Nelson Mandela Passes Away at Age 95
By David D. Hull. As word of Nelson Mandela’s passing came to me today over the radio I was not shocked as he had endured poor health for some time. As I listened to the tributes, reflections, and accolades on a life well lived I pondered my own “time” with Nelson and South Africa.
It was true. The man who without a doubt was the moral compass of not only South Africa but the entire African continent has been silenced. We should all aspire to have the courage and fortitude of Mandela. The strength and valour he inspired among the people of Africa and the world often had him elevated to saint status. To which he said, “I’m not a saint unless you think of a saint as a sinner who keeps on trying.”
My education touched on the politics of SA and the oppressive systemic racial segregation that was the Apartheid regime. It was difficult to fathom what was really happening in SA. I was literally half way around and half way up the world away from SA. I was only four years old when Nelson was sentenced to prison.
I knew that Canada’s efforts included trade and relationship embargos so this meant no South African wine or rugby matches against the famed Springboks. However, even as a teenager not concerned with much beyond Friday night it was patently obvious that what was going on in South Africa was not right or acceptable. It did give me pause to be thankful for being in Canada.
Years later as a young married couple we hosted a number of exchange students including two from South Africa. Both were Afrikaans from successful, comfortable families in large cities. They enjoyed the trappings of “staff” in their homes, very well funded schools and a good life. Their time with us spanned the culmination of the decades of rumblings and the rising of the oppressed masses, the release of Mandela, and the end of Apartheid, and finally democratic elections.
In our home a world away in rural BC long before email, skype and inexpensive international phone rates our exchange students must have felt like they were on another planet with limited direct communication with family and friends in such a time of great turmoil and angst. The “outcome” certainly was not predictable and a “fear for the worst” was not unfounded.
We watched TV news and read the newspapers faithfully to keep up with the sweeping changes in SA. This very bright young man and young lady were very knowledgeable, worldly, and well spoken. They opened many eyes to the world that was SA and answered tough and probing questions with diplomacy and raw honesty.
Over the years we had many friends, a good number of them medical professionals, who left South Africa at varying times pre and post the abolition of the Apartheid regime. They were all white, most though not all, of Afrikaans background. They feared for their future and safety if they had remained. They all had trepidation for the future of their homeland. The transition to majority rule certainly, by all accounts, has not been without trials and tribulations.
This insight and interaction with first person accounts piqued my interest in the history of South Africa. From colonization, to war, to the atrocity of Apartheid, and the Mandela years to the present I have followed the ongoing effort and struggle of the people of South Africa of all races and ethnicities to rebuild a nation in the vision of those that fought so hard to gain peace and independence.
Sadly universal peace, safety, and collective happiness is still illusive in South Africa. It is an enormous work in progress. Economic disparity pulls the nation to a breaking point on a daily basis.
To shake the bonds of traditions that go back thousands of years between tribal peoples and to quell those of near history who still yearn and lament for a time of unacceptable oppression is a quest that Nelson Mandela did not live to see completed.
At his trial in 1964, Nelson Mandela offered this statement, “I have fought against white domination and I have fought against black domination. I’ve cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. 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.”
In an address today President Obama summed up the life of Nelson Mandela very well and finished by giving us solace in the passing of a great man.
“For now, let us pause and give thanks for the fact that Nelson Mandela lived, a man who took history in his hands and bent the arc of the moral universe towards justice. May God bless his memory and keep him in peace.”
David D. Hull is a management professional with over 30 years of business experience with small and medium enterprises and multinational corporations. Hull has been a lifelong student and active participant in the world big and small, politics, and government. Hull has in spent the majority of his life in very public roles in business, city council, business representation and most recently as the driving force behind the Abbotsford Chamber of Commerce becoming a recognised leader in their field.