Thursday, December 5, 2013

Mandela Ndeupi Wacho (Now, Which One Is Nelson Mandela)?

I remember it like it was yesterday: for a few days, rumors had been circulating in Harare that the ANC's President was about to be released from prison; finally that day had come (Feb 11, 1990); it was a weekend and the whole extended family were gathered around the TV. My parents, brothers, cousins, an aunt, we were all gathered around the TV waiting for the liberation icon to emerge onto our (satellite) TV screen.

Finally, there he was! But no, that wasn't him. The Apartheid South African regime had kept all present images of Madiba under wraps. I, like millions of other Africans, had his much younger image of him in my head. The image of him (posted below) as a lawyer,

in a crisp, dark suit with his hair carefully side-parted...that was the image I had of Nelson Mandela. Alas, at the moment that he was released, and in the kerfuffle that ensued, no-one in our family living-room could quite make out who of the men on our TV screen was Madiba.

There was an ANC official who had rushed out ahead of the crowd and was busy directing affairs. "Uyo Mandela", (there he is) I shouted out, but swiftly, my older cousin retorted, "No, that's Ramaphosa!". Indeed, Nelson Mandela was right in front of us, walking hand-in-hand with his wife, Winnie Mandela, but for a period of thirty seconds or so, we just couldn't see him. Everyone was looking for the younger Mandela, the figure in their heads. Then Madiba and Winnie gave a Black-Power salute and that's when it dawned on all of us, collectively, that the old man holding Winnie Mandela's hand was none other than Nelson Mandela himself.

My father immediately slumped in his chair, wearing a deep frown on his face, and my aunt asked, "what have they done to him". Twenty-seven years in prison, being subjected to psychological as well as physical torture on a scale unimaginable to the ordinary human being, is the answer to my auntie's question.

This blogger cannot even imagine spending 27 hrs (one day!) in prison, let alone 27 years. But that's the task Madiba proposed to himself, and saw it fit that one day his people would be free and that they would live in a multi-racial, free and democratic South Africa. I salute the epic struggle and achievements of Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela and I say Hamba Kahle.