Nelson Mandela died on Thursday, 5 December 2013.

 

Nelson Mandela- a man, a lawyer, a prisoner, a president, a comedian, a boxer, a father, a husband, and a son. A symbol of equality, freedom, and democracy. An international hero. Nelson Mandela was much more than just a man, and he means so much to the people of this country.

Most South Africans were not aware Madiba had passed until the morning of Friday, 6 December. We awoke to a different country than the one we had fallen asleep in, but that does not mean life stopped. On Friday, we all still went to work. By Friday afternoon, it had been announced that we would enter a week of mourning to last until 15 December, and that most government-sponsored events had been cancelled for that time. Almost every TV and radio station has spent nearly all of their airtime on Madiba in the last week, and rightfully so.

Through this media coverage, I have learned even more about the man whose biography enthralled me before I moved to Cape Town. Nelson Mandela was patient, forgiving, creative, and kind. He loved children, and he loved to dance. His smile was infectious, his voice always controlled, and his ideas were full of promise and hope.

Apartheid tore South Africa apart in ways I will never fully understand. Nelson Mandela became the first democratically elected President of the country I am living in when it seemed like an impossible task to put the pieces back together. Mandela was a vehement opponent of the apartheid regime, and was imprisoned for his beliefs and actions towards equality. He spent 27 years in prison, treated in many ways as less than a human (the way we unfortunately still treat many prisoners). Upon his release, it would have been easy for him to fight for his own race or political party to take over completely. But he didn’t. Instead, he fought for all South Africans to have equal rights- basic human rights like housing, health care, and the right to live without fear of the government. As he once said, “South Africa belongs to all the people who live in it.”

The work Nelson Mandela did was astronomical. It did not just change the face of South Africa; it changed the face of our planet and global society.

 

The world lost a hero. This country lost the father of their democracy- the one who led them to freedom. As a world, we need time to mourn. My community needs time to grieve their leader. But… his death does not mean the work stops. South Africa is a beautiful, vibrant, wonderful country. I love so much about living here. But it is not perfect.

In Cape Town, there are problems of unemployment, violence, gangsterism, drug abuse, homelessness, hunger, environmental degradation, domestic abuse, and just downright lack of respect for people as equal human beings. Tata Madiba saw what this country, what this world, could become. His passing is tragic, but he lived 95 years. Not many people live that long, especially not with life stories like his.

I am so saddened by his passing, but I am also inspired. I am inspired because I know that South Africa can become the place Mandela dreamed it would become. I know that the greatest way to honor and celebrate his life is to continue living into a world he would want to be a part of- a world where all humans are recognized as equal beings with basic rights and freedoms.

For Mandela, it was indeed a long walk to freedom. I hope and pray that he now finds rest and peace.

For us, the walk is not over. Until the entire world can live in freedom and equality, we cannot stop walking. I ask that you join me in this journey to keep walking towards a better world. This will mean something different to each person, but I can think of no better way to thank Tata Madiba than to work towards making his dreams come true.

 

Hamba Kahle, Madiba. May you rest in peace.

“As we let our light shine, we give others permission to do the same.” – Nelson Mandela

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