Amidst all the international media coverage, all the story angles, all the attention on my country South Africa right now, how do I even begin to describe what an incredibly special place Nelson Mandela occupies in my heart?
I genuinely have no idea where to start…
I come from a small community on the outskirts of Cape Town called Atlantis.
A quick search of the web is sure to dish up horror stories from my home town – murders, an ever increasing crime rate, rising levels of drug abuse, sky high unemployment. To the outside world it’s not a nice place. To me it’s one of the best places in the world.
Atlantis, an industrial town, inhabited by mainly coloured people, was built in the 1970’s at the height of Apartheid.
Fast forward 40-odd years, and look past the negative headlines: you have a town that has provided of the country’s most sensational musical talents in Sasha-Lee Davids, winner of the 2009 SA Idols singing competition, and some top TV personalities, doctors, engineers, architects and teachers. They all called Atlantis their home once upon a time.
But the truth is that it is only really because of the opportunities and freedoms fought for by Nelson Mandela, one of the most iconic leaders of all time that we were able to pursue our dreams.
You see – in the 70s, 80s and early 90s – a job, any job, would have been seen as a real accomplishment in Atlantis and many other towns like it, where there were barely any opportunities for people of colour. We felt inferior. Worthless.
Not many people from Atlantis can boast a happy ending to their life stories. But those who do, owe it in part to the tireless work of Nelson Mandela.
‘Madiba is the reason’
Madiba and the rest of the struggle heroes allowed us to travel in any part of the train we wanted.
It was because of Madiba and others that we were able to feel the sand between our toes on beaches otherwise reserved for white people, the freezing cold Atlantic ocean on our bodies.
Madiba is the reason my school report card no longer had a “Department of Coloured Affairs” stamp on it. Education later became my right as a South African citizen. I was able to study at a prestigious tertiary institution where I graduated as a journalist and am now living my dream on a global stage.
Where and how do I even begin to say thank you Madiba? I don’t think there are any words to describe just how grateful I am.
Nelson Mandela was the ultimate champion for the cause. And it is his teachings of love and forgiveness that I find so immensely touching.
And as we lay Madiba down in his final resting place and the world pays its respects, I want to convey a tearful thank you (because thank you is all I have) to the father of our nation.
We will never ever forget you.
Nelson Mandela: 1918 to forever and ever.