Nieuws / 10 december 2013

Mandela door de ogen van Stephen Law uit Zuid-Afrika

Stephen Law, directeur van de 'Environmental Monitoring Group' (EMG), een NGO in Zuid-Afrika waar Both ENDS veel mee samenwerkt, vertelt  hoe hij Mandela heeft beleefd. Een persoonlijk  'in memoriam', dat vertaald in het Nederlands aan kracht zou inboeten. Wij hebben er dus voor gekozen om de oorspronkelijke versie in het Engels  te plaatsen.


There have been so many tributes from so many people, that anything I write seems insignificant. After all, I can’t say I knew him or ever met him, and I don’t have a memorable “Mandela and Me” moment to share.  But like me, there are millions of ordinary people in this country and all around the world, who never met him, yet could not help being touched in some profound way by his extraordinary life.


How one man could engender such a scale of outpouring of tributes and respect is hard to comprehend.


And in all of what people say about Madiba, and how he touched their lives, there is one characteristic that invariably surfaces  –   No, he was not a saint! Yet he had an extraordinary ability to do a very ordinary thing – to see and acknowledge those he met as fellow human beings . It did not matter whether you were one of his former jailers, or his close political comrade,  a foreign prince or a pauper – you were first and foremost a human being, worthy of respect not for what you were, but for who you were.


Sadly, so many of the injustices in that we struggle against stem from our inability to relate to each other in this most simple and humane way.  To corporate bosses we are faceless consumers in a heartless market.  To politicians we are potential voters. To economists we are income brackets, statistics and percentages.  To each other we are either “us” to be embraced, or “them” to be treated with suspicion. Remove the real people from the equation and real suffering becomes merely the “collateral damage” in achieving you aims, unfortunate but unavoidable.


Madiba would never tolerate “collateral damage”. He showed us that it is possible to be a father, a lawyer, a fighter, a politician, a state president  –  whatever you are or want to be  –   without losing the humility that makes us truly human.




Stephen Law
Environmental Monitoring Group
Cape Town, South Africa

Foto: on Flickr




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