Minutes after that, breaking news was scrolling on SABC's ticker tape advising the public to standby for an announcement of national importance. I immediately called my wife and as many close friends as possible to alert them to the impending news. The confirmation soon followed with a sombre Jacob Zuma addressing the country. I only managed to sleep at 3am.
I was due to drive to Mthata in the morning and after struggling to get up and checking the news once more, I hit the road struggling between focussing on the road and responding to messages from friends in Zimbabwe. I only had one objective in mind. To get to Qunu. When I got there, apart from a few policemen and three military trucks, there was a small team of journalists interviewing an MEC who explained that the crowd had not yet gathered because they were waiting for the Chief to be informed of the death.
|Qunu when I arrived|
The next day we headed to Soweto, to the street and house where Mandela lived and what a scene. It is one thing to see the outpouring of love for Madiba on television, it is quite another to experience this in person. The singing, toyi toying, interest from the international media and tourists was palpable. As my wife said in her journal which she made me read, "you could not be an observer, you had to join in" and there we were in and among the crowd drinking it all in and participating in the singing.
|Sky News interviewed my wife and sister in law for the Zimbabwe perspective|
|Bikers livened up the scene in Vilakazi street with their special tribute|
At a given moment, Mandela's grand children emerged from the house to distribute apples to the gathered crowd which kept swelling by the minute.
I was struck by how many people specifically brought their children as if to teach them something special and this is the challenge for South Africa: How to keep the rainbow nation alive beyond sports events, occasions such as this and television advertisements. The second challenge is to get the minority who respond to love with hatred, to stop poisoning their children with doomsday messages every time there is a significant event in the country: release of Nelson Mandela, the assassination of Chris Hani, advent of majority rule after the '94 elections, death of Nelson Mandela and whatever is next. The last challenge of course, is to transform this society to one in which poverty is greatly reduced in those sections of society that were previously oppressed and to create a genuinely strong and growing middle class so that all can have fair share in the wealth of this special and unique country.
|"Everyone" came. "Everyone."|
One thing is for sure, the love for Madiba is genuine. The respect that the people have for him is real for the vast majority of people in South Africa. Madiba was the first to rebut any suggestion that he was a super being who saved the struggle and the country single handedly but naysayers would do well to watch the countless documentaries and anecdotes over the next few days and years to come to appreciate what a genuinely special man this icon was. As the Indian Prime Minister said in his tribute, it is very unlikely that we will see another like him in a very very long time. I love my history. I do not know of any historical figure who has elicited such a response from literally every corner of the globe from small villages in India to Times Square through to Presidents, corporations and celebrities at the news of their passing. Not one. Even countries that labelled him a terrorist and conspired in his arrest in Howick are honouring him. Such is the justice of time.
I mistakenly thought that Robert Mugabe had died. It remains to be seen how Zimbabweans, Africans, Black people the world over and the rest of the globe will react to his death. History will be the judge, in the fullness of time. To each their own legacy. "Light a candle, instead of cursing the darkness."