Saturday, December 21, 2013

Ten Days Celebrating the Life of Nelson Mandela

It has indeed been a most memorable and moving ten days here in South Africa.

Memorial service in Soweto

To arrive here the day before Nelson Mandela’s death; to be here during the time of his memorial service at the FNB Stadium in Soweto (near Johannesburg) and his funeral service in Qunu, Eastern Cape Province (not far from the farmers in Cala who featured in my Growers’ Guide to Natural Farming), has been to share with South Africans of all colours and political stripes a time of mourning, but also of celebration of the life of one of the Great Ones of the past century.

Qunu, Eastern Cape

As you can imagine there has been 24/7 coverage on SABC TV (South African Broadcasting Corp), with every possible person – from fellow prisoners on Robben Island (Mac Maharaj, Ahmed Kathrada), to dignitaries from other African countries (Kenneth Kaunda, former president of Zambia; Joyce Banda, President of Malawi), to his longtime personal assistant, Zelda La Grange, to little children – all interviewed for their stories or their remembrances of Madiba. Also there have been excerpts from bio documentaries and from programs on the history of "the Struggle" against apartheid, and its larger significance in the world.

Yes, I have been watching a lot of TV!

But I’ve had some memorable “in person” moments too...
On the Saturday after I arrived, Patrick and I took the hour-long ride by train from Fish Hoek, north along the False Bay coast into Cape Town. From the train station Patrick guided me along the historic Loop Street to the Anglican Cathedral to see if there was a memorial service.

City Hall steps, Cape Town

When we found the Cathedral locked, we proceeded along to the “Grand Parade” and the City Hall steps where, in 1990, Mandela gave his first speech after his release from twenty-seven years in prison. A small crowd had gathered, and there were piles of bouquets of flowers left by mourners, an “ebook”, and a memorial book in which I wrote:
Thank you Madiba, for your great gifts and for your example of reconciliation and forgiveness,

                 Judith Stamp, Toronto, Canada.
Then, on top of one of the bouquets of roses, I left a photo from my back yard in the snow (of course, here, we Canadians are so associated with snow!). We got to chatting with others in the crowd.  I talked with a “coloured” woman (yes they still use that term!) from Kayelitsha township, and we held hands and both teared up as we talked of Madiba's gifts to South Africa and the world. She said she was most grateful for his leadership in demonstrating that all South Africans are created equal. Then we were serenaded by an elderly, toothless coloured man with who had composed a beautiful song he called "Madiba's Agenda of Peace".

1 comment:

  1. We were on our way to Australia flying Qantas when Madiba died and were touched to receive messages of sympathy from the pilot and crew for our loss. Then arriving in Australia we found the newspapers full of the new of his death. It was amazing to find the whole world mourning along with us.