Imini emnandi kuwe Madiba!

Today is Nelson Mandela’s birthday. He turns 92 today. The title is in Xhosa, Mandela’s native language, and means happy birthday Madiba.

Nelson Mandela

The name Nelson Mandela conjures up images of not a man, but a living legend. To most people in South Africa he is the respected father of the nation, to a minority he is a hated man, who shattered their dream of white minority rule.

For me, Nelson Mandela, is one of the people I greatly look up to (behind my parents of course). My first vivid memory of him was during South Africa’s first free elections in 1994. But at the time I didn’t have an opinion on him, mainly due to lack of knowledge on him. This all changed for me and many South Africans in the winter of 1995.

The image of Nelson Mandela donning a Springbok Jersey at the Rugby World Cup Final while handing the trophy to victorious captain, Francious Pienaar, is etched in my memory. It was the moment he went from merely being the president of South Africa to a hero of mine (and many other South Africans). Watch the movie Invictus to understand the power of the gesture.

For fifteen years he has been a hero of mine. But I realized recently I knew very little about him, so while in Dubai a couple of weeks ago, I spotted his autobiography in a bookstore and bought it.

I’ve recently finished the book. My admiration for the man has grown to even greater proportions. I won’t give it away, but to go what Nelson Mandela went through and still come out with reconciliatory mentality is simple amazing.  I highly recommend this book to anyone to understand the plight of pre apartheid South Africa and what made Mandela the legend he is.

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