The world’s greatest statesman, Nelson Mandela, died. Rest in peace Mr President.
Nelson Mandela: Is it time for South Africa to let him go?
By Pumza FihlaniBBC News, Johannesburg
Many people still see Nelson Mandela as the antidote to current social ills.
So deep is the affection in South Africa for the country’s first black President, Nelson Mandela, that the thought of his passing seems incomprehensible.
But deep down the millions who adore him know that that day is inevitable.
Following a string of health scares in the recent past, South Africans are beginning to come to terms with the mortality of their 94-year-old icon.
Still, this in an uncomfortable topic here.
Somadoda Fikeni, head of the South African Heritage Resources Agency (Sahra), puts it this way: “We no longer have an icon on his level, not only here in South Africa but in the world.
“People see him as the antidote to the current social ills we are faced with. That is why people are still holding on to him.”
According to Isintu – traditional South African culture – the very sick do not die unless the family ‘releases’ them spiritually”
South Africans see Mr Mandela as the glue that is holding the country together and believe that the social challenges of crime, poverty, corruption and unemployment can only be overcome if they have him to inspire the country’s leaders to greatness.
It might be too high an aspiration to place on one individual, but in the eyes of many here, Mr Mandela is no mere individual.
Nevertheless, for the first time it seems that the tone surrounding Mr Mandela’s increasingly frail health is beginning to change.
The Sunday Times newspaper at the weekend led with the headline: “It’s time to let him go.”
A blunt phrase bound to cause discomfort for the family and indeed many others in South Africa.
The usual response to Nelson Mandela’s illnesses is a call to prayer
But these were not the words of someone who is nonchalant about what Mr Mandela represents to this country. These were the words of a dear friend and fellow Robben Island prisoner, Andrew Mlangeni, upon hearing that Mr Mandela had again been admitted to hospital.
“The family must release him so that God may have his own way with him… once the family releases him, the people of South Africa will follow,” Mr Mlangeni was quoted as saying.
Many are fully aware of Mr Mandela’s poor health and advanced age, but almost in the same breath they say they want him to live for many more years.
It’s an extraordinary relationship, an impossible love.
It may be that squabbling within his family is troubling him and that needs to be addressed while he is still here. He may not be well received on the other side until these issues have been resolved”
Somadoda FikeniSouth African Heritage Resources Agency
At dinner tables South Africans talk about the Nobel Laureate’s need to rest but none utter the phrase that could change it all: “Siyakukhulula tata” – Xhosa for “We release you, father”.
According to Isintu – traditional South African culture – the very sick do not die unless the family “releases” them spiritually – only then will they be at peace in surrendering to death.
Culturally, this practice is seen as “permission” to die and this permission needs to be given by the family; it is reassurance from loved ones that they will be fine.
Mr Fikeni says that the other reason a person fights death is because they have unfinished business.
“It may be that squabbling within his family is troubling him and that needs to be addressed while he is still here. He may not be well received on the other side until these issues have been resolved.”
This may be a reference to a recent court case which has seen an attempt by Mr Mandela’s daughters, Makaziwe and Zenani, to oust three of his aides from companies linked to him.
It is not easy to get people to speak about Mr Mandela’s passing.
The BBC contacted three other cultural experts who refused to comment for fear of a backlash from the family or indeed fellow South Africans.
The press has been less fearful. Local and international media have reported on his four hospital visits since late last year. They camp outside hospitals for days eager to get an update on his health.
During the periods of his illness, the common theme in headlines is to call on South Africans to pray for his speedy recovery – further testimony that many are not ready to lose him.
But Mr Mandela’s visits to hospital have become lengthier and his care more specialised.
President Jacob Zuma and a number of top officials from the governing African National Congress visited him at his Houghton home in Johannesburg shortly after his last release in April. Mr Mandela was seen sitting on a beige couch with a blanket on his legs.
He had a blank expression on his face. On his cheeks, the marks of where a hospital oxygen mask had been. The images were widely criticised.
This time around all we know is that he is in intensive care, and he is being treated for a recurring lung infection.
The presidency is juggling the need to inform South Africans and the world, while respecting the family’s request for privacy. It is an unenviable task.
“The best way to honour him will be to carry on his values of tolerance and conversation”
Anyone who has loved a father or grandfather can attest to wanting that person to live forever – people here see Mr Mandela as the greatest father there ever was.
He after all averted civil war, many South Africans believe, when he called on black and white people to reconcile amid marked racial tension, a time when South Africa seemed on the brink of collapse, destined to descend into anarchy like so many fellow African countries.
But the country still faces division; racism rears its head every so often, the ANC is more divided now than it has ever been.
A culture of tribalism is slowly creeping into the fibre of the new South Africa – some experts say this is due to a lack of firm leadership from the liberation movement.
These divisions are forcing South Africans to take a closer look at Nelson Mandela’s dream of the “rainbow nation” and ask whether it is still alive – and whether it will live on after him.
Some still believe South Africa can surmount its challenges.
“It’s a shared idea that what we have now is better than what he had in the past. All we need to do is hold on to this shared vision of a better South Africa,” says political analyst, Ralph Mathekga.
Fears that Mr Mandela’s passing will lead to anarchy are “unrealistic”, he says, adding that South Africans need to focus on how they can continue the legacy.
“The best way to honour him will be to carry on his values of tolerance and conversation,” says Mr Mathekga.
“I am fundamentally an optimist. Whether that comes from nature or nurture, I cannot say. Part of being optimistic is keeping one’s head pointed toward the sun, one’s feet moving forward. There were many dark moments when my faith in humanity was sorely tested, but I would not and could not give myself up to despair. That way lays defeat and death.”
― Nelson Mandela, Long Walk to Freedom: Autobiography of Nelson Mandela
“When someone is dying, everyone has to wait. It takes time. All of us have a different timetable. Some wait mere hours. Some drag on for days, others, weeks. It is a lesson in patience.” Uma Girish – http://grammarofgrief.wordpress.com/2013/06/06/being-with-the-dying/
Today, in South Africa, Gracia Machel, is sitting vigil next to her beloved husband’s bed. I have no doubt that she is holding his hand, waiting, praying… Maybe she too feels that the time has come for Madiba to keep his head pointed to the sun and his feet moving forward to eternal peace and rest.
I wonder whether Madiba fears death? I have no doubt that he has fears for his family, his country… He once said “I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.”
In this morning Sunday Times Newspaper the headline was “It’s Time to let him go”. http://www.timeslive.co.za/sundaytimes/ It is an appeal by Andrew Mlangeni, a longtime friend of Nelson Mandela, to his family. No doubt it will be controversial and elicit a lot of discussion and criticism.
I agree with Andrew Mlangeni, it is time to let Madiba go… There can be very little joy in his life. This man has suffered so much in his life – it is time for his suffering to come to an end.
Spokesperson Mac Maharaj said Mandela’s situation was serious but stable.
Maharaj told eNCA on Saturday that doctors had confirmed Mandela was breathing on his own.
“That is a good sign, I think,” Maharaj said.
“This morning at about 1.30am his condition deteriorated and he was transferred to a Pretoria hospital,” presidency spokesperson Mac Maharaj said in a statement.
“He remains in a serious but stable condition.”
Maharaj said doctors were doing everything they could to make Mandela “better and comfortable”.
“President Jacob Zuma, on behalf ofgovernment and the nation, wishes Madiba a speedy recovery and requests the media and the public to respect the privacy of Madiba and his family,” Maharaj said.
Mandela’s wife, Graca Machel, has been by his side since being admitted tohospital.
On April 6, Mandela was discharged fromhospital after spending nine days receiving treatment for a recurring lung infection. The Nobel Peace Prize laureate has suffered lung ailments before and has been in and out ofhospital.
Regular hospital stays
Early in March, he was admitted to a Pretoria hospital for a scheduled check-up and was discharged the following day.In December last year, Mandela underwent an operation to remove gallstones and treat the recurring lung infection. He was discharged after an 18-day stay and placed under home-based high care at his Houghton home in Johannesburg.
In January, the presidency said Mandela had made a full recovery from surgery and continued to improve. In February last year he was admitted tohospital for a stomach ailment.
At the time, the presidency said Mandela underwent a diagnostic procedure to investigate the cause of a long-standing abdominal complaint.
In January 2011, Mandela was taken to Milpark Hospital for routine tests relating to respiratory problems.
Since then he had spent his time between Johannesburg and his ancestral village of Qunu in the Eastern Cape. http://www.iol.co.za/news/special-features/nelson-mandela/well-wishes-for-madiba
When the world’s greatest statesman is admitted to a hospital at 1.30 in the morning he is very ill… If his wife has not left his bedside – he is very ill… If the doctors are making him comfortable – he is very ill…
Nelson Mandela has a world-class medical team with world-class equipment in his Houghton home… For him to be admitted to a hospital in the early hours of the morning says it all…
I love and admire Nelson Mandela. I pray that his suffering will end. I pray for stability in my country when he dies. I pray that the lessons he taught the world will be remembered. I pray that his children and the country will bring honour to his legacy after his passing…
I think an icon’s death may be imminent.
Love you Madiba!