Archives For Nelson Mandela

A Toast to Nelson Mandela

December 5, 2013 — 5 Comments

Mandela bookEarly today Mtuseni and I had another heated exchange via text. We’re in the midst of an epic standoff as I try to get him to begin practicing self-reliance and initiative. It’s hard for me, this tough-love approach — and I don’t think I’ve ever heard him so upset at me, his mom, and life in general. But I have to start weaning him. As much as I want him to be my little boy forever, he’s 21 years old and finished with college. But my efforts are being met with resentment and rage and threats and tears. I’m not abandoning him — never will. But I can’t carry him on my shoulders forever.

We’re in rough waters. He signed off WhatsApp and went to sleep, still politely saying goodnight but awash in dark emotions. I went to the gym and could barely focus on my workout, struggling with feelings of stress and frustration and anxiety. “I need a drink tonight,” I thought, and planned to pick up some wine on the way home. As I walked out, I looked up at the bank of TVs and saw the breaking news reports that Nelson Mandela had died. I was overcome with sadness, and took back roads to the liquor store, driving in silence and only half-registering the houses decked in Christmas lights.

What an impressive figure, someone who transformed his nation and inspired the world. A man of such courage. Wisdom. Humanity. Humility. Grace. You would not find such qualities in Congress these days. Mandela always seemed a tower of strength and light; even at his advanced age it somehow felt reassuring that he was still here among us.

So the wine I had expected to ease my stress took on a different role. Sipping my favorite South African pinotage, I watched the TV retrospectives, nodding in familiarity at old news footage and recognizing places from my recent travels there.

I can clearly picture the “Stop Apartheid Now” button that was on my backpack in college. I can remember that sense of hopeful anticipation as the global tide began to turn against that horrible system of oppression — and the feeling of awe and relief when Mandela was finally released.

Fast-forward twenty years and I got my first glimpse of Mtuseni in the flesh, walking toward me past a larger-than-life bronze statue of Mandela in Johannesburg. Atop a tour bus in Cape Town, we looked from the seaside cliffs to the small spot of Robben Island where Mandela was imprisoned — and I lamented our short schedule not allowing time to visit the facility. Later, the bus stopped by an elegant yellow stucco building. The tour guide pointed out the balcony where Mandela gave his first public speech after getting out of prison, and I felt chills. Mtuseni listened intently and took photos with his phone. What thoughts were going through his head? What was he feeling? I didn’t intrude on the moment, and just felt grateful for the opportunity to bring him to this spot.

first mtgIf there is one lesson I can take from Mandela, at this moment in particular, it is patience. Mtuseni and I will survive this latest challenge, and there will be more to come I’m sure. It’s my profound honor and privilege to help this young man, born in the last vestiges of apartheid, to reach goals not dreamed by his parents.

Nelson Mandela’s focus, effort and determination helped to save a country and a people. And in some small way led to Mtuseni being in my life today. Little did I know how wearing that simple button thirty years ago would play out in my own life.

Thinking about Mandela’s twinkling eyes, lilting voice and gently powerful philosophy, a line from a movie that I can’t recall popped into my head:

Ah, how you will delight the angels.

Indeed.

Thank you, Madiba. And godspeed.


Follow and share updates about the Long-Distance Dad book project on Facebook!


Advertisements

Mtuseni’s volunteer project to mark Mandela Day, shortly after he returned from the US.

Bhekani's Views

In 2009, the United Nations declared 18 July as Nelson Mandela International Day, recognising his dedication to the service of humanity. By devoting 67 minutes of their time – one minute for every year of Mandela’s public service – people can make a small gesture of solidarity with humanity and a step towards global movement for good.

— Source: SouthAfrica.info

WeAreSuccess Team

It took me more than two months to prepare what I would do for the South African icon Nelson Mandela, and at the end of it all my 67 minutes was well spent with people with a belief of success.

St. Ansgars School+Johannesburg+Lanseria+South AfricaIt is 3 years since my matric at St. Ansgar’s school in Lanseria, and back then I thought I didn’t have someone to motivate me that I could relate to. So the idea came of just grouping all my mates from 2010 matric to come help our little brothers and…

View original post 407 more words

Dr-Mamphela-Ramphele-South-Africa-Agang-party

Source: Reuters/Yahoo!

I’ve been reading about Mamphela Ramphele, the medical doctor, anthropologist and former World Bank director who recently formed a new political party in South Africa. Called Agang in Sesotho (meaning Build), the party has been created in response to the long-ruling ANC party’s lackluster progress in addressing the deep poverty and social inequities in Africa’s largest economy. I have often griped at the social problems that affect Mtuseni and his family and community — and expressed amazement that a country with the eye-popping wealth in Sandton can have public schools with no libraries, computers, or heat.

Granted, my perspective on South Africa is through a fairly narrow lens, but the extent of core problems that I witnessed in Johannesburg and Cape Town can surely be extrapolated to areas of the country that are not centers of money or power. Although many black South Africans scrape out an existence living in abject poverty, a considerable majority support the ANC because it is the party that ended apartheid under Nelson Mandela. But that was 20 years ago. In the apartheid era, South Africa was like a house on fire. The ANC put out the blaze and slapped on a few coats of paint, but never made the necessary structural repairs. The house is still falling down.

Reading about Dr. Ramphele and her background — including a fellowship at Harvard — I thought of Hillary Clinton: another political figure with a commanding presence. A symbol of profound change. And an accomplished professional who brings to government not only intelligence but also the humanist perspective demonstrated by so many women in US politics. I felt an excitement learning about the doctor’s story and her vision for South Africa.

Dr. Ramphele said in a recent news article, “My generation has to confess to the young people of our country: we have failed you.” As Mtuseni studies by candlelight to obtain a college degree that I often fear may prove useless in the face of 60 percent youth unemployment, I can certainly agree with her statement.

After two decades of male-dominated ANC governance, perhaps it’s time for a woman to crack the country’s political glass ceiling. Perhaps black South Africans will realize that continuing to vote for a party based on gratitude for long-past achievements does not guarantee a bright future. Perhaps Mamphela Ramphele and Agang can indeed build South Africa — so that Mtuseni and his family and friends can enjoy the life of health, education and opportunity that was promised when apartheid was dismantled. As another upstart candidate once reminded a nation adrift, there is always hope.