Walking free

I finished reading Nelson Mandela’s Long Walk to Freedom yesterday afternoon. For a 500-something autobiography, it’s quite an easy and enjoyable read.

Whatever I knew about Mandela before he became South Africa’s first post-apartheid leader, it was about how he was in prison for a long time because of his politics and that he had an equally famous wife. The book detailed his childhood in countryside, a member of the Thembu royal family and how he grew up groomed to be an adviser to the king. Of course, it detailed his journey as a freedom fighter, up to his inauguration as the nation’s first black leader.

I have walked that long road to freedom. I have tried not to falter; I have made missteps along the way. But I have discovered the secret that after climbing a great hill, one only finds that there are many more hills to climb. I have taken a moment here to rest, to steal a view of the glorious vista that surrounds me, to look back on the distance I have come. But I can rest only for a moment, for with freedom come responsibilities, and I dare not linger, for my long walk is not yet ended.

This morning, I read that PW Botha, former South African prime minister and president had passed away. His name came up quite a lot, especially in the later parts of Mandela’s book.

When I went to Cape Town in 2003, I visited Robben Island, where Mandela had been placed during most of his imprisonment. Coincidentally, it was his birthday when I went to the island. Not that there was a big party waiting for us, but it kind of gave me a bit more meaning to the visit.

Reading the book, it gave an insight to how non-white South Africans fought to be recognised as equals to the white minority who ruled, how they struggled with discrimination and prejudices, even from their own people..

The policy of apartheid created a deep and lasting wound in my country and my people. All of us will spend many years, if not generations, recovering from that profound hurt.

It is sad to hear stories of crimes and how black empowerment is not helping the country much. It’s almost like what we have here back home. Although here, we’re the ones being empowered and I see many either abusing the priviledge or don’t actually know what to do with it. And then there are those not getting any attention when they certainly deserved all the help they can get.


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