Mandela at 90

Lynne Duke in Root:

Mandelahomepageimagecomponent Who would ever have imagined the scene when South Africa won the 1995 Rugby World Cup, and Mandela strode onto the field at Ellis Park Stadium wearing the jersey of the team captain. In a spectacularly powerful moment of symbolism, the throng of Afrikaners chanted, “Nelson! Nelson! Nelson!”—though Afrikaners at that time weren’t fully embracing black rule and often wouldn’t even sing the new national anthem.

Yes, Mandela would forgive. But he would not forget. His political agenda was crafted as corrective for all the damage the Afrikaners had done under apartheid. He had to transform an economy that had once served only whites; uplift the black poor; rewrite the legal canon; bring some human rights to a people who had for so long been denied. And the truth commission, under Archbishop Desmond Tutu, would tend to the healing, the forgiveness. He was often called the “father of the nation,” though he rejected the notion that he was a kind of messiah. But in the townships and shanties, where life was bitter but dreams were sustenance, people revered him and hung on his every word. So many times, ordinary people would tell me, sometimes using Mandela’s affectionate clan name: Madiba says we must forgive, so I must try.

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