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Words to live by…


“You are the one keeping everybody on their toes. I wish more would do the same.”

Nelson Mandela Picture: REUTERS, MIKE HUTCHINGS

YESTERDAY we celebrated the life of a true icon – Mr Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela. What a man is all I can say.

I’m totally jealous of Evelyn Mase, Nomzamo Winifred Zanyiwe Madikizela (Winnie) and Graça Machel. How lucky were they to have spent a lot of intimate moments with the great man?

But, also to them, thank you for being such big-hearted women and sharing him with the rest of us.

I can just imagine what wisdom he shared with them. We only got the dredges but what we got can sustain us for not only this lifetime but many more.

I remember meeting the great man for the first time after his release from prison. He attended a Youth Day function here in the city.

What stands out to me through all the grey matter is that when he shook my hand it was a firm grip and he looked me in the eyes when he spoke to me.

That will always be a wow moment for me.

The next time I met him was when I was working in Bloemfontein. I don’t remember for what occasion he was there, I just remember it was at the theatre.

I remember taking a gamble and while the rest of the media were waiting at the front entrance for his arrival, I waited at the back doors.

Lo and behold, he came the back way.

When he and the then Free State premier Winkie Direko got out of the car, they had to come past me first to get inside.

Winkie stopped to introduce us but he just waved her introduction away and said he knows me and then said words I will never forget: “You are the one keeping everybody on their toes. I wish more would do the same.”

He then gave me that firm handshake without losing eye contact.

Just to put it into perspective. I was always on the provincial government’s neck about them wasting money on talk shops, while nothing was actually being done to prevent whatever scourge was plaguing society.

Needless to say, I was not very popular with them.

No matter what Madiba said, people listened and are still listening. Even though his voice may have been silenced by death, what he said will continue to ring in the ears of generations to come.

Words of wisdom such as: “It always seems impossible until it’s done” … or “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” “There is no passion to be found playing small – in settling for a life that is less than the one you are capable of living.” “I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.” “There can be no keener revelation of a society’s soul than the way in which it treats its children.” “If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his language, that goes to his heart.” ”A good head and good heart are always a formidable combination. But when you add to that a literate tongue or pen, then you have something very special.” …

And then one of my personal favourites, “Never, never, and never again shall it be that this beautiful land will again experience the oppression of one by another and suffer the indignity of being the skunk of the world.”

These are words of wisdom which we can all apply to our lives on a daily basis. “Never, never, and never again shall … ” You can fill in the blank and live by it not only on Mandela Day, not only for 67 minutes but every minute of every day and celebrate the icon for eternity.