Hamba khale Madiba

MadibaThere will be many obituaries and reflections that use the line hamba kahle Madiba, go well, Madiba. Hamba kahle, the farewell wish in isiZulu, but also the line used at funerals during the struggle against apartheid. Now we use it for Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela, affectionately called Madiba (his clan name).

Of course we knew the day would come. I am glad that for him, the long road of dying had finally come to an end, just as for any other person who dies after a long and debilitating illness.

But with his death, a chapter is closed. Is is nostalgia that makes me cry today? Is it the disappointment with the new political class in South Africa, that has made a mockery of the liberation struggle? Is it that I have been far away from my elected home for many years – the fact that my life has not worked out the way I had hoped?

Would you have been different, Madiba, if you had stayed on as president of the country? Would you have been different, i.e., better, than your pathetic successors? The fact that you stood down was itself significant; you did not try to hold on to power to the bitter end, as so many others did, do, and will do. Perhaps that is enough, and a poignant end to your political career. You had your faults, like everyone else. But you were essential to get South Africa out of the mess, between your release in 1990, and the end of your term as president of the country in 1999.

Hamba kahle, comrade. Rest in peace.

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