In 1990, I was five-going-on-six but I remember the moment I first saw Nelson Mandela on television. He came walking out of prison with Winnie, fist up in the air, smiling. I didn’t know who he was, of course. In fact, I was completely confused why people were cheering on this old man, whilst holding posters and pictures of another, much younger guy!
That was my first image of the man, at that point already an icon and who would grow into a legend in his own life time. A couple of years later, when I understood what he stood for, I listed Nelson Mandela as a hero in a primary school exercise ( I was a precocious child). He also strangely reminded me of both my maternal grandparents. It had probably to do with standing tall in the batik shirts (my granddad) and the open smile (my grandmother).
In the next few days, people will mention that some current politicians who praise the man now, were previously against the ANC and Mandela. I don’t know about that as I was too young but I remember being shocked when, in secondary school, a teacher told us that Mandela previously had held pretty radical views himself. That he will remembered for his peaceful reform says a lot about the man himself, rather than just the ideals of a movement. If we struggle with a grudge against those who find themselves on the wrong side of right in history regarding Mandela, wouldn’t that be slightly ironic too?
Let’s not hold grudges then but overrule hypocrisy by simply living a good life by our own moral compass, rather than aim for a movement’s ideals. In Mandela’s self-deprecating style, keep the praise in perspective by remembering as him as a man, who married thrice and had five children: I doubt his wives and kids will see him as a saint.
Still, to get to 95, pass peacefully and to be mourned by all layers of the world population, to be remembered with so many funny anecdotes by those who met him: that is something to aim for, kids.