ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Some Recollections and Reflections

Nelson Mandela (1918-2013)

In death Nelson Mandela is undergoing a droll kind of transformation. A revolutionary fighter who led an armed struggle against the apartheid regime became towards the end of his life a universally beloved, almost cuddly, icon of peace and reconciliation. It is true that Mandela mellowed towards the end of his life, evident in what one saw of him in photographs. But the fi re never died, except to the extent that the body itself was losing its vigour. Mandela himself took pains to deny that he was a "saint".

The death of Nelson Mandela (b 18 July 1918, d 5 December 2013) is an occasion for both grief and celebration, in the best African tradition. One grieves even if death came at the fullness of his years as one celebrates the remarkable life and achievements of the man. Both grief and celebration are visible in abundance in South Africa and indeed throughout the world as the funeral is, at the time of writing, under way.

Perhaps, it would be useful to begin this tribute by recounting some obvious and well-known facts about Nelson Mandela best encapsulated in the titles of his two books: No Easy Walk to Freedom (1965) and The Struggle Is My Life (1978), both published when he was in prison. Together, they make the statement that his whole life was the struggle for freedom, as much for personal freedom as for the people of his country; and that struggle would be long, arduous. Even when as a young man he left home, he was seeking freedom, escaping a marriage not of his choice that had been planned for him. This search for personal freedom evolved as he grew up in the relatively liberated environment of the big city into a struggle for his “people”, as he made the connections between the unfreedom that overwhelmed his people, the African majority of the population, in the supposedly liberated environment of the city which superficially had promised freedom, but where too he found chains more burdensome than the chains of the world he had fled from seeking freedom, and the even harsher chains that bound the majority of the dispossessed people, everywhere.

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