A tribute to Madiba
- 6 décembre 2013
- Posted by: ideadmin
- Category: News
I only met Nelson Mandela once.
It was in Johannesburg – on September 16th 1995.
I was travelling with Pope John Paul II, the same Pope who once said he would never visit South Africa until the country renounced the evil of racial segregation.
It was a typically JPII three-nation tour that began in Cameroon and ended in Kenya. But the stop in South Africa was particularly poignant for me – because South Africa was where I was born.
Mandela was there at the airport to meet us. I remember the Pope kissing a bowl of South African earth, held for him by four orphaned children representing four ethnic groups and symbolising the “rainbow nation” Mandela had dreamed of for so long. Apartheid had officially ended only four years earlier, in 1991. And Nelson Mandela had been President for just a year.
He was taller than I imagined he’d be, exuding a quiet and contagious dignity. It was one of the rare occasions he wore a suit (and not the colourful sports shirt that became his trademark). The suit not only made him seem taller, it made him look decidedly uncomfortable.Until he shook John Paul’s hand – and called him “my brother”.
”My brother,” said Mandela, “whose visit to this country is long overdue… My brother, who viewed with disdain a system that treated God’s children as lesser human beings…” I remember not only the words – but the way he said them. There was no anger or vengeance in his voice. No bitterness or outrage. There was only kindness and compassion. He had already forgiven those who imprisoned him for 27 years.
For Nelson Mandela, “Truth and Reconciliation” was not just a slogan. It was a way of life. One he lived to the end.
I too had the privilege of shaking his hand. I asked him to sign my copy of his autobiography, “Long Walk to Freedom”. He took his time signing his name, even adding the date of publication. When he handed back the book, he winked and whispered one word: “Freedom”.
I’ve often wondered what he was thinking at that moment.
All I do know is that in that one word lies the key to both his life – and his legacy.
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