I remember being in primary school when the news of a man called Nelson Mandela being released to freedom. At the time the concept was so foreign to me I couldn’t grasp how significant the moment was. I remember that our teacher sighed and then put her head in her hands while she addressed the pupils. ”Children, get ready for a new world. A world where blacks and whites will be united and a world where your parents will make your nannies tea,” she said. Or something to that effect, anyway. I remember wondering why that was new, my mom and my nanny often sat and drank tea together and laughed and shared joy in screaming after my delinquent brothers and I. That didn’t seem so much of a change in my world.
But change it did. Suddenly, we had more blacks in our school, and those blacks had weird accents. One of them became my friend Subs, who was sometimes called Sabelo by the other blacks, and Sub-he-loo by the teachers. Subs and I grew up holding hands, swimming in the pool and proudly telling everyone we would be married.
As I got older, I started to understand the significance of my teacher’s statement. I became more and more aware of how wonderful this man Mandela was, and what he’d done for my future, even as a white girl. He’d given me the opportunity to make some of my best friends, I could have some of them over to my house and even got asked to go to the Debutantes ball with Subs! Life was amazing for me. I had no idea that when I got into my yellow and pink themed bedroom at night and curled into bed and switched on my ceiling fan that some of my new found friends were just getting home for the day, washing up in a basin and laying down on mattesses that scattered around a four walled shack without electricity. As far as I was concerned, we were all the same. I assumed we lived the same way too.
The point I’m trying to make is that while poverty is still around and too many people are still sharing mattresses in four walled shack houses, many are not. We have equality, we have diplomacy, we have freedom, we have rights. And the catalyst of all of that is thanks to a very special Mr Nelson Rolihlahla Madiba. Who, coincidentally, got his Christian name from his school teacher too. So we share a commonality in that our school teachers both made statements that forever shaped our futures.
If Madiba could read blogs in heaven, I’d like him to read the following:
Thank you for giving childhood me my very special friend Subs. Thank you for all that you’ve done for our country, Madiba. It’s not perfect and its got a long way to go, but it’s ours. You’ve given us a chance to heal, a chance to embrace the future and a chance to live a good life. I hope you rest well in the afterlife and revel in the glory you so richly deserve.