What a beautiful man.
He may have been a bit of a rubbish MK leader of the armed struggle, but Rolihlahla the troublemaker went on to be the world’s most effective ambassador for peace and reconciliation in prison and afterwards. (Though here’s a less rosy view of Mandela’s legacy.) He changed tack on HIV/Aids too. If only more of us were able accept enlightenment.
I was fascinated with South Africa when I was young – one of the causes. So in 1984, when “Mary Manning of Kilmainham, a 21-year-old cashier” (as the song goes) and IDATU member was suspended for refusing to sell South African (apartheid) produce in Dunnes Stores on Henry Street in Dublin, Irish Anti Apartheid Movement members like myself got up to mischief at other Dunnes branches in support.
The strike never really grabbed the popular imagination in Ireland, but it also led to a law change on the import of apartheid produce to the country, and the strikers eventually had a street named after them in post-apartheid Johannesburg. Back then the strike made me proud to be Irish. (Here’s the song – I can’t find the Ewan MacColl and Peggy Seeger version.)
Nelson Mandela has long been (appropriated as) an icon in some parts of Belfast. However, to be fair to the appropriators, the same man seemed pleased and sympathetic.
I guess it was at least partly because of Madiba that I travelled to work and wander in South Africa. Lots of good times.
Among the highlights – taking a street paper seller to Cape Point (he was the only black visitor), operating an informal taxi service for the day round Khayelitsha, organising an Alternative G8 Summit in a high school in Umlazi, finding hospitality (and the oddest aircraft) in Amazizi and Heidelberg, standing at the top of Tugela Falls (2nd highest drop after Angel Falls), in the cell and up the watch tower on Robben Island, the District Six Museum in Cape Town (definite contender for best museum ever) and the solemn majesty of the Drakensberg.
Two lots of musicians I did some work with spring to mind – DJ Moklash in hiding from anti-immigrant killer mobs (he’s actually South African but grew up in Zimbabwe) and the Green Berets – singers with polio. (Too tired to find a video of those guys right now.)
So – South Africa – beautiful people, beautiful voices, beautiful country – you should go there for yourself. A beautiful South African died this week. I remember buying the single of this beautiful song for him.