Flag flies high in village hearts
WHENEVER Nelson Mandela visited Qunu, the South African flag would be hoisted at his home. But for Anesipho Gova, 14, the saddest moment about Madiba’s death is coming to terms with the fact that the bright flag – which symbolises the end of segregation, the new democracy and unity among South Africans – probably won’t fly again in her village… at least not for a while.
The Grade 7 pupil from Empa Junior Secondary in Qunu was among more than 1 000 children who gathered at the Nelson Mandela Museum this week to remember the statesman. After participating in a human chain in a pledge to uphold Mandela’s legacy, Anesipho wrote a tribute to Mandela: “Lala ngoxolo tata… ugqatso ulufezile. Sohlala sikukhumbula” (Rest in peace father, you have completed the race. We will always miss you).
She met Mandela for the first time about seven years ago when he held a Christmas party at his Qunu home, and invited all the local children.
“I remember waking up very early, at about 4am, to get a nice spot at the party. He came in a helicopter and we all gathered around when the helicopter landed. He got out and the first thing he did was to come to each one of us to shake our hands. It was the most amazing moment of my life. I didn’t want to wash my hands after that… in fact, I wished I could just take him home and make him tea.
“To me he was more like my own grandfather, he made us feel so loved,” she said.
Lithakazi Mfolo, 15, a Grade 8 pupil from the same school as Gova, was also at that memorable party.
“Qunu will never be the same without him. He brought us so much hope... particularly to us coming from his village,” she said. “When he was around you, there was just this magical thing about him… I can’t explain it in words, but it was just unbelievable.”
While Lithakazi doesn’t seriously believe there could be another president from Qunu in her lifetime, she doesn’t despair.
“I can’t think of anybody who can fill his shoes really, but dreams come true. I’m sure when he was growing up in this rural village like us nobody thought that he would ever become the president, but he soldiered on and was triumphant.
“Who knows, there could be another president from Qunu if we believe in ourselves just like he did, and the South African flag could fly again,” she said.
CHRISTMAS JOY: Nontsikelelo Javi, Anesipho Gova and Lithakazi Mfolo speak about the times they used to go to Mandela’s house for Christmas.