"AMANDLA NNGAWETHU" - Sleep Well Madiba
"We seek to create a united Democratic and non-racial society. We have a vision of South Africa in which black and white shall live and work together as equals in conditions of peace and prosperity. Using the power you derive from the discovery of the truth about racism in South Africa, you will help us to remake our part of the world into a corner of the globe on which all -- of which all of humanity can be proud."
It will seem strange to some that I should precede a tribute to our beloved Madiba with a quote from Oliver Tambos (ANC president 1967-1991) But as a founding member of the ANC Youth League alongside Walter Sisulu and Nelson Mandela in 1943, Tambos (pronounced Tambo) was in the 1980's the voice of the ANC in the West, the spokesperson of Mandela, whose own voice was silenced by his white oppressors within a wicked South African regime willing to use its system of Apartheid to butcher and murder so many of the nation's young for daring to even believe that all men are born equal.
But it was Tambos' words as précised above that made me the political activist I am today, His words of unity, equality, peace and humanity following on from those of Martin Luther King in the 1960's and preceding Madiba's own actions and words of the future are all major parts of my political education.
I joined the ANC in the mid 1980's whilst working as Local Government Officer with Northamptonshire County Council, and became a fundraiser for the cause, peddling mugs, t shirts, badges and flags on behalf of the movement. A strange political awakening and activity for a boy born in the Barratt Maternity home in Northampton but one which was itself born out of admiration for a movement willing to fight for world change and for a man who was still incarcerated and as such denied the oxygen of publicity by his enemies.
In 1990 when Mandela was finally released from his Victor Versta prison cell (he was only at Robben Island from 1964-1982) and began his long walk to freedom on behalf of a whole people, I wept like a small child, tears of joy, hope and anger tears not just at the sense of collective achievement bought about by a world community who had boycotted and protested South Africa into submission but because of the injustice of this true giant of world politics having been incarcerated for so long and for the world having been denied the opportunity to find hope and comfort in his words and in his voice for 27 years .
Having been informed of his freedom by the then South African President FW De Clerk, on the 10th February 1990 Madiba, despite his 27 years incarceration, is reported to have told the then president that "at the risk of appearing ungrateful I would prefer to have a week's notice in order that my family and my organization could be prepared." His request though was denied and his release then arranged for the very next day.
His words on the day of his release were as always, from the heart and as carefully crafted, thoughtful and true as all those that followed from him for the rest of his life when he told the massive crowds who came to witness his freedom and the millions watching worldwide that
"It is only through disciplined mass action that our victory can be assured. We call on our white compatriots to join us in the shaping of a new South Africa"
And then he purposely repeated the words he had spoken at his trial those 27 years previous when he told the Cape Town crowd:
"I have fought against white domination and I have fought against black domination. I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is an ideal which I hope to live for and to achieve. But if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die".
On his first day of freedom, he called for peace, asked those present to act with calm dignity and put feelings of indifference aside, he began the remarkable journey and long walk to freedom that South Arica and its people were destined to make, it was his forgiveness of his enemies, his desire for one nation, and his total commitment to equality and fairness for all black and white that inspired so many across the world in the 23 years thereafter. In that his first act of freedom we were to witness first hand his calmness, his humility and courage.
Mandela didn't just battle against and conquer racism, he crushed it as a very concept, he taught the world how futile ethnic indifference to be and on a personal note he personally helped alongside others to make me the person I am proud to be and helped me teach my children the importance of collective human endeavour.
Madiba, the whole world is poorer for your passing, we grieve alongside your own "One Nation" in their loss, but we thank you as One World from the bottom of our hearts for precious gifts you gave to us, the lessons you taught us and the legacy you leave behind.
"Amandla Ngawethu" RIP Madiba, Sleep Well my Comrade