Death Of Nelson Mandela?, IT’S almost impossible to imagine a world without Nelson Mandela. But as he approaches his 95th birthday and remains in hospital battling a recurring lung infection, this is exactly what his countrymen and people around the world have pondered this past week.
No one wants him to go but some South Africans appear to have reached the realisation the time is getting close. His body is frail and his lungs are struggling.
Shadrack Motau lives opposite Mandela’s old home in Soweto. It was to this home that Mandela returned after his release from 27 years behind bars and Motau remembers fondly how Mandela went from house to house in the street after he came home from jail.
Motau said this week Mandela’s failing health saddened him.
“But at the same time, there is a beginning and there is an end of the road. It is unfortunate but it is going to happen whether we like it or not. It is a very sad time but he is suffering right now,” Motau told me from Soweto.
Motau was in Year 12 when Mandela was jailed. He still lives in the same street and says many people there just don’t want to let him go.
“Whenever it happens, my wish is that he rest in peace,” Motau says.
Madiba – Mandela’s clan name by which he is affectionately known – has shown what a true fighter he is.
Admitted to hospital one week ago today, his health was reportedly failing quickly and his family gathered around him, some flying in from overseas. But as the days went by, it seemed he was improving.
Mandela turns 95 on July 18.
He fought passionately to end apartheid and promote reconciliation and spent 27 years in jail, where he contracted tuberculosis.
In historic all-race elections in 1994, Mandela became South Africa’s first black president, a position he held until 1999.
Despite the ugly reality of apartheid, which saw shameful oppression of blacks, he worked to ensure that revenge was not visited upon whites after his election. This drew criticism from some in his party but it is a testament to the man he is.
This week, as his health faltered, retired archbishop Desmond Tutu described his old friend as an “extraordinary gift” and the beloved father of the nation.
Mandela’s family released a statement, saying they understood that many regarded him as a parent.
“We are fully cognisant of the fact that millions of people in the country and around the world regard Madiba as their parent and therefore are as much concerned about his well-being as we are.”
While some fear Mandela’s ideals will die with him, others are more optimistic.
Lerato Moloi, the acting head of research at the South African Institute of Race Relations, says it is far-fetched to suggest that the ideals of racial tolerance and integration will pass on with him.
“The truth is Mr Mandela has not been in the public eye or the political sphere for many years now and South Africans have managed quite well in his absence without waging a race war,” Moloi says.
“Although race relations have improved greatly in South Africa, it is still a country where government policies have been unable to eradicate poverty and inequality. Racial tensions sometimes flare up as a result.
“The solution to such tensions is to fix the education system and deal with the scourge of unemployment. That way, people won’t need to compete with each other for resources because when that happens, differences are highlighted while similarities are ignored. No figurehead for racial tolerance, dead or alive, can fix that.”
Mandela largely retired from public life in 2004.
Poverty was a big problem for Mandela when he was in power and remains so. Slums have expanded and white South Africans earn six times more than their black counterparts.
Meanwhile, schoolchildren across South Africa sing and pray daily for Madiba’s recovery.
Black children have been told how, without Mandela and his legacy, they would never have been in school at all. They cannot imagine a world without him. They are not alone. People around the world cannot imagine their world without him.