South Africa was a late discovery for me. Back in the days when Apartheid was in full swing, I remained blissfully unaware of the struggle and names like Pretoria and Soweto were parked deep in my ignorance alongside places such as Beirut, Phnom Penh or Chernobyl. Pockets of deep trouble and suffering, far away, difficult to understand, either politically explosive, economically ravaged or socially tortured. Or all the above.
It was only recently, long after Mandela had risen to power, lead the country on a new path to freedom, been replaced at the helm by two-and-a-half other leaders – the current being an idiot it seems, that I became acquainted with South Africa, and its people. It was love at first sight, despite the latent unrest, lingering injustice, deep divide between races and unsettling crime level. But strikingly, almost everyone, poor or rich, black and white, privileged or lost, seemed to equally adore Mandela, affectionately calling him “Tata”, which means father in isiXhosa, or Madiba, a polite but endearing use of his clan name.
And even having been a stranger to the initial crisis and later partial recovery, my heart sinks thinking that Mandela leaves us after petty family disputes ridiculed his last days and stained his message, at a time of national uncertainty, with a corrupt lunatic leading the country and while the racial divide, no longer based on segregation but rather now simply economic, remains as strong as ever.
There are many who understand all this far better than I do and I am ill-equipped to write about what I did not experience. But even I feel the sadness and cannot help but to bite my lips. Will this ever work?
Godspeed Madiba and my best wishes to South Africa.