision as a nation. We will mourn that there will never be another Madiba and we will despair that this is the end of an era of his greatness. We will grieve his death and we will feel sorry for ourselves, as though he was holding the entire country together on his shoulders alone. We will accuse the media of sensationalism and find outlets for our grief in randomly directed anger. We will say to non-South Africans that they simply don’t understand and that only South Africans who have experienced what Madiba fought against can truly understand his greatness. We will take great pride in our “ownership” of the Mandela icon. We will find some negative sides of our characters but above all, far far above all, we will find the good that Madiba planted within us all…

We will remember the teachings of Nelson Mandela. We will remember his words. We will remember being inspired by him at various stages of our lives. We will remember that feeling we had when he walked out of prison. We will remember seeing him in person and the butterflies associated with it – the overwhelming humility and respect amidst the unmatchable awe. We will remember apartheid and how far we have come as a nation. We will remember voting for the first time. We will remember his inauguration. We will remember the 1995 rugby world cup. We will look at the people next to us, our friends, our family, our spouses and we will think about how different our lives would have been were it not for Madiba and people like him. We will remember the pain of the past and celebrate the hope of the future. We will look beyond our skin colour because we will remember the pain of looking directly at it. We will see fellow South Africans as one nation, one people, united under a shared dream of a better life for all. We will hear the mourning cries coming from all over the world and we will feel the pride of being Madiba’s children. We will get a taste of the global impact that Madiba has had and we will realise more than ever that we were not alone in being inspired by him. We will see images from all over the world of tears on faces of all colours and shapes. We will see that Madiba does not belong just to South Africa, but to all of humanity. We will think back on how Madiba influenced our career choices. We will remember how he inspired us to volunteer our time towards the betterment of people, how he inspired us to give back. We will regret never meeting him, or not saying something we wanted to say when we had met him.

On this day we will also wake up to what Madiba stood for. We will know that our personal conversation with Madiba will continue throughout our lives in the ways in which we help make the world a better place. We will  celebrate Madiba every time we spare a thought for those less fortunate than ourselves. We will celebrate Madiba in the ways we treat our fellow human beings, regardless of race, gender, nationality, belief system, abilities, geographical origin or any other form of grouping imaginable. We will celebrate Madiba by thinking about ourselves as one people, as citizens of planet earth, with a shared destiny that we are jointly responsible for. We celebrate Madiba when we empower people to think for themselves, to learn and free their minds from the oppression of ignorance. We celebrate Madiba when we forgive, when we engage with our enemies and realise that they are also human, they are also someone’s child, someone’s spouse, someone’s parent. We celebrate Madiba when we learn to control our anger and hatred and translate those emotions into energy towards the greater good. We celebrate Madiba when we realise that every human being is home to a universe of thought, emotion and experience, that every human being has the world to offer and the potential for greatness. We celebrate Madiba when we give opportunity to children to realise both their potential and their dreams. We celebrate Madiba every time we look a fellow human being in the eye and offer the utmost respect and humility without expectation and with purity of heart.

Let us wake up to the death of Madiba. Let us celebrate Madiba. Let us be what we know we can be and let us give of ourselves what we know we can give. Let us come together in celebration of Madiba and, together, let us make the world a better place!

(this blog was written by  OAD Director, Kevin Govender, who happens to be South African, as a global message that is relevant to the spirit of the OAD, on the sad occasion of the passing of Nelson Mandela)