• No_Ads
National
We are overwhelmed - Mandela familyPublish Date: Dec 06, 2013
We are overwhelmed - Mandela family
  • mail
  • img
A woman, surrounded by other people who pay their respects, prays on December 6, 2013 outside the house of former South African President Nelson Mandela in Johannesburg following his death in this town on the eve. AFP PHOTO
newvision

JOHANNESBURG - Nelson Mandela's grandson expressed gratitude for the global outpouring of support since the 95-year-old's death, saying his family had been "overwhelmed" by the response.
 
"The messages we have received since last night have heartened and overwhelmed us," said Mandla Mandela, the first public comment from the former president's family since his death.
  
WHY Mandela? 
So what, exactly, is it that makes Nelson Mandela so special?
 
Apart from the fact that he emerged from 27 years in apartheid prisons bearing so little malice. And that he insisted on "reconciliation" being central to a truth commission in order to heal wounds caused by years of bitter racial hatred.
 
And that he donned a Springbok jersey and took to the field during the 1995 rugby World Cup final in a bold bid to unite the nation behind the mainly-white South African team.
 
And that he stepped down after just one term as president, unlike too many world leaders who, once given a whiff of power, cling to it until it destroys them or they destroy the nation they are leading.
 
These are some of the anti-apartheid icon's better known qualities.
 
The other side of Mandela
But for journalists lucky enough to track his remarkable career from the day he walked out of prison in 1990, through the years of transition to the first all-race elections and the presidency in 1994, and on until the day in 1999 that he bowed out -- far too quickly for many -- of the political arena, there was more, much more.
 
This was no ordinary politician.
 
The woman who saved him from Tb
Covering the "Mandela story" was a life-enhancing experience. He humbled us all into trying to be better human beings and, more especially, to embrace reconciliation at a time when all South Africans, black and white, were still bearing the scars of apartheid.
 
Take the time when -- during a very tense political campaign rally in Alexandra township on the edge of Johannesburg, when anti-white sentiment was whipping through the crowd after yet another massacre of black people reportedly by a white "third force" -- Mandela stopped mid-speech and fixed his attention on a white woman standing somewhere towards the back.
 
"That woman over there," he said with a broad smile, "saved my life. She nursed me back to health when I had TB."
 
He called her on stage and embraced her warmly, recounting how in 1988 while in Cape Town's Pollsmoor prison he had contracted tuberculosis and was admitted to hospital where he had been under her professional nursing care.
 
The mood in the crowd changed. Large roars of approval drowned out the snarled demands for revenge.
 
Unitying Africa
And there was the time when, as South African president, Mandela was hosting a meeting of the Southern African Development Community, a regional economic grouping.
 
All the key presidents and prime ministers from across the region were there. They had to come up with a united response to yet another crisis somewhere in Africa. Journalists had been waiting since morning for the press conference. An agitated radio reporter had to dash off mid-afternoon to pick up her son from school, praying that the press conference would not take place while she was away.
 
The lucky boy
She got back just in time and the boy was sitting at her side when the leaders walked in, Mandela in his trademark "Madiba shirt", the others in formal suits.
 
Mandela saw the boy and without hesitating walked straight up to him, shook him by the hand and said, "Ah hello there. How nice of you to take time out from your busy schedule to be with us today."
 
The boy beamed, so did his mother. The journalists were spellbound while the African leaders looked on in bemusement.
 
This became the pattern. We watched in awe as Mandela time and again stepped easily into the role of senior world statesman, and we watched humbled when his own fragile humanity was exposed.
 
I slept with her a single night
During divorce proceedings he confided publicly that the woman he loved so deeply, Winnie, had not spent a single night with him since his release from prison.
 
An activist, Strini Moodley, who served time on Robben Island, tells how Mandela kept a photograph of Winnie in his cell. Moodley asked to borrow the picture so he could do a sketch. Mandela told him, "You can have her during the day, but at night she comes back to me."
 
Good morning journalists
On the campaign trail, Mandela never failed in the morning to ask journalists how they had slept and whether they had managed to get some breakfast. He came to know many reporters and photographers by name, stopping often to speak to them and adding without fail: "How very nice to see you again."
 
One of the many defining moments of his relentless efforts to reconcile deeply divided communities came when he visited Betsie Verwoerd, widow of the architect of apartheid, Hendrik Verwoerd, who had effectively put Mandela in jail.
 
It was under Verwoerd's term as prime minister from 1958 until he was assassinated in 1966 that the African National Congress and the South African Communist Party had been outlawed, driving Mandela underground and leading to his eventual arrest, prosecution and jailing for life in 1964 for "acts of sabotage" and "conspiracy to overthrow the government".
 
Tea with Betsie
The "tea with Betsie" meeting took place at her home in a whites-only enclave known as Orania in Northern Cape in August 1995. Mrs. Verwoerd, then 94 and very frail, afterwards said little apart from the fact she was happy the president had visited her.
 
Her granddaughter, Elizabeth, was less welcoming, reportedly stating that she wished rather that he had been "president of a neighbouring country".
 
As good a reception as that in Soweto
Mandela was gracious and generous, saying the way he had been received in Orania "was as if I was in Soweto," the sprawling black township outside Johannesburg where he is regarded as a hero.
 
Always ready to stress that he saw himself as just one in a long succession of South African leaders, he posed beside a six-feet tall statue of Verwoerd erected at Orania.
 
"You made him (Verwoerd) very small," he said in disappointment to the residents of Orania, as, at six feet two inches (1.90 metres), he towered above the sculpture.
 
The first time he voted
Months earlier, on April 27, 1994, journalists gathered at a school outside Durban where Mandela was to cast his ballot in the country's first all-race election. We all thought: "Is this really happening? Is Mandela really voting? Is apartheid really ending?"
 
Yes it was. Mandela made a brief speech stressing the dawning of "a new South Africa where all South Africans are equal". Then he dropped his ballot into the box and, literally glowing in the early morning sunlight, smiled long and happily.
 
A rare soul
It was the kind of smile that you know is not put on for the cameras. The kind that wells up from the very depths of the soul. In Mandela's case, a very rare soul indeed.
 
** Article by Bryan Pearson, AFP's Middle East English desk chief, who worked as an AFP correspondent based in Johannesburg covering the period from Nelson Mandela's release in 1990 until the end of his term as South Africa's first black president in 1999.
 
AFP
 

The statements, comments, or opinions expressed through the use of New Vision Online are those of their respective authors, who are solely responsible for them, and do not necessarily represent the views held by the staff and management of New Vision Online.

New Vision Online reserves the right to moderate, publish or delete a post without warning or consultation with the author.Find out why we moderate comments. For any questions please contact digital@newvision.co.ug

  • mail
  • img
blog comments powered by Disqus
Also In This Section
Luwalira calls for appreciation of gov
NAMIREMBE Diocese Bishop Wilberforce Kityo Luwalira has called upon Ugandans to walk the talk of the truth, not with an aim of winning favours...
Uganda pushes for regional law on cooperative societies
UGANDA is spearheading the passing of the East African Community Cooperative Societies Bill 2014 that is currently being scrutinized by the East African legislative Assembly...
UN says deadly attack on S. Sudan base may be
The United Nations Security Council said the attack which killed at least 58 people on a UN base in South Sudan where thousands of civilians were sheltering may ''constitute a war crime''....
South Sudan on brink of collapse as war rages
When not plotting military strategy to seize South Sudan's crucial oil fields, sacked vice-president turned rebel chief Riek Machar spends time reading the economic and political history "Why Nations Fail"....
Corruption failing research
THE money that could be used for funding research in Uganda is being embezzled by unscrupulous public officials, professors have noted...
Govt, Kabale University in 101 acre land row
Government and Kabale University are locked in a row over a 101 acre piece of land in Kabale district, with the university claiming that its land is being grabbed. On April 4, the institution petitioned the land division of the High Court in Kampala, demanding that government be stopped from purpo...
WIll the national ID registration process be completed in the scheduled 4 months timeframe?
Yes
No
Can't Say
follow us
subscribe to our news letter