With the recent passing of Nelson Mandela, Hillscene invited Geraldine Coy, Author of Brave Truth to reflect on the legacy of Nelson Mandela and the future for South Africa. Brave Truth reveals a first-hand experience of what it was like to live in an apartheid world, and the aftermath that followed it. Geraldine now lives in Seville, her family had to flee South Africa in 1998 as a result of her activist work against apartheid.
Reflections on this past week by Geraldine Coy.
I have pondered the nuances of the Memorial Service held for Nelson Mandela on the 10th December, and I find myself wondering what he would have felt about some of the events that came to pass.
I know that he would have smiled on his beloved Graca, wife and companion to him for the last 15 years of his life. He would have thought how beautifully graceful she was, how wonderfully at peace at last she would have been, grateful that they had finally let him go. And he would have been proud of her dignified silence and restraint in the face of what must have been for her, some of the most difficult months in her own life.
This son of Africa, father to a nation, and a man of the world, or as Barack Obama correctly points out a “giant of our times”, would have been both pleased and pained by the way in which his life was exalted, and by those who exalted it. I think he would have been profoundly grateful to his comrades in arms, to those with whom he served his prison term and with those who fought so valiantly in their various ways and places of exile around the world, to have him freed.
I am sure that he would have loved to sign his name to many of the aspirational sentiments expressed by Obama, toward forgiveness, peace and reconciliation, for courage, honour and truthful recognition of humanity, and all its current and continuing failings. He would have been delighted to see the hand shake of this man with an adversary of a lifetime’s separation, with Raoul Castro of Cuba, and there may have been a twinkle in his eye at aparhte the prospect that even in his death, some forgiveness and reconciliation may still come to pass.
He would have been pleased, I think with the recognition he received from across the globe from leaders who had travelled far and wide to honour his life and mark his passing. Most of all, he would have rejoiced in the love of his people of South Africa, as they joined in harmony and such overwhelming love to thank him for his work, for his contribution to their salvation and dignity at least in the name of freedom.
But I really do believe that he would have been desperately saddened by the assumption of the podium by those he could not possibly have shared any ideal with. Robert Mugabe should not have been allowed entry into such a place of freedom. In Mandela’s oft-quoted statement spoken from the dock in his Rivonia trial in 1963, he made his sentiments clear. “During my lifetime, I have dedicated myself to this struggle of the African people. I have fought against white domination and I have fought against black domination. I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is an ideal which I hope to live for and to achieve. But if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die”. Mugabe’s reign of terror and suppression continues to contaminate the African continent, and Mandela would have angrily defended the democracy of Zimbabwe, had he not been silenced, I think, in his latter years.
So who was this man Nelson Mandela? For me, significantly aside from all of his amazing gifts so much in the press this week, what stands out was his ability as a remarkable strategist. There is a wonderful story, prior to his inauguration as State President in 1994. He was doing the rounds, making speeches all over the country and meeting his people, and regularly he was heckled by the far right and conservative extremists. One such heckler had become a bit of a serial pest and the security detail was preparing to have him ousted from the hall. Stopping his speech, Madiba raised his hand to stop them and asked the heckler, who was at the time in full steam, “Sir, may I ask what is your name?” The man spluttered out his name and Madiba responded, whilst coming down the steps at the side of the stage, “ Ah, Mr, xyz, I have heard so much about you. “ Grasping his hand with his left hand, and covering the grasp with his right, he said, “ I am so very pleased to meet you”.
I have felt the Madiba hand shake and looked into his eyes, and I have felt the warmth and the strength that this man would have felt, but the world has felt the impact which he had. Indeed, he knew strategically how to magnificently change the way we with think through gestures and restraint in the overuse of power.
When Jacob Zuma attempted to take the podium, and he was so resoundingly booed by the people he governs currently, I think of their disappointment and the breadth of the divide between these two leaders. South Africa must face a future with the lesser leader, the one so lacking in all the virtues of the other. Somehow, South Africa must dig deep into its resources of courage and tenacity, to fight the slander of corruption, of leadership with self interest. The people must find and recognize leadership which has the courage to reflect on the greatness of the person who has shown them how it’s done. They must find someone who can pick up the mantle in the long walk to true freedom.
“ I have walked that long road to freedom. I have tried not to falter. But I have discovered the secret that after climbing a great hill, one only finds that there are many more hills to climb. I have taken a moment to rest, to steal a view of the glorious vista that surrounds me, to look back on the distance I have come. But I can only rest for a moment, for with freedom, come responsibilities, and I dare not linger, for my long walk is not ended”. (Nelson Mandela)
His walk on earth has indeed ended, and South Africa must find confidence in a new guard, one who is worthy of the honour. They need not look too far, but they will need the collective voices they have used before to facilitate the changing of the guard. I am sure that the wonderfully truthful, brave and courageous voice of his friend and comrade, the ex Archbishop Desmond Tutu will soon be heard resoundingly echoing from the mountains of the Transkei, beseeching the people to vote again for freedom.
To find out more about Geraldine Coy click here.