A brief story of how Mandela influenced my life, living in South Africa
It feels like a life time has passed since I last wrote an article, but it has just been 5 years.
I feel like the butterfly, the caterpillar days have been and gone, the dark cocoon days have passed and I have learned to stretch and spread my wings and find life.
So much has happened in these years, in this process, that I started to write a book and am still working on this.
Looking back and observing what I lived through, I find myself in an overwhelming state of gratitude.
This deep observation of my life has arrived at the same time as Nelson Mandela's passing on. A man who comes from my homeland South Africa. A man who overcame obstacles and experienced triumphs in a life time that very few people can claim.
I remember at the age of 21 a stirring began within me to fight for the injustices in my country . I had had liberal parents who taught me that equality of all people and freedom of speech were as valuable as life itself. I give thanks to them for passing on these values to me.
Creating awareness in others was and is of immense importance to me. I met my husband in a time when younger white people, who believed in the equality of all men, were creating this awareness in as many ways that one could. Our passion bonded us.
I joined the Black Sash, it was an organization to help black women who were oppressed and struggling, a SAFE PLACE, a place where their voices could be heard legally and safely.
Our time in leisure was spent in heated debates about the country and how we could influence the freeing of Mandela. We lived in Cape Town and often looked across the bay to Robin Island where Mandela was imprisoned, so close yet so far away!
The next few years were spent getting married , having kids and moving several times, to different states and countries and eventually settling in SA once again, but this time in Johannesburg , this was to be for the next 17 years.
during the years of the 80's and 90's we were fortunate to live on a small holding of 5 acres, where we kept many animals, it was a perfect place to bring up kids.
We found ourselves once again fighting against the anti apartheid government and doing everything we could to encourage the freedom of the ANC and its leader Nelson Mandela.
We regularly met with like minded folk and spread the word as much as we could , printing out the ANC manifesto and distributing it, showing a banned film of Nelson Mandela's life. We worked under the Catholic church( the only semi legal place to operate) and helped ANC youth escape the brutal police. More often than I can remember, I hid them and kept them in the safety of our home for days at a time, our password was a phone call to ask if I was ready to" read the 5 books" I had said I wanted to read and in answering yes, I was then asked how long would it take to read them and I answered with 5 days max, then I was told they would bring the books round that evening and of course the books were a group of ANC youth who had escaped from the townships as police were after them . Often I had police searching our premises and spent many stressful hours praying they would not be found, they hid in so many different places, one being in our horse shed in the big bins that we kept the horse food in.
Only on one occasion were they found and taken to John Foster square, a major police station where I visited daily to plead their release, then one day we received a call to say that if we continued with our activities that our lives would be in danger as well as our kids. We had to stop harbouring these so called terrorists.
Those days there was a law that said if you spoke out against, or wrote about the government in a negative way, you would be arrested and imprisoned for 90 days without a trail. This happened to many people. It created a basis for mistrust, people became wary even of their friends, and in this way the government was able to put a lid on the boiling pot of discontent.
People started to leave the country, black and white , there was a huge exodus in the early 90's, granted this also came from the conservatist group who were fearful of Mandela's release and the consequences it would have on the whites.
The country was in a state of passive revolution, bombs started going off all over the country harming and killing innocent people, the ANC were not going to be silenced!
The release of Mandela in 1990 was a momentous occasion and was cause to celebrate, I remember the day and place I was at so clearly, the fact that there was no mad civil war was due to the extraordinary leadership of Mandela. His words were powerful! Peaceful change!
Unfortunately there were so many angry people that a passive war of crime and violence began, this is how the Truth and Reconciliation Act was born led by Arch Bishop Desmond Tutu. It served its purpose, but it did not stop the crime and violence and now there was added a further negative, corruption.
Sadly for South Africa Mandela could not remain as the country's leader as he was getting on in age and his health was a problem. Thabo Mbeki was appointed to take over, he was an intelligent man, but not strong enough and his weaknesses got the better of him, consequently he was impeached and Zuma took his place. How this man earned his place as the head of state in SA was beyond so many.
Zuma epitomized all Mandela was not. He did not even care about exposing his corruption and took the leadership to the lowest levels the country has ever seen.
He allowed illegal immigration from neighbouring states, the statistics are mind blowing, millions and millions have poured in over the borders with no check on the system. Xenophobia reared its ugly head and many more people became disheartened and left the country, black and white, they called this the brain drain time.
Those were really difficult times for everyone in South Africa, especially the black and coloured people. The world is fully aware now of the struggle of the oppressed people of SA and thanks to modern technology and the perseverance of the people who struggled to bring about the freedom of Nelson Mandela and the heralding in of the ANC as a legal party, SA now enjoys the freedom to vote for all people.
But it has come at a price, a price that has cost the man in the street dearly.
At the beginning of this month on the 5th December Mandela passed away at the age 95 and his memorial service was held in Johannesburg in South Africa 5 days later. This was yesterday the 10th December.
I was in the Western Cape and watched every second of this event on TV, the biggest memorial service the world has ever had. Over a 100 dignitaries from around the world came.
In true African fashion, it was not what the world would have wanted or expected. I believe the intention was honourable, but it lacked control and dignity. At the same time it was devoid of any pretence and the raw emotions of a country let down by its present day leaders was very apparent.
They came to pay their respects to a man they loved and honoured, Viva Mandela was heard over and over in the 4 hour service. The only speaker worth mentioning that made a massive impact on the crowd was the USA President Obama . He has earned the respect from the people here, because South Africans see him as an honourable man and he had taken Mandela's as his role model. He was applauded in a magnificent way, I believe the people saw and recognised a similar spirit in him as they did in Mandela. His speech was one of the best the world has heard! He certainly honoured Mandela.
In contrast to this was the rejection of the present SA president, not only in booing whenever the cameras panned in on him, but by the masses leaving the stadium before he took to the podium to speak. They were continuously requested to remain seated and be quite but the sheer emotion of the people and their need to show their feelings for their hero Mandela could not be contained and so they left.
Zuma was left standing making an empty speech to an empty stadium...it is what he deserved.
I was ashamed to hear Zuma make a tribute to Mandela and my hope is that the ANC party will recognise what an embarrassment he is to the country and that it is time for him to be accountable for all the corruption and lies he has had brought to this land, a land and people who did not deserve this. Not after years of struggle to accept this. NO and NO again.
This is the only country in the world where the majority of the population of 60 million people have insisted for the past 20 years to have BEE (black economic empowerment) implemented against the minority group of 5 million people. How much longer must the minority group of people pay for the sins of their fathers. How much longer must they endure their children leaving for other countries because there is no hope of them getting decent work, how much longer does this minority group of people have to take assistant jobs to train their bosses who have passed with a so called university degree that is worth nothing, because the universities have been ordered to pass all blacks regardless of marks. How much incompetence must we endure. How much longer do we have to watch people suffering from incompetence in the medical field , how much longer do we need to witness how so much money that has been allocated to education, has been greedily taken by education ministers to the detriment of educating the children. It now has the lowest education standard in the world, where just a short while ago it was ranked with the top countries in the world.
I believe these methods of madness were implemented to keep the people powerless, because as Mandela said education is the backbone of every country.
I feel it is time to call for a big change in this country, to follow Mandela's dream of a united state, where every person is equal in every way. A country that has had enough suffering and unrest.
Too many struggles and losses have occurred to let this land go further down.
I continue to make a difference by being aware and exposing unfairness and inequality.
It is only by making a small difference, by taking one small step can we make giant steps together and make a big difference, it is only in this way that we can influence universal energy that will ultimately make it a better world.
I am at the same time saddened by Mandela's death and yet my heart soars that not only in his life, but in his death he has touched so many people with his incredible wisdom, his strength, his gentleness, his humour and resilience and determination. He is a shining example and role model to all of mankind. He had his faults, as do all of us, but he was aware of them, he had a spirit of humility that magnified his strengths. I am proud to have been able to have once called him the president of the country I lived in. I will do all I can to learn from this man through his writings and his examples, and hopefully be able to influence as many as I can in the same way.