Written by one of Wildland Adventures top South Africa guides, Doug Thomson.
We, as South Africans, are feeling a mixture of grief and celebration all at the same time. We grieve and feel a sense of sadness at our loss, but at the same time we celebrate and take note that we have been a part of an incredible journey. One that will probably never be repeated. We have witnessed an unbelievable man do the unusual. Using all his statesmanship, charisma and warmth, he managed to turn a nation that was tearing itself apart into one. Although, not without enormous challenges.
I clearly remember that day in Feb 1990 when Nelson Mandela walked out of Victor Verster prison a free man and gave his “long walk to freedom’ speech at City Hall opposite the Grand Parade in Cape Town. The tension in the country was palpable. Blacks wanted revenge, the white-controlled military and police were on high alert. All military reservists were on 3 hour standby. People had stockpiled food supplies like doomsday preppers and were facing a civil war. This man who had been in prison for 27 years for treason against the Apartheid Nationalist Government was meant to be a revolutionary, a militant terrorist. He stood in front of the huge crowd that day and said ‘it was time to talk!”. He then went on to say that never again will one group oppress another group in this country.
It turned out that he was the complete opposite of what most people on both sides were expecting. His work in bringing the people of the country together is absolutely amazing. When one reads the book “Invictus” one gets a good sense of how powerfully and yet subtly he brought people together and through forgiveness began the task of nation building. I think one of his most powerful sayings was :
“No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin, or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.” Nelson Mandela.
Millions of people on all sides of the colour spectrum revere this man, simply because he was human. He saw beyond colour and hatred . Where other people saw the enemy, he saw countryman. He made us celebrate our differences and embrace those as a strength (rainbow nation). He had the humility to cross the huge divides that lay across our people. He was an excellent example of “ubuntu” where no man is an island and that we are all interconnected in some way. He was a very brave man who did not hesitate to stand up for what he believed in, even if it was an unpopular belief. We salute him and were very, very lucky to have had him as a South African. Through him and many others like him, we were able to show the world what can be done. If people are prepared to put their differences aside and seek common ground, based on humanity and not based on religion, colour or creed.
Now as we let him go in peace, I am hoping that the people of our magnificent country can re-align to his values and realise where we deviated from his vision. I strongly believe that this could ignite the nation once more, in a similar way to the 1995 Rugby World Cup or the 2010 FIFA Soccer World Cup. The lasting tribute to Mandela would be for the country to live up to his dream and live the vision he had for us as a proud nation.
Be at peace, Tata Madiba
South Africa safari guide, learn more about Doug.