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If the Mayor of City of London, a person of foreign heritage, can give diversity in motion a character, do you think that Mandela’s dream of making SA an inclusive and cohesive ecosystem was misplaced?

Caroline Du Plessis

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NELSON MANDELA REMEMBERED – Could a white woman become the president of South Africa one day?🌹🌹🌹

There is a little story about Mr. Nelson Mandela – a true one – that always invokes a feeling of hope inside me, despite the despair that abounds.

One day, while walking across the terminal building to board a plane at OR Tambo airport in Johannesburg, Mr. Mandela noticed a woman walking hand-in-hand with her daughter, a blonde, blue-eyed six year old white girl.

He approached the pair and extended a handshake to the young girl and asked her, “Do you know who I am?’

To his surprise, she replied, “Yes, you are Mr. Mandela, my president”.

Without missing a cue, Mr. Mandela then said to the girl, “that is good and if you are a good girl and stay in school, you too can one day become the president of South Africa”.

To some, this may have been good public relations, (of which Mr. Mandela had mastered the art of) but to me this little act represented the heart and soul – and life – of a man who walked his talk like no other.

While that little tete-a- tete between Mr. Mandela and a little white girl did not evoke any derision or condemnation or media hype, it spoke of a man who had literally left his bitterness and hatred and anger at the gates of the Victor Verster Prison in Paarl, when he stepped out to his freedom in 1991.

In contrast, I recall, when the last Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Apartheid regime, the late Pik Botha, stated at a press briefing in 1986 that, ‘it would possibly become unavoidable that in the future you might have a black president of this country”, the brouhahaha that resulted was cannon fodder for the media, both local and international.

Botha was forced to publicly retract his statement by apartheid South Africa’s president at the time, P.W.Botha.

Nelson Mandela did not retract his statement.

Whatever one’s opinion may have been about Nelson Mandela, it cannot be doubted that he guided South Africa (with the help of many others) out of what could have been a horrific bloodbath that would have been catastrophic to the country.

I recall chanting “Free Mandela” in protest marches and political rallies in my heydays of student activism, without even having seen the man except of only having scant information about him and, of course, of knowing of the Rivonia Trial.

Mr. Mandela had taught South Africa, and indeed the world, critical lessons – sadly, many of which have long been forgotten or ignored by the current crop of so-called leaders.

One such lesson was that one cannot harbour hatred and the want for revenge for far too long.

It eventually consumes and overpowers one to the extent that one is never free.

His freedom was not guided by his release from incarceration after 27 years, but by transforming his mind to the point that the greater good that he envisioned and cherished – that of a free and equal South Africa – would have only been realized if he did not carry his hatred out of those prison gates on that fateful day.

His indormitable spirit and his quest for justice and equality, despite his hardships never faltered – even when the notion of a walk to freedom was only a fantasy.

He made it his destiny.

His visit for tea with Betsie Vervoerd in 1995, widow of the architect of apartheid Hendrik Verwoerd, in the “whites-only” town of Oranje in the Northern Cape angered many people, especially in the black community, who had suffered immensely under such a despotic and unconscionable rule, but Mr. Mandela was not only canny enough but human enough to have known that the past could never be changed – and he embraced friend and foe alike, only in his attempt to make his country what he wanted it to be.

Much of his body of work in terms of reconciliation, in my view, is being systematically undone by those who care less about whether South Africa works or not, as long as their power bases are satisfied and their pockets are filled with ill-gotten gains.

Such is the tragedy of the Mr. Mandela’s great legacy.

It was not the greatness of the man that endeared him to me – it was his humility and passion for a belief and a principle that he lived and struggled for, fettered as he was for such a belief and principle, and to this end, it is my wish that when generations ahead seek wisdom and courage and indeed fortitude in adversity, then Nelson Mandela will be the “Google” that they refer to for guidance.

Mr. Mandela’s fight for justice and equality has to resonate with all the world and when Martin Luther King Jnr. so profoundly observed, “the arc of the moral universe is long, but it always bends toward justice”, he could very well have been referring to the legacy of Mr. Nelson Mandela.

To that little blonde, blue-eyed, white six year old girl, who must be a young lady by now, never stop believing, for that old man that once spoke to you at the airport terminal, spoke with love and belief and humanity in his heart and I never miss an opportunity to quote what I believe to be Mr. Mandela’s immortal lines, “It always seems impossible, until it is done”.

Time will tell whether what may have been said in jest could really become a truth!

Narendh Ganesh
073 108 7330

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