Farewell,Madiba

The funeral of a beloved leader is a cathartic moment in history.

Written by The Indian Express | Published: December 12, 2013 3:09:13 am

The funeral of a beloved leader is a cathartic moment in history.

Perhaps only Nelson Mandela’s funeral could unite Republicans and Democrats,reconcile old Cold War foes. On a rainy Tuesday afternoon,President Barack Obama arrived in Johannesburg with former rival George W. Bush and shook hands with Cuba’s Raul Castro. In his speech at the funeral,Obama went on to pay tribute to the man who “changed laws,but also hearts”. He spoke of Mandela,the flawed man,not the saintly icon,whose fight against Apartheid was a triumph of human endeavour. He hoped others would carry on the quieter “struggles that follow the victory of formal equality”.

The funeral of a beloved leader is a cathartic moment in history. Millions followed Gandhi’s funeral procession in an India still recovering from the horrors of Partition and thousands lined the streets to pay their last respects to President Kennedy in 1963. In this collective mourning lies great possibility for social regeneration,as political differences are set aside and pledges are renewed to the ideals they fought for.

On Tuesday,as the funeral cortege wound its way through Pretoria,it passed several landmarks of South African history. It travelled past the home of Paul Kruger,father of the Afrikaner nation that would eventually forge the National Party,which imposed Apartheid,past the central prison where Mandela was briefly imprisoned in 1962 and the Palace of Justice,where he was tried in 1963-64 for treason and sabotage. Finally,it reached its own moment in history,the seat of South Africa’s government,where Mandela was sworn in as the country’s first black president and where the public can now pay their last respects. In Mandela’s death comes another turning point. What will it mean for a South Africa still riven with social and economic inequality? The nation,and indeed the world,trembles on the brink of change.

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