THE MAN BEHIND POLITICS
”The greatest glory in living lies not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall”-Nelson Mandela
With the Mbashe river flowing quietly on July 18, on a winter day- a young boy was born in the tiny village of Mvezo, in the District of Umtata, capital of Transkei. He was named Rholihlahla (meaning ”pulling a branch off a tree”) by his father. Nobody knew then that this young boy would change the world for better. LIVE is paying tribute to the father of the nation, providing a retrospect of his life and understand how he became the icon that he was.
Growing up in Qunu village, Madiba was an active child who enjoyed playing in the veld and fighting with the village boys. He loved playing thinti– a game of war involving two sticks which are used as targets. The purpose of the game is for each opposing team to hurl sticks at opposing targets and to knock it down to win.
At the age of nine, a gloomy cloud hung over Nelson when his father died of Tubercurlosis (TB). Grief consumed the young man as stated in his biography Long Walk To Freedom, “I do not remember experiencing great grief so much as feeling cut adrift.”
After his father passed away, Mandela and his mother moved to e-Mqhekezweni village where he worked for the Regent. Here, he carried out household chores, and his favourite chore was pressing the Regent suits – a job in which he took great pride in.
Like many young man reaching puberty, the love bite hit him hard when he fell in love with a daughter of a Reverend, Winnie. After Madiba met Winnie at Church, he then later proposed and she agreed on the spot (talk about love at first sight). However, Winnie’s sister Nomampondo disliked him and said to Winnie, ”You will waste your whole life if you fall in love with such a backward boy”. Unfortunately, the relationship didn’t last long and they drifted apart due to Winnie attending a different school.
At the age of 16, time came for him to leave boyhood behind and to become a man as is compulsory for Xhosa men. In the pre-circumcision celebrations, Mandela showed his very naughty side when he and his friends took a handful of home-made sediment to trap the pig to come out of the kraal. The sediment has a strong scent that pigs love because it’s made out of African beer. The pig followed the sediment scent and came out of the kraal to be caught and slaughtered by the young boys.
On his coming-out ceremony from the mountain as a man, there was a huge ceremony called umgidi and he was given two heifers and four sheep. Celebrations and gifts kept pouring for the Gemini boy, as when he passed Standard 5 (Grade 7), he was given his first pair of brand new boots.
His journey as a man and his curiosity in chieftancy while growing up made Mandela a charismatic leader when he entered the political arena. Lauded as a revolutionary leader, Mandela fought against the injustice of suppression and inequality. He learnt leadership at a young age as he observed a tribal guardian monitoring village decision-making gatherings. His tribal supervisor would listen intently for days allowing members to voice their opinions.
Following this, the guardian would lead the group to reach a consensus. At a young age Mandela recalls learning lessons of servitude leadership and abandoning selfish ambitions. “When you want to get a herd to move in a certain direction,” he said, “you stand at the back with a stick. Then a few of the more energetic cattle move to the front and the rest of the cattle follow. You are really guiding them from behind.” He paused before saying with a smile, “That is how a leader should do his work”. (Stengel, 1994)
Known to many as a legend, he is worshiped by many, father of the nation and grand-father to the Madiba clan, this powerful, charismatic and humble man changed the world with his optimistic mind set: ”I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but who conquers that fear”. His legacy will breathe like the sun that sets on Mbashe river.
images from SouthAfrica.net, Mirror.co.uk and-els-voices.com