By Graça Machel.
Nelson Mandela (L), helped by his wife Graca Machel, is pictured 18 July 2007 during the launching ceremony of the group known as The Elders, in Johannesburg. File photo.
This week has been a torturous one for South Africa. Weary yet determined, we have been valiantly swimming against the current to overcome the Third Wave of COVID-19, and now we have now been mercilessly plunged into the dark and painful waters of civil unrest.
Scores of our fellow South Africans have met their untimely death. The more than 100 of our brothers and sisters who have died will remain a stain on the conscience of those who have purposefully troubled our waters.
South Africa as a whole has been impoverished by this past week. Come Monday thousands more of hard-working South Africans will have no job to go to, adding to our already astonishingly high unemployment rate. Businesses that are the backbone of our economy have suffered enormous setbacks.
The political violence, racial tensions, and the debilitating lawlessness we are experiencing have no place in this beautiful country. And all during the week of Madiba’s birthday! I cannot sit quietly as the land of his birth wages war with itself.
In my desperation, however, I take heart in the recollection that we have been through troubled times before. And I am reminded of Madiba’s indomitable spirit which was a beacon of light for us through that darkness.
And I am sure that from up there where he is, he is watching this beloved country of his. And in his resolute determination, which has always guided us in the darkest hours of our history, he reminds us that we can overcome any challenge if we keep focus on what is just, what is right, and the unfinished work of what has to be done to bring us closer to an existence of dignity for us all.
Madiba’s leadership guides us in this moment. We must be courageous enough to interrogate and remedy the underlying causes of our discord.
He is here.
He is with us.
He is lending his spirit to strengthen us.
And if we allow it, his legacy can anchor us as we navigate this storm and guide us to a brighter shore.
When we bring the best of ourselves the to the table, we are an extraordinary people. Our ancestors have gifted us unique resilience and fortitude. Let us support ethical leadership and the rule of law. And remember we are all leaders in our own right. We have influence in our communities.
My heart was warmed to see hundreds of ordinary citizens displaying incredible leadership these past few days:
- Volunteers protecting their neighbourhoods,
- young and old lending helping hands in clean-up efforts,
- citizens from across the country donating food supplies and financial resources to those most in need.
I stand with you who have protected your communities and prevented the spread of violence.
This Mandela Day, and every day, let us be guided by the example Madiba has gifted us.
Meanwhile the Nelson Mandela Foundation said in this moment of great challenge and terrible danger for South Africa, it is imperative for everyone who calls this country home to be part of finding solutions and making a future that is liveable for all. The temptation at times like this is to become paralysed, or to look away, or to give up. Our call is to honour Madiba in this month of Mandela Day by stepping up.