Over the last 7 days, South Africa has been tested to its absolute limit. On our television screens, on social media feeds, and through conversations and phone calls with loved ones across the country, we have heard the stories and seen the visuals of a country emotionally, politically, and – quite literally- on fire. Repercussions of the last seven days are vast but the scenes of destruction and desperation have since turned to scenes of hope and solidarity. We have witnessed an undoing. But we are experiencing a new coming together.
Men and women, young and old, from all races, religions, and socio-economic backgrounds have united to become a force for good, and custodians of great change. Where yesterday there was destruction on the streets, today there are communities who have come together to clean up, to begin to wipe away some of the tears of the last few days. Farmers are starting feeding schemes with fresh produce from their land. Neighbours are offering groceries from their own fridges to help each other. Those far away are chartering planes and sending food from the areas not affected. People are sharing wisdom on how to make do with the little that they have left. Fathers, brothers and friends are uniting to keep their communities safe. We have had to live in our deepest truth about what Ubuntu really means. Black, white, colored. Man, woman, and child. Them and they. Rich, poor, poorest. All human. All united. All in this together.
But today’s piece is not about dwelling on the devastation. Today is Nelson Mandela’s birthday – he would have been 103. Today is about celebrating Madiba and, once again, like a compass, returning to his teachings and letting his wisdom guide us through another difficult yet critical turning point in our beloved South Africa.
Nature shows us that the seeds of every plant lie dormant throughout winter. A seemingly vast and dead landscape springs back to life after a period of aridity followed by spring rains. We see this happen year after year. Just when we believe that this year will be different, and our sacred wilderness will be brown and dead forever, life begins to slowly and persistently return. And not only does it return, but it also becomes beautiful. Bright greens take over from dry browns. Burnt sections of earth sprout anew with fresh grasses. Flowers bud and bloom. Pollinators begin to return and spread new life. Life, like hope, lies dormant. But it returns. That’s what nature reminds us of. And that’s what Madiba believed too when during his inauguration speech in 1994 he said:
“To my compatriots I have no hesitation in saying that each one of us is as intimately attached to the soil of this beautiful country as are the famous jacaranda trees of Pretoria and the mimosa trees of the bushveld. Each time one of us touches the soil of this land we feel a sense of personal renewal. The national mood changes as the seasons change. We are moved by a sense of joy and exhilaration when the grass turns green and the flowers bloom.
That spiritual and physical oneness we all share with this homeland explains the depth of the pain that we have all carried in our hearts as we saw our country tear itself apart in terrible conflict and as we saw it spurned, outlawed and isolated by the peoples of the world, precisely because it has become the universal base of the pernicious ideology and practice of racism and racial oppression. We, the people of South Africa, feel fulfilled that humanity has taken us back into its bosom, that we, who were outlaws not so long ago, have today been given the rare privilege to be host to the nations of the world on our own soil. We thank all our distinguished international guests for having come to take possession people of our country of what is, after all, a common victory for justice, for peace, for human dignity. We trust that you will continue to stand by us as we tackle the challenges of building peace, prosperity, non-sexism, non-racialism and democracy.
The time for the healing of the wounds has come.
The moment to bridge the chasms that divide us has come.
The time to build is upon us.”
Mandela has taught us that from the darkness there will always be light. Even from the deepest devastation springs hope. From a country seemingly divided there is no other antidote but unity. We are all here for the same reasons. All here in agreement that it is us who must stand together now to do what is right. We stand in Mandela’s deepest truths – more than we have ever done before.
“Every night, when I go to bed, I do so full of strength and hope because I can see in my own country the rainbow nation emerging. Different cultures, but one nation.” – Nelson Mandela
The challenges we face will take us to a new place. A place where we see each other more clearly, right down to the bare soul of it all. No one else will do it for us. WE are who we have been waiting for. It’s up to each one of us to choose who we want to be and what role we want to play in our own society. Living in the Ubuntu of it all is the solution we have been seeking. And Mandela knew this all along.
While we at Londolozi have been physically distant from what has been happening in KwaZulu Natal and Gauteng, we have been emotionally and spiritually present for our country. We may be far away, but we send love, kindness, and the serenity of nature to every single soul who has been affected. Nature reminds us that there can be no beauty or rejuvenation without desolation. Mandela reminds us that we are all one. And if we come together and pour our souls into the melting pot of this humanity, hope, possibility, and joy is truly boundless. So today on this Mandela day we will do our 67 minutes of service as we have done every year. We will place our hands deep into the soil of this beautiful country and we will reflect, planting trees of hope for the future we believe is possible.
If you would like to get involved this Mandela Day and donate #67for67 to our partners at the Good Work Foundation CLICK HERE
Writer’s note: If you have any other stories of how communities have come together in a positive way as a result of the happenings of this last week, I would love to hear them in the comments below. Every time we tell the positive stories, we share small pieces of ourselves that will continue to build and strengthen our humanity.
With thanks, Amanda.