In DepthColumnsMandela, the spine in our moral fibre

Thu,23Nov2017

Posted on Friday, 06 December 2013 16:05

Mandela, the spine in our moral fibre

Shauna Mottiar

When it was suggested that I write a tribute to Madiba for my column on The Africa Report, my reaction was 'who am I to write a tribute to an icon as great as Nelson Mandela?'

In response, a colleague answered 'I'll tell you who you are – you are a South African'.

Now I realise that it's perfectly in order. I am a South African because of what Madiba stood for and what Madiba fought for. As a South African I offer this humble tribute.

'Why do you look so cross?' Nelson Mandela asked me"

I've only ever met Madiba once. It was at the launch of a book edited by Mac Maharaj entitled 'Reflections in Prison: Voices from the South African Liberation Struggle' in which he had written an essay.

The book launch was befittingly held at Constitutional Hill, the site of the Old Fort Prison complex where many political prisoners had been held in the dark days of apartheid.

It was a freezing cold winter evening in Johannesburg and I was not enjoying myself. I remember wondering why I hadn't dressed more warmly.

My discontent must have been obvious because I suddenly found myself face to face with Madiba who I was graciously introduced to by Ahmed Kathrada and who shook my hand (warmly) and inquired 'Why do you look so cross?' My shivering stopped for a moment.

How will South Africa be different for South Africans now that Madiba is gone? I think that he represented the spine in our moral fibre.

When for example, our national health department completely lacked the political will to provide antiretroviral treatment to HIV positive patients in the public healthcare system, we know the Nelson Mandela Foundation provided funding to a Medecins sans Frontieres HIV/AIDS treatment initiative in the Eastern Cape.

When a horrific wave of xenophobia hit our country and politicians failed to respond adequately, we know the Nelson Mandela Foundation set up a series of dialogues in five provinces to facilitate social cohesion.

I also think however, that his life was so large it will forever pulse in the energy of our people and the spirit of our country.

Hamba Kahle Madiba



Shauna Mottiar

Shauna Mottiar

Shauna Mottiar is Senior Research Fellow at the Centre for Civil Society,UniversityofKwaZulu- Natal. She has a PhD in Political Studies from the University of theWitwatersrandand her research interests include civil society, social movements and social protest. She currently manages the Centre for Civil Society Philanthropy and Social Entrepreneurship project focusing on the role of philanthropy in social justice and social change.

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