Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Happy Birthday, Madiba...



  Nelson Mandela has long been my hero. 
In celebration of his 94th birthday, I am reposting a piece I wrote last year....



For eighteen years, Prisoner 46664 was locked up each night in a tiny cell that measured five square metres. The cell contained a bowl, a spoon, a plate and a bucket, and while there was a blanket, the only bed was a thin straw mat for the floor.
.
Situated in the middle of Cape Town’s Table Bay, Robben Island Prison lies just twelve kilometers off the stunning coastline of South Africa. Conditions during the early years in this maximum-security prison were bleak. Inmates were forced into hard labour at the island’s lime quarry. They were segregated by race, with black prisoners receiving smaller rations than white inmates. Additionally, political prisoners were kept separate from ordinary criminals and had far fewer privileges, allowed only one visitor and one letter every six months.
.
In 1964, Nelson Mandela was convicted of treason for his anti-apartheid activities. Sent to Robben Island, he became Prisoner 46664, assigned to Cell No. 5. He spent eighteen of his twenty-seven years of imprisonment on the island, eventually being moved to Pollsmoor Prison in Cape Town, then on to Victor Vector Farm Prison for the last three years of his sentence.
Photos courtesy of Google
.
.
Mandela was released from prison on February 11th, 1990. In 1994, he and his ANC Party were pivotal in establishing South Africa as a multi-racial democracy. He was elected President of the country, retiring in 1999 when he was in his 8th decade.
.
.
.
There are few people whose wisdom, ideals and unshakeable sense of conviction I admire more, yet this is a man who remains humble, who says simply of his life…
.

.
“I had no epiphany, no singular revelation, no moment of truth...but a steady accumulation of a thousand slights, a thousand indignities and a thousand unremembered moments produced in me an anger, a rebelliousness, a desire to fight the system that imprisoned my people. There was no particular day on which I said, Henceforth I will devote myself to the liberation of my people; instead, I simply found myself doing so, and could not do otherwise."
.
I feel blessed to share the planet with Nelson Mandela. His dignity, his vision and his quiet strength embody all that is good in humankind, and offer hope that we can each be better than we are.
.
Happy Birthday, Madiba...
.

10 comments:

Debra She Who Seeks said...

What a story of triumph his life is! A true inspiration to all.

Breezy said...

What an incredible man he is. He is an example of the best that people can be.

Sherry Blue Sky said...

I love this so much. He is one of my favorite people too, right up there with Gandhi and Martin Luther King........lovely tribute, Lynette.

Deborah said...

He truly is an inspiration and has such a gentleness about him, I feel as if I were near him I could bask in his aura ... A wonderful, wonderful man and a wonderful tribute too Lynette.

adrielleroyale said...

WOW. I cannot even fathom it, dream it... What an incredible story and testament to the beauty of hope, perseverance, and drive of the human heart.

Pat said...

This is a wonderful tribute to Nelson Mandela, Lynette. His passion for equality and his single-minded perseverance led to his people's liberation.

Katy Cameron said...

I was lucky enough to be able to visit both Robben Island and Mandela's original house in Soweto when i lived in Jo'burg, and the history was fascinating. We drove past his current house, but alas, he wasn't sitting there waving (although I do happen to know that that week he was avoiding George W Bush ;o) )

Myrna R. said...

What a lovely tribute to such a remarkable leader. Thank you for reminding me of him.

Thank you too, for your kind words at Poets United. I'm so happy you read my interview.

Black Jack's Carol said...

The international school where I taught for the last 13 years has a house system, with four namesakes: Mandela, Gandhi, King and Trudeau. The values we hope to foster are: respect for the dignity of each individual, social justice, compassion, non-violent/ peaceful solutions to conflict, self-discipline, adherence to morals, service to others, cross-cultural understanding, and hope for a better world. I was in the Mandela house. You have really done him proud with this beautiful post. Happy (late) Birthday to him and I believe, to you today! :)

Pat said...

He is a remarkable man.