Reflecting on Madiba's spirit of freedom

  • 22 December 2015 | By Luvuyo Nomvete

“Wasn’t that awesome guys?”

We all burst out laughing again, because Balisa had already asked this question so many times.

“Yes it was, my dear,” replied Kristi. “It always feels nice to be of some service to your fellow human beings.”

Five of us had spent 67 minutes on Mandela Day assisting at a charity event for Aurora Special Care Centre, a place that provides care for physically and mentally disabled children in Port Elizabeth.

We decided to take the Route 67 tour afterwards, to wind down and to reflect together on our activities of the day. We had just disembarked the taxi near the Campanile and had begun our uphill journey towards the South African flag.

“Isn’t it just fascinating hey, how one man was able to inspire the whole world?” Mandla said, referring to Nelson Mandela.

“I mean, think of it. Once a year, an entire nation is moved to perform acts of selfless service for their communities. All because of one guy.”

I agreed. “What he was able to achieve for this country is incredible.

“But my question is: What was so special about this guy? There are so many great leaders out there, and there were even more in the past. But they weren’t able to inspire and liberate their people to such a superlative extent.

“Tata’s achievements remain unmatched in the history of our continent. What was it about him that made him so remarkable?”

“Why don’t we think about this question as we’re walking up the hill,” suggested Sanda. “And when we get to the top, we can all share what we think Mandela’s greatest quality is.”

We burst out laughing again. This time because we knew Sanda’s real intentions.

Sanda was simply tired from the hard work of the day, and we still had a long way to climb. He wanted us to walk in silence to get to the flag more quickly.

Nevertheless, we all agreed, and continued the walk up in silence.


Route 67 consists of 67 Public Art Works symbolising Nelson Mandela’s 67 years of work dedicated to the struggle for Freedom in South Africa. Photo:


Some of us stopped every now and then to observe some of the intricate beauty of the art on display along the route.

No matter how many times one takes this walk, it always is possible to see for the first time something stunningly beautiful in the detail of the artwork.

Having enjoyed afresh the art pieces along the path and spent a moment looking at the flag at the top of the hill, we settled down on the “Windward” seats.

“Okay, what are your thoughts guys?” said Sanda.

Three of us admitted to not having focussed on the question sufficiently during the walk. It was only the girls who had come up with possible answers.

“Well, I think it was Nelson Mandela’s emphasis on knowledge and learning,” Kristi said.

“I read somewhere that while he was imprisoned, Madiba not only read many books, but he also encouraged others to do the same. He felt it was important to gain as much knowledge as possible, on a wide variety of subjects. This is what made him such a wise and remarkable leader.”

Balisa agreed. “I think it also has to do with his detachment and freedom from prejudice,” she said. “Apparently Madiba always emphasized unity.”

Mandela said he had fought against both white domination and black domination and, as a matter of principle, he always spoke kindly of even those who were responsible for his persecution.

Balisa referred to Mandela’s historic visit to the Queen of England, and to his speech, which was marked by such great respect.

“You know,” said Mandla, “Another thing might be his willingness to accept the hardships and difficulties of life.”

We all sat up because it was rare for Mandla to contribute to such discussions.

“Well, Madiba spent almost three decades in prison, right? This is a most cruel persecution. But to come out of it with no feelings of remorse means that he had accepted the hardships of his life and didn’t make a big deal out of it.

“He understood well, that in order to make a great change in the world, sacrifice is needed.

“Sacrifice and suffering are not only to be expected, but they are to be welcomed. They seem to form a vital part of the path to greatness.”

The sun began to set, shedding a warm, red glow all around us.

“You know, all of these things are within our capacity,” Sanda said. “All of us have a natural yearning for knowledge, don’t we? The attention we each give to our studies is a sign of this. And so is our willingness to learn from what we see in the world, right?”

We nodded.

“Secondly, look at our racial difference in this group. Isn’t this a sign of our own freedom from the prejudices that divide the world?”

Every human has the capacity to illuminate the world.

Balisa nodded and said, “Yoh, hayi, today was awesome guys.”


Photo: Volunteering Solutions

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