The giant is not dead
IT WAS always going to be impossible to accommodate everyone who wanted to pay respects to Nelson Mandela lying in state. The universal popularity of our former president was such that even if the period was extended by another week, there would still be some unable to bid their personal farewells.
For those fortunate enough to be able to see Madiba in his casket as it lay in state in the nation’s capital, it has been cathartic, allowing for a sense of acceptance. But others were less fortunate and may feel robbed of the occasion.
The people of Mandela’s traditional home in Qunu have also been prevented by state protocol of the chance to bid a traditional farewell to their most outstanding son. Custom dictates they ought to have been the ones preparing the funeral foods.
The same feeling surely applies to all the other cities, towns and villages that Mandela had a special bond with for historical reasons, such as his birthplace, Mvezo, Johannesburg, where he lived, and of course Cape Town where he spent so many years imprisoned, only to later grace our first democratic Parliament.
But the efforts of those who could not see Madiba for the last time, including the many who unsuccessfully stood in long queues at the Union Buildings in scenes reminiscent of the snaking lines of voters during the first democratic elections back in 1994, should not be regarded as having been in vain. Madiba touched millions at home and abroad without physically crossing paths with them.
By their preparedness to stand in long queues, their signing books of condolence, the leaving of bouquets of flowers and the attending of numerous memorial events, Mandela’s people have touched him back. And by lending their soil to house Madiba’s remains, the Qunu community will have restored their umbilical cord to Mandela. Madiba will always be of Qunu. And of Cape Town. He will always be of all of South Africa and of the world.
In the words of the poet Ingrid Jonker whose poem Mandela quoted in his address to the first Parliament: