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Madiba Magic strikes again

15 December 2013

When we got back from church this morning we watched the last part of Nelson Mandela’s funeral on TV, and when the helicopters came past with the flag, I was reminded where I had seen that before, on the day of his inauguration at the Union Buildings nearly 20 years ago, on 10 May 1994. It was a memorable day in many ways.

Elelction poster for the first democratic election in 1994. Promise fulfilled.

Elelction poster for the first democratic election in 1994. Promise fulfilled.

Immediately after the inauguration Nelson Mandela left for the FNB stadium, where there was a football match between South Africa and Zambia. South Africa won.

A year later he was there again for the final of the rugby world cup, and again South Africa won. The following year he was there for the the final of the African Cup of Nations, and again South Africa won. People began to talk about “Madiba magic”. His presence seemed to inspire our sportsmen to do their best.

Last Tuesday a memorial service was held for him at the same venue, and just about everything that could go wrong did. It was quite embarrassing to watch, even on TV. But the body of Madiba was not there. The Madiba magic had gone.

But today, at his funeral at Qunu, he was there, and things went very well. From what we could see on TV, it was dignified and well organised, and the nation, and the world, gave him a good send-off. They sang his favourite hymn again, Lisalis’ idinga lahko, and it sounded good, and not as disastrous as it was in the stadium. I think the organisers had learned a few things from Tuesday’s disaster, and got their act together. And perhaps it was the Madiba magic working, for one last time.

His coffin was escorted to the grave by marching soldiers, young men, black and white, marching together. And I wondered if, 30 years ago, some of their fathers had perhaps been facing each other on opposite sides of what was called, by the government of the time, “the Border War”, one side fighting to keep Nelson Mandela in jail until he died, and the other side fighting to free him, and all of us, from tyranny. And there they were, marching side-by-side, to say goodbye to the man who had spent his life trying to bring us together on the same side.

Waiting in the queue to vote in the first democratic election, in 1994, at a school in Mamelodi East.

Waiting in the queue to vote in the first democratic election, in 1994, at a school in Mamelodi East.

While the first part of the service was going on we went to Mamelodi East for the Readers Service (Obednitsa) in the humble home of Christina Mothapo, 87 years old. We followed it with our own short memorial service for Madiba, just a few of us. It seemed appropriate, as it was the ninth day after his death.

With the saints give rest, O Christ
To the soul of Thy servant
Where sickness and sorrow are no more
Neither sighing, but life everlasting.
Thou only art immortal
Who hast created and fashioned man
For out of the earth were we mortals made
And unto the same earth shall we return again
As Thou didst command when Thou madest me, saying unto me:
for dust thou art and unto dust shalt thou return
Whither we mortals all shall go
Making our funeral dirge the song:
Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia!

And that was the same theme at the funeral service at Qunu. Nelson Mandela grew from that earth, and now he has returned to it at last. But we’ll miss his magic.

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