I will leave the words about Madiba to a South African as she can write them better and I could not give him the honour he deserves with my own words. I would like to take this opportunity to (again) write about South Africa and Cape Town and what it means to me.
I heard the news of Mandela’s passing only around noon since I was to babalas to get up earlier, but the news was a reality check about how pathetic I was to feel sorry for myself for drinking too much. Visiting the Cape Town Honours Nelson Mandela exposition in Civic Centre felt like the most fitting a day like this.
“The many people who know Cape Town as their home can trace their ancestries from across the world.” – Nelson Mandela
Going to the bus stop and seeing Mandela’s face overlooking Cape Town from the building opposite Cape Town train station (my first image of Cape Town arriving by bus about 2 months ago) is symbolic of how much he is part of this city. His face is on so many murals, buildings and a highway carry his name, but most of all his idea of a Rainbow nation lives in the diversity of Cape Town.
I cannot claim to have known Mandela, not as a president or father or tata as he is lovingly called by South Africans. I do feel his idea of a rainbow nation is something I saw even before arriving in South Africa, seeing the very diverse people boarding the plane to Johannesburg in Adis Abeba. I continue to experience it every day I am in this beautiful country. I also feel the smile Mandela seems to have always shown in the warmth of all the South Africans I meet.
“In Cape Town resides part of the souls of many nations and cultures, priceless threads in the rich diversity of our African nation” – Nelson Mandela
Sitting on a terrace on Greenmarket square, the waiter does a little dance to the music of street musicians playing kwela music, I feel this is how Cape Town honours their tata, in a festive, not a sad way. And more than by buying flowers to put at a memorial I feel like honouring him by buying The Big Issue form someone on the street. The klein bietjie flowers at churches seem to show that South Africans feel the same.
Drinking my coffee there a woman asks me if I am South African, I’m not and she goes back to her own table on the other side of the street. I contemplate on how long you have to live here to call yourself South African. Cape Town has been many people’s home and I do feel it is mine a bit too. The woman, Amanda , comes back and ask to join me for a coffee. She is from Switzerland and I explain I am living here since a few months. Her first enquiry was to know from me if there was anything special happening today.
“Cape Town, more than any other city in South Africa, has been home to people from different cultures for a long, long time.” – Nelson Mandela
Apart from the MyCiTi buses being free for the day, official buildings hanging the beautiful South African flag half post and banners with the words “Mandela”, “father”, “tata”, “Madiba”, there doesn’t seem to be anything out of the ordinary on this hot spring day in Cape Town. Might it be the relaxed vibe of Capetonians that keeps them from too explicit shows of mourning over the death of Mandela or celebrations of his life?
It seems fitting that on a day like this I would end up talking to another European, about why we are here instead of Switzerland or Belgium, what makes South Africa so special and how much I feel at ease in Cape Town. She doesn’t understand her South African colleagues who are happy to live in cold Switzerland and have the opinion that South Africa has no future. I feel this country has a brighter future than any European country and it invites me to make a good future for myself. Besides, the weather is better here.
“Let us sing, let us dance for Madiba” – Brenda Fassie
After my coffee and a nice chat I head back home to Woodstock, to have a little rest, I haven’t completely recovered form last night’s drinking and want to have a little rest before going to a concert of The Future Primitives tonight. I feel like dancing for Madiba tonight!