Today, as I listened to Cyril Ramaphosa speaking at Nelson Mandela’s funeral about how people around the world had all had Madiba moments, I was reminded of my own special Madiba moment.
It was in 1990 and I was the principal of the University Educare Centre at the time. Vijay, the chairperson of my parents’ committee, visited me at the Centre with the news that it had just been announced that Mandela was to be released from prison. After years of political strife and a sense of impending doom looming over the country, suddenly there was light at the end of the tunnel. The staff and I were incredibly excited by the news and our exuberance rubbed off on the children, who became quite unmanageable. So we decided to take them all to the university’s sports field to run off their high spirits. News of Mandela’s imminent release spread and soon other university staff had joined us on the field. Spontaneously we all started singing and dancing. On that day, in that moment we were no longer differentiated by the colour of our skin or by our political affiliations. We were united by our love for this great man and the hope that he gave us for a peaceful future in this country.
Perhaps, just as I felt a shift in the world order on that day, there has been another shift during this past week. Dare we hope for change to come as we did then? Or are our political leaders too far gone down the road of power and acquisition? If Mandela’s legacy is to live on, we need more leaders who have integrity and the interests of all South Africans at heart. In the meantime I hope that I can in some small way repay Mandela for the sacrifices he made that have contributed to my wonderful life here, by being more compassionate and more positive about this amazing country that we live in.