Story of a legend
Not many people have flowers named after them. In South Africa Chris Barnard the surgeon who performed the first heart transplant has a rose named after him.We were thrilled to hear that Nelson Mandela, or "Madiba", as he is affectionately known as in South Africa has had a rare species of Strelitzia named after him, the Strelitzia Gold. We are fortunate to have one blooming in our garden.
We traveled past Nelson Mandela’s house near Mtatata in the Transkei yesterday on our way to Swaziland. The house lies next to the main road near Mmtata in the tribal area where Nelson Mandela grew up as a part of the tribal royalty. He has another house in Johannesburg where he spends a lot of time when needed in that part of the country. The Mandelas were not at home as the security personnel were not present and the South African flag was not flying.
Many years ago when Nelson was just a little boy helping to herd the sheep in their village his father lost his position as one of the leaders in that area when he refused to cow tow to the local Magistrate; He was then removed from his position, simply with a stroke of a pen! This resulted in the Mandela family losing both their tribal privileges and position, and also a government salary.
The previous evening we had watched on television as a very frail Mr. Mandela, with his family around him, was presented with the torch to celebrate the 100 year anniversary of the ANC. This took place in his house in Houghton, Johannesburg. The house in the Transkei is presently being revamped for Mr. Mandela, who will then be spending most of his time there.
As South Africans we have been privileged to experience the influence that this great man has had on South African history. We saw the release of Mandela from prison and his famous speech in Cape Town. With great emotion we joined in the long lines to vote in the first democratic elections in 1994. With pride we watched as he, together with Francious Pienaar the Sprinbok rugby captain, held up the World Rugby Cup in 1995 (This event was dramatized in the movie “Invictus” where Mr. Mandela was portrayed by Morgan Freedman).
Now we see him as an old man, with his loving family gathered around him, in perhaps his last days. We salute you Nelson Mandela and it is fitting that this rare specimen of the Strelitzia flower that grows so well in this area, has been named after you. The “Mandela Gold” is a beautiful flower, but also tough and resilient, just like you!
Postscript: Time passes on and it is sad to hear about the battles in the Mandela family about their inheritance now that he has passed on. How greed and jealousy brings out the worst in us humans. The country is also battling as poverty and corruption continues to hurt. The recent wave of Xenophobia has been an opportunity for the criminal community to plunder the many hard working immigrants from countries in the north who some to South Africa to flee the poverty in their own countries. The funeral of Nelson Mandela here in the Eastern Cape led to the theft of money by local officials who used the opportunity to steal large amounts of money allocated for that event. Fortunately they are now facing prosecution for misappropriation of millions of rand.
One has to wonder how he would feel about all this fighting, corruption and bitterness. The Xhosa people who have such a strong belief in the spirits of their fore fathers must also wonder.
The Mandela Gold Strelitzia in our garden is showing signs of hardship as winter beckons. As summer comes I am sure the flowers will bloom again. We as South Africans wait for the Summer for our country that Mandiba dreamed about and lived to achieve, but never really saw materialize. Perhaps it is also just around the corner and if we work hard the Mandela magic will also work again as it did in the past in 1994. Meanwhile I will do some work in our garden and also keep working in society to make this a better place for all.
Perhaps there is a pot of gold at the foot of the rainbow. After all South Africa is know as the "Rainbow Nation". Madiba would approve if that came true.