As hundreds of international leaders and tens of thousands of South Africans gathered to honor Nelson Mandela’s legacy at a service in Soweto, several Fellows from the Aspen Global Leadership Initiative’s Africa Leadership Initiative/South Africa offered their own memorials in various media outlets around the world. The Fellows each have lived in and worked for the further development of the land that was transformed by Mandela’s work.
“Remembering Mandela, All Steel and Gentleness“
By Nicholas Dawes, former editor-in-chief of South Africa’s newspaper the Mail and Guardian and current chief editorial and content officer of India’s Hindustan Times.
A pin-sharp memory of that time: marking my ballot in soft pencil next to an image of your face, drawing the lines over and over until they were thick and black, making the public-privacy of this act last. It was a fleeting moment of the clearest joy, a stitch-shaped cross to pull together all that is divided.
Things necessarily, ineluctably, got trickier after that.
My father woke me with a 3am call from Cape Town that February morning to tell me you would be released and the ANC unbanned. I remember the nylon carpet, the wan fluorescent light, the coiled brown cord of the phone. We spoke for a while, then I ran to the girls’ dormitories to rouse Audrey Mothupi who had come to Vancouver Island via her PAC family’s Tanzanian exile, and Ruanne Barnabas, a South African of Indian origin one year our junior. Read the whole story.
It was nearing dusk in the misbegotten township of Sebokeng, near Vereeniging, in 1993, just a few days after Hani had been shot in his driveway by a white migrant right-winger.
The people wanted their revenge and they were not ready to listen to the old man who had come with a message of peace.
Eventually, Nelson Mandela raised himself to his full height, lowered his voice and, in effect, told the people: If there was any killing to be done that day, then they had better kill him, but no one else.
The crowd grew hushed. The mere thought was sacrilege, for to harm the old man was to harm oneself.
Someone tentatively broke into a sombre liberation song. Read the whole story.
He was the reason why I first went to South Africa and he was the reason why I never left. He reminded us everyday what it meant to be human. He embodied a spirit that fueled the good in people. He was not a perfect man by any means and that’s what drew us in even more — he was real and he fought for what was right and just. He reminded us all that Freedom was an ideal worth dying for. Read the whole story.