“So finally, it’s official: Nelson Mandela is dead.”
Kleinpiet sits quietly at the counter. It is late on the evening of the fifth of December. A cold Kalahari-wind is gusting outside.
They’ve speculated about Madiba’s death for some time now, convinced that ‘they’ are keeping him alive for some obscure political reason. Now, however, death at last has claimed the famous man and no amount of political interference can manipulate circumstances any more.
“We’ll remember him for many reasons,” Gertruida says, “some bad, some good. But, in the end, he became a symbol of tolerance and forgiveness. I’d like to forget the days of treason and bombs and terrorism. I want to remember him standing next to Francois Pienaar, trying to unite the nation.”
“He did that, to some degree,” Vetfaan says, “and he set a great example for the ANC. Despite everything, he was revered far and wide for his example as a leader who wanted to rule fairly.”
“It’s about the heart, isn’t it?” Precilla sniffs loudly. “In his heart of hearts he wanted peace. He wanted us to be a rainbow nation.”
Boggel sits down next to Vrede. “And so we shall remember him. Not for treason, bombs, innocent civilians maimed and killed – but for his message of reconciliation. I’ll always respect that. And of course, he was the last leader in the country who didn’t openly accept corruption. He cracked the whip and the parliament listened. Nowadays it’s a free-for-all.”
There’s not much to say in Boggel’s Place tonight. The nation lost an important man. Some will try to politicise the death, TV-crews from around the globe will fly in to broadcast the funeral and the country will spend an appropriate time in mourning. It is fitting that these things happen.
But it is also important to look ahead. Will the ANC of today still honour the directions the great man dictated in life? Or will they continue to slide down the slope of self-interest?
“Isn’t it interesting,” Gertruida ponders, “that they decided to release the Nkandla report only hours before his death? There’s no doubt they knew about his condition.”
Smoke, mirrors and politics – the toxic mix the public gets fed to form an independent opinion.
“A moment of silence,” Boggel says, “let’s be quiet for a minute.”
For a fleeting moment Gertruida wonders whether the bent little man is talking about the past – or the future. Then she closes her eyes in a silent prayer.