A personal reflection on Tata Madiba’s legacy

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A statue of Nelson Mandela outside the gates of Drakenstein Correctional Centre, near Paarl. Picture: Finbarr O'Reilly

Edward Kieswetter shares his personal response to Nelson Mandela’s passing.

We will all have our own feelings at this sad time of national mourning and I do not presume to speak for any or all of you – or, indeed, business. I wanted to share my personal response to Madiba’s passing. I had the special privilege to meet Tata Mandela a few times and I remember each with fond and vivid memories.

I was deeply humbled and honoured in his presence and my overwhelming impression is of a man absolutely able to see you and connect with you. I can still see his piercing eyes, the firm but loving grasp of his hand, the special warmth in his voice, the intense concentration on you and only you – all of which made you feel you were the centre of his attention.

And even if the moments may have been brief, every encounter left an impression that would last a lifetime. I would call these moments in eternity.

When Madiba walked into the room, time stood still. Nothing else mattered. His aura was all-embracing. The sun shone brighter. He was not a saint. It was his humanity, his single-minded sense of purpose, his willingness to serve, that made him great. And made us more alive than life itself.

This is just my experience. In other arenas, such as Ellis Park on the occasion of our winning the rugby World Cup in 1995, we all felt the extraordinary unifying force that Madiba created by his appearance in the Springbok jersey to present the Webb Ellis Cup. Even Hollywood noticed.

In all of this, the political, public and personal all merge into the impact this one humble and incredibly forgiving man has had, not only on our country but on the world. The lesson in this, for me, is that Madiba was always certain of his role in the world and very clear that every person in it had value and a contribution to make. We would do well to learn those lessons for ourselves – to be clear and committed to who we are and why we are here, and to be humble and open to learning from everyone we meet.

For me, and like many others, I experience the moment of his passing with mixed emotions. I am sad at the loss – an empty space that seems impossible to fill. Yet I am thankful that we, and the world, were blessed with 95 years of the indelible mark that his life has made. A mark that will dwell with us beyond our mortal life.

He now moves to a higher plane. His long walk to freedom has been achieved. We wish him peace and a well-earned rest from his labours.

In closing, I would like to pass my condolences to Tata Madiba’s family. We must remember that although we all feel the loss, he was a husband, a brother, a father, a grandfather and a great-grandfather.

This loss is personal; but it will be felt throughout the world as we all come to terms with the passing of a life that made history – history which we have all lived through, witnessing perhaps the greatest leader of our time. A legacy that few, if any, will be able to emulate.

Hamba kahle, Tata.

* Edward Kieswetter is the group chief executive at Alexander Forbes.

** The views expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of Independent Newspapers.


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