The gi­ant is not dead

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - COMMENT -

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:

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