The entire country held its breath when the President of South Africa Jacob Zuma announced he would address the nation urgently on Thursday night. We all feared the worst & the worst had indeed happened: the legendary Nelson Mandela had passed on after being in & out of hospital for the past 5 months, battling an on-going lung infection. President Zuma announced that he passed on peacefully surrounded by his family at around 20.50 on Thursday December 5th at the age of 95.
I was out with friends when I heard this disturbing revelation from people who were there with us & I was devastated (as would be expected). Instantly, tons of messages from around the world were conveying messages of condolences to the Mandela family. From India to Indonesia, Bangkok to Baghdad and from Cape Town to Georgetown, world leaders were sending out statements of condolences hailing Madiba as a symbol of Hope, Peace & Forgiveness.
Ironically, the new Mandela biopic starring Idris Elba was premiering in London when news of Madiba’s passing came through to the attendees mere minutes into the show. Even the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge conveyed their messages of condolences, signifying how powerful a figure this icon is not only in Africa but throughout the entire world.
My favorite has to be U.S. President Barack Obama’s statement. He spoke of Madiba’s legacy and how it directly impacted his political career. He stated that when he first got into politics his first act was to protest against Apartheid and when Madiba was released from prison it gave him hope for a better future. Mandela is admired the world over, probably more so by the world than by the very generation he helped liberate.
Being a 21 year old black male from Soweto, I interact with many people from different races, backgrounds and social statuses and many of them have different opinions about what Mandela represents. I was disappointed when I logged onto Facebook & discovered young people under the age of 25 dismissing the death of a global icon as a mere passing news event; funny enough the reason they can log onto social networks & spew ignorant statements is the person who’s death they are dismissing.
I know freedom of speech is one of the ideals Madiba stood for but I doubt the freedom to be ignorant was one of them. Young people need to understand & appreciate the efforts this man took & the lengths he went to to ensure the liberation of the black majority, especially now. We now live in a democratic and somewhat unbiased society, but I believe we are on the path to achieving the ideals Mandela fought for.
Picture Source: Africaim.com