December 07, 2013 - 6:34:59 am
The world is mourning the death of a true icon. It’s very rarely that the entire world unites in grief at the passing away of a leader, from laymen to leaders, from north to south and east to west, and it’s rarely that the media dissect in detail every aspect of a person’s life, devoting acres of printed and digital space and hours of airtime, lavishing praise, holding him as a mentor and source of inspiration for generations to come. The story of Nelson Mandela will be written in golden letters in the history of modern world.
Mandela died late on Thursday aged 95 at his Johannesburg home surrounded by friends and family. Three days of Mandela’s body lying in state in Pretoria will follow, and then on December 15 a state funeral will take place to bury his remains in his birthtown of Qunu.
Mandela was a saint for South Africans of all races and he guided them through the frightening dying days of apartheid. A South African journalist recalls an incident to describe the saint-like respect he enjoyed. Just more than 20 years ago, one of Mandela’s closest allies, South African Communist Party Secretary General Chris Hani, was assassinated at his Gauteng home by a white right-winger. Black South Africans took to the streets in an outpouring of grief and rage, but Mandela went on national television and told about Hani’s white neighbour who phoned the police to describe the gunman. He called for calm. It worked.
It is said Mandela was venerated by more millions in his lifetime than any political figure in history. In his struggle to free his country from apartheid, he set an example for the whole world. He was known for his peaceful revolution, long stay in prison, and was rewarded for his struggle as he was elected the first president of a democratic South Africa. The world responded to the qualities it perceived in the man, as well as to the scale of his achievement.
World leaders are expected to converge in unprecedented numbers on South Africa for Mandela’s funeral. Already, comparisons are being drawn with earlier mammoth funeral ceremonies of Pope John Paul II, Princess Diana, President John F Kennedy and Winston Churchill. But Mandela’s appeal is much broader and cuts across religious divides and the usual geopolitical barriers.
“We should all work together to organise the most befitting funeral for this outstanding son of our country and the father of our young nation,” South Africa’s president Jacob Zuma said on the funeral arrangements. “The outpouring of love that we experienced locally and abroad was unprecedented. It demonstrates the calibre of leader that was Madiba.”
In a world divided on every front, Mandela will shine like a beacon of hope•