Friday, December 6, 2013

The Passing Of A Legend

 At last the inevitable has happened.  Nelson Mandela, the man with the proverbial nine lives, is no more. Death finally had the courage to deal the final blow on the world’s statesman last Thursday, December 5, after hanging on the thread of life for so long. The significance of the event is not lost. Even Death held Mandela in awe. For more than five months, the whole world was agog with rumours and speculations of his impending demise.  Some of Mandela’s relations had even given up hope as they haggled and bargained for funeral rights, rites and rice! It was a helluva of a struggle! The undertakers and the media also laid siege to his home and hospital bed like vultures, yet Death seemingly spared the anti-apartheid hero more time to prepare for his final exit. 

And when death finally came last Thursday, it came in its usual style of tiptoeing to the threshold of Mandela’s home under the cover of darkness to strike. He had waited enough. The tall man who smiled with his eyes like his fellow world hero, Mahatma Gandhi, is no more. Though expectant, after being in coma for so long, Mandela’s death has come like a thunderbolt from nowhere. The entire humankind is “shattered and shocked” on the “sudden” passing on of the Xhosa warrior, activist and scourge of the villainous apartheid warlords who was respected and honored worldwide. He was not only the world’s most famous political prisoner he came out of prison to also become the most celebrated leader of a rainbow nation.

It is in this regard that Mandela’s exit will be most felt. The legacy he has left behind is that of a peaceful South Africa. A man who was imprisoned for life for fighting a just cause of self-determination for his people and who spent 27 years in solitary confinement was expected to come out full of bitterness and the temptation to seek a pound of flesh. Not Mandela. He saw the larger picture of a united, free and truly democratic South Africa.  To him the only way to forge ahead is not by invoking the Mosaic law of an eye for an eye but the spirit of forgiveness after all the years of suffering and indignity in the hands of the racist warlords of the apartheid era. Because of his greater concern for peace and the advancement of post-apartheid South Africa he bent backwards to placate the blacks, hug the coloureds and embrace the whites to forge a rainbow coalition. His laudable efforts did not go unnoticed by even his erstwhile oppressors. “He was a very remarkable man...a great unifier whose emphasis was on reconciliation,” noted F. W. de Klerk, the last apartheid president in a tribute to Mandela, his friend and joint winner of the Nobel Peace Prize.

Joyce Banda, the Malawian president, sums up the Mandela legacy in Africa. “As a leader, you must forgive. You must do something to unite the nation,” she said in a tribute to the memory of the Madida who remained a modest man to the last.

Asked what should be written on his tombstone sometime ago, his response was down to earth: “Here lies the man who has done his duty on earth.” Indeed he has done his part and left the stage but the world has refused to stop clapping since last week. The standing ovation may continue till eternity.
He deserves it. 

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