Quantcast
Latest Stories

Mandela on death and dying


Former South African president, Nelson Mandela. AP FILE PHOTO

JOHANNESBURG – Haunted by death during his long anti-apartheid struggle, Nelson Mandela looked toward his own “eternal sleep” as a man who fulfilled his duty to his people.

He was willing to die for democracy, the young black activist said during the 1963-64 trial that would send him to prison for 27 years.

“It is an ideal which I hope to live for and to achieve. But if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die,” he told judges of the white-minority apartheid regime.

Nearly 50 years later the 94-year-old is critically ill, fighting a stubborn pulmonary infection.

The country’s presidency has prepared people for the icon’s passing after his fourth hospitalisation this year.

“He never gave death a great deal of thought but he never wanted anything fancy,” a family friend told the weekly Mail & Guardian.

A simple A4-page testament quoted in the paper asks a modest last resting place, true to the unpretentious image he cultivated from his presidency from 1994 to 1999.

He allowed himself one fantasy 10 years ago: fellow anti-apartheid fighter and political mentor Walter Sisulu welcoming him to paradise with mobilisation chants and an ANC enrolment form.

After leading South Africa to a peaceful transition and the first all-race elections in 1994, the Nobel peace laureate regarded his life task complete.

“When a man has done what he considers to be his duty to his people and his country, he can rest in peace,” he said in 1996.

“I believe I have made that effort and that is, therefore, why I will sleep for the eternity.”

Throughout his long imprisonment Mandela lost friends and family, often unable to say goodbye in person.

Already refused permission to attend his mother’s funeral, he mourned his firstborn son Thembekile’s death alone in his Robben Island cell in 1969.

“He was called to the office. We were all in the courtyard, but instead of coming back to us he went straight to his cell and got on his mattress,” his old cellmate Ahmed Kathrada remembered years later.

“It was similar when his mother died. He just kept very quiet and mourned alone.”

By 1987, feeling increasingly alone, Mandela became despondent.

“So many relatives and friends have died over these last twenty years, that it seems the world itself is dying,” he wrote in a letter.

Today thousands of bouquets and Get Well cards at his Johannesburg house and hospital echo his eulogy at the burial of communist leader Joe Slovo in 1995.

“Men and women of rare qualities are few and hard to come by. And when they depart, the sense of loss is made the more profound and the more difficult to manage,” he said.

Mandela will eventually rest surrounded by his family’s remains, according to his cultural Xhosa nation’s tradition.

“My family’s here and I’d like to be buried here at home,” he said at the Mandela cemetery in a 2003 documentary in his childhood village Qunu.

A row of trees surround the graveyard off the N2 highway in the rolling Eastern Cape province hills, around 500 metres (yards) from his house.

Simple headstones bearing the family name stand out from the yellowed grass.

In a 2006 documentary he was clear on how he wanted to be remembered.

“I would like it to be said that, ‘Here lies a man who has done his duty on earth.’ That is all.”


Follow Us

Follow us on Facebook Follow on Twitter Follow on Twitter


Recent Stories:

Complete stories on our Digital Edition newsstand for tablets, netbooks and mobile phones; 14-issue free trial. About to step out? Get breaking alerts on your mobile.phone. Text ON INQ BREAKING to 4467, for Globe, Smart and Sun subscribers in the Philippines.

Tags: Anti-apartheid , Nelson Mandela , South Africa




Copyright © 2014, .
To subscribe to the Philippine Daily Inquirer newspaper in the Philippines, call +63 2 896-6000 for Metro Manila and Metro Cebu or email your subscription request here.
Factual errors? Contact the Philippine Daily Inquirer's day desk. Believe this article violates journalistic ethics? Contact the Inquirer's Reader's Advocate. Or write The Readers' Advocate:
c/o Philippine Daily Inquirer Chino Roces Avenue corner Yague and Mascardo Streets, Makati City, Metro Manila, Philippines Or fax nos. +63 2 8974793 to 94
Advertisement
  1. Napoles spills beans on Enrile, Estrada, Revilla – De Lima
  2. Opinions split on Napoles turning state witness
  3. Delfin Lee: Blame Pag-Ibig, not me
  4. Plunder complaint filed vs PNP chief, firearms office head over license delivery deal
  5. Cedric Lee’s cohort flies out of PH despite look-out order – De Lima
  6. San Juan cops fail to arrest Cedric Lee
  7. More ‘Yolanda’ bodies found
  8. Gigi Reyes pins blame on aide
  9. Lawyer: Napoles ‘will tell all’
  10. Boy ‘sexually assaulted’ at Indonesia international school
  1. Kim Henares needs a reprimand, says Cayetano
  2. Estrada: Gigi Reyes won’t testify vs JPE
  3. Gigi Reyes pins blame on aide
  4. More legal woes for Cedric Lee
  5. Enrile chief aide back in PH ‘to face charges’
  6. Bernice Lee arrested by NBI team
  7. ‘No real progress in PH if dynasties not dismantled’
  8. Suspect in Vhong Navarro’s mauling wants to turn state witness – De Lima
  9. Henares on Pacquiao bashing: I did not start this
  10. ‘Mom, I love you,’ says text from student on sinking ferry
  1. KL confirms Malaysian Airlines Flight MH370 ended in Indian Ocean
  2. MRT passengers pass the hat for 6-year-old Ashley
  3. Rookie, lady cops lauded for quick response to MOA heist
  4. Malaysia averts another air tragedy; pilot lands troubled plane safely
  5. Revilla says he was joking; Lacson stands by his story
  6. Revilla ‘consulted’ Lacson on how he evaded arrest
  7. Cudia, dismissed for lying, got 99% in conduct
  8. Kim Henares needs a reprimand, says Cayetano
  9. Hammer-wielding robbers cause chaos at Philippines’ Mall of Asia
  10. Ex-PBA player Bryan Gahol dies in road mishap
Advertisement

News

  • Napoles tags over 100 officials in pork scam – Lacson
  • Vitangcol to sue Czech envoy
  • Senator’s kickback from pork bigger than those of Enrile, Estrada, Revilla – Lacson
  • 43 out of 414 Etihad passengers yet to be found, tested for MERS-CoV – Palace
  • Maid confesses in killing of 2 and stabbing of employer in Laguna
  • Sports

  • Caguioa blasts ‘no heart, soft’ Ginebra on Twitter
  • San Mig Coffee grinds out win over Alaska to force decider
  • UP nips St. Benilde; Adamson blasts RTU in Filoil women’s caging
  • Kevin Garnett responds to Raptors’ GM F word
  • Albert Pujols hits 500th HR of major league career
  • Lifestyle

  • Entering the monkhood a rite of passage
  • Haneda International Airport: A destination on its own
  • Wanted: Beauty queen with a heart that beats for the environment
  • Kim Atienza: At home with art and design
  • Life lessons I want to teach my son
  • Entertainment

  • Bollywood Oscars, film stars come to Florida
  • Ex-Fox exec denies allegations in sex abuse suit
  • Kris Aquino backtracks, says Herbert Bautista and her are ‘best friends’
  • Summer preview: Chris Pratt enters a new ‘Galaxy’
  • Bon Jovi helps open low-income housing in US
  • Business

  • SM to rebuild Tacloban hospital
  • PSEi slips after 4-day rally
  • Toyota sells 2.58 million vehicles, outselling GM
  • McDonald’s 1Q profit slips as US sales decline
  • SEC approves SM’s P15B retail bond offer
  • Technology

  • ‘Unlimited’ Internet promos not really limitless; lawmakers call for probe
  • Viber releases new design for iPhone, comes to Blackberry 10 for the first time
  • Engineers create a world of difference
  • Bam Aquino becomes Master Splinter’s son after Wiki hack
  • Mark Caguioa lambasts Ginebra teammates on Twitter
  • Opinion

  • One-dimensional diplomacy: A cost-benefit analysis of Manila’s security deal with Washington
  • No ordinary illness
  • Reforest mountains with fire trees and their kind
  • Day of the Earth
  • When will Chinese firm deliver new coaches?
  • Global Nation

  • Filipinos coming home from Mideast must obtain MERS clearance – DOH
  • US Secret Service in Manila ahead of Obama visit
  • Palace thanks Estrada for successful HK mission
  • Hong Kong accepts PH apology; sanctions also lifted
  • China won’t budge, wants PH gov’t to apologize to HK
  • Marketplace
    Advertisement