Mandela: A personal goodbye

It’s taken a long time for us to let you go, Madiba.

For several years, even as your health faltered irreparably and rumours of your increasing fragility could no longer be denied, the world refused to release its hold.

We said prayers, sent love and held vigils until we had brought our Madiba — a man who had lived longer than most — back to life. Such was our belief in the immortality of our hero that we were incapable of relinquishing you.

But now, despite our efforts, you are gone.

I said my own private goodbye almost two years ago, when I visited Robben Island on a trip back to my homeland. As the ferry skated across Table Bay, a cold wind blew in through one of its hatches.

A young man made everyone laugh when he said, ‘Ladies and gentlemen, we will vote to have this door open or closed. This is a free and fair election — you will only be allowed to vote once!’

I had left the country a decade earlier, and was touched by the benign, self-deprecating tone so many black South Africans now adopted when referencing the past. The country’s social undertone had transformed so radically I felt I could pluck a chunk of it from the atmosphere and take it home with me. Continue reading.

Catherine Marshall grew up in South Africa under apartheid. She is a journalist and travel writer.

Source: Eureka Street

Image: Stephen Davies

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