The news of Tata Madiba’s passing reached us on the radio in the early hours of Friday morning, 6 December. With no evening TV, we missed the previous night’s news announcement and the tributes that had begun on the Thursday evening.
With sadness, we arranged a small memorial on the beach at Bulungula. We invited all the foreign guests who were staying at the Lodge. In the cool, rainy evening, we paid our tributes in front of a huge bonfire, sharing what uTata had meant to each of us.
Bulungula community members and guests remember Madiba
This is a tribute from Dave, the founder of the Bulungula Lodge and a founding member of the Bulungula Incubator:
As we woke up to the news of Madiba’s passing, I’m trying to understand why I (and many others) feel this hurt so deeply. We all know that for the past few years he has been unable to make any meaningful, tangible contribution to our individual lives or the welfare of our country, yet his passing leaves such a painful emptiness.
To me, he represented the embodiment of selfless leadership and integrity, combined with an ability to connect with, love and be loved by anyone, no matter their class, social status, race, sexual orientation, religion or any other characteristic you may want to use to divide people into groups.
He also embodies and reminds me of the idealism and hope many of us felt for the liberation movement’s leaders and the incredible spirit of optimism we felt as the struggle ended and freedom dawned.
I can’t deny that part of the hurt I feel is that our current political, cultural and business leadership is so far from his example that I feel we, as a society, have failed him in some way. It would be terrible to think that he may have died unhappy or unsure whether the country is on the way up or on the way down….
I think Madiba has been our secular country’s silent conscience, against which we have judged our own and others’ conduct. His moral integrity, his spirit of selflessness, and self-sacrifice for the greater good have towered above us, silently rebuking the selfish, the materialistic, the hedonistic and the unethical practices so common in today’s South Africa and the world. And now that he’s gone I can’t help wondering who will be left to set the standard against which we measure the correctness of our own actions and those of our leaders? I feel like when his silent, towering presence is gone, we are left with nothing to replace it. Just an emptiness.
A fitting tribute would be for each of us to try and carry forward Madiba’s vision and values and to build the better nation he lived and died for. The question is, do we as a society truly have his selflessness to make the self-sacrifices necessary to fix and build our society or do we just return to our individual, small lives obsessed with petty things and our individual well-being? Can we be big like Madiba?