Monday, 21 April 2014, 8:10 am

Remembering Nelson Mandela

People placing flowers at statue of Nelson Mandela at Mandela Square, Johannesburg, South Africa. Submitted PhotoBy MICHELLE ALLENBERG
Columnist
Sawubona Madiba. O baba siyabonga nangentliziyo yami. (Translation from Zulu: Hello Madiba. Oh, father, I thank you with all my heart.)
Madiba, my hero, the man who changed a nation, my nation.
On Dec. 5 I found out Nelson Rolihlahla Dalibhunga Mandela had died. I was saddened by the passing of this great man. About an hour later the news had sunk in and I was brought to tears. An era has ended and a country will never be the same again.
The term Madiba is used by South Africans to speak of Mandela and it is a title of respect. It is from the Xhosa tribe in South Africa and is the clan which Mandela came from.
I have not lived in South Africa since November 2000, but, although I am Canadian, my soul will always be South African. The loss of Madiba brought back many memories about the state of South Africa and the home I once knew. South Africans all over the world were brought to tears.
I stayed up until about 3 a.m. looking at posts from family and friends who still live in South Africa. My friend Natasha had posted, "When you wake up to EVERY single status being about the greatest leader South Africa had, you begin to understand the impact he had not only on our beloved country but the world! I feel so blessed to have grown up in the South Africa he devoted his life to saving. I pray we never forget the Dream he had for us all. ... RIP Madiba — feeling sad."
Natasha and I spoke to one another and she told me to listen to 5FM, a South African radio station. I listened to the people mourn and I listened to an interview with Johnny Clegg, a musician from South Africa, reminisce about meeting Mandela and playing the song Asibonanga for Mandela in 1999. The song is about the road to freedom.
The chorus, written in Zulu, speaks of Mandela's imprisonment on Robben Island. Asimbonanga (we have not seen him) Asimbonang' umandela thina (we have not seen Mandela) Laph'ekhona (in the place where he is) Laph'ehleli khona (in the place where he is kept).
This song has brought me to tears every time I listen to it in the last 24 hours. It is the representation of the struggle our nation has had to endure to gain freedom.
The African National Congress (ANC) was elected in 1994 and Mandela was chosen to be president by the ANC. This marked the change that South Africa so desperately needed. There was so much hope for a better future for all South Africans.
When Apartheid ended in South Africa I was six years old. In 1994 Mandela changed the face of South Africa forever. I recall going to a voting station with my parents and wondering why this was such a big deal. I asked my mother and she said to me, “Today, all people can vote, black, Indian, coloured and white. This was going to change everything.” There were large groups of people of all colours, everyone wanted the chance to vote.
The importance of this to me, and I imagine many South Africans around the world, is that this was a step towards our Rainbow Nation. The ANC gave hope that all people could live and work together in peace.
Leading to the end of Apartheid there was constant violence from all political sides. There were riots all around the country before 1994. Durban, kwa-Zulu Natal was no different. My mother worked in Durban during that time.
I still remember vividly in my mind not being able to leave her office for fear of our lives. People had been Toyi-Toyi-ing in the streets and it was turning violent. Toyi-Toyi-ing is a form of dance to show celebration, or unhappiness. A riot had formed in the streets and it could have turned violent at any moment.
Bombs had been detinated throughout the country, targeting mostly government buildings.
My father, who lectured at M.L. Sultan Technical College, now known as Durban University, had his life threatened many times. Before 1994 there were constant riots and car burnings at the college.
I remember when my father was not able to leave the college because the violence had escalated too much. My mother and I were fearful for his life, but luckily he was able to leave without being hurt.
Mandela was fighting for change and for a better future for everyone in South Africa.
Mandela chose to forgive those who had oppressed him and move forward. South Africa used truth and reconciliation to continue towards freedom and progress.
Many South Africans who live outside of the country are worried about what will happen next and are fearful for the safety of their families and friends. What starts off as peaceful demonstration can change and the past has shown us violence can escalate quickly. I only hope in the days and weeks after his death people will remember forgiveness and the lessons he had taught.
In the week after Mandela’s death people are still mourning. There have been memorials all over South Africa where people have laid flowers down. The Facebook group “Being South African” has dedicated its posts for the next week to everything Mandela. People will not forget him easily and leaders from around the world are going to South Africa to attend his funeral. There will be a memorial on Dec. 10 in Johannesburg. This loss will surely be felt for weeks and possibly months to come.
The outpouring of emotion worldwide is a testament to how well loved and respected Nelson Mandela, the Father of South Africa, was. He will remain in our hearts.
Hamba kahle. Lala ngokuthla baba. Sala Kahle. (Go well. Rest in peace father. Goodbye.)

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