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Sunday Tribune - - NEWS&VIEWS - Dennis Pather

AN AL­MOST eerie si­lence greeted Nomzamo Win­nie Madik­izela-man­dela as she stepped hes­i­tat­ingly to­wards the open Pearly Gates this week.

Where was ev­ery­one? For a mo­ment, she wor­ried her fallen com­rades had for­got­ten she was ar­riv­ing, or per­haps they’d got the dates wrong.

Sud­denly, the si­lence was shat­tered by rap­tur­ous cheer­ing, singing and ul­u­lat­ing as scores of once-fa­mil­iar faces ap­peared.

“Aaah, Nel­son, it’s been so long. Oh, I can’t be­lieve it, here’s Wal­ter, Oliver, Go­van and Ahmed.

“Just look at you, Fa­timab­hen. And here’s Ruth and Phyl­lis, and Monty and Chris. Al­bertina, you are still as el­e­gant as al­ways. And you too, our states­man chief from Groutville.”

After the last hug and emo­tional em­brace, they walked arm-in-arm to­gether to a mem­o­rable re­u­nion of South Africa’s most cel­e­brated lib­er­a­tion fight­ers.

And as guest of hon­our,

Mama Win­nie had to field a flurry of earnest en­quiries from old com­rades about what was hap­pen­ing in their beloved coun­try.

If this re­u­nion rep­re­sented the crème de la crème of the coun­try’s lib­er­a­tion fight­ers, who was run­ning the na­tional demo­cratic rev­o­lu­tion back home?

Then came the mo­ment when one of the com­rades stood up to read from eu­lo­gies that ap­peared in news­pa­pers over the past week.

Win­nie knew she was a con­tro­ver­sial fig­ure in pol­i­tics; that there were times in her life when things did go “hor­ri­bly wrong”, as she her­self ad­mit­ted.

But these were just an­noy­ing dis­trac­tions which paled into the back­ground against the mas­sive out­pour­ings of praise from a wide spec­trum of politi­cians and com­mu­nity stal­warts who hailed her as a true Mother of the Na­tion.

Ever since news of her death was an­nounced, politi­cians have been vir­tu­ally fall­ing over them­selves to take to the podium and sing her praises.

They have waxed lyri­cal about her stead­fast com­mit­ment to free­dom and jus­tice; the enor­mous sac­ri­fices she made in the face of harsh po­lice bru­tal­ity and the hard­ships she en­dured in the fight against white op­pres­sion.

Sit­ting pen­sively as these in­spir­ing eu­lo­gies were read out, Win­nie stopped for a mo­ment to re­flect on how much bet­ter life would have been had they said all these good things about her while she was still alive.

It would have strength­ened her re­solve, cleared many nag­ging doubts about her role and healed the deep wounds she car­ried for most of her life.

If you love and re­spect some­one, say it out loud when they can hear you. Don’t wait un­til it’s all in­terred with their bones.

dennis.pather@telkomsa.net

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