Arvid and I found out about Madiba’s passing late on Thursday night via the popular Swedish news site Aftonbladet. At the time, I felt more a sense of anger and disappointment in Jacob Zuma’s leadership than I felt for the loss of our nation’s father.
I watched Zuma’s initial address on BBC UK’s website and found it both clinical and emotionless. I never feel a sense of trust when the man speaks; nor did I when he spoke that night. The Las Vegas Guardian Express conspiracies around Madiba’s actual passing had me confused and I suppose in many ways, I did not want to trust Zuma when he said we had finally lost our hero.
The flood of emotions came yesterday — Friday.
And I keep saying it — I have never felt this far away from home.
Storm Sven hit Sweden the same night of Madiba’s death — it’s left seven dead (pictures here) and parts of Billeberga were out of electricity and water for a day.
And then came a text from my mom:
Can I give you a quick call ? Nothing wrong, just missing you on this very sad day for the nation xxx
Mom had the privilege of meeting Madiba at a charity function a few years back. I will always have the picture in my mind — mom 40-years-odd but like a little girl, hands cupped and staring in absolute awe of him.
Over the phone, mom and I cried and laughed. We discussed what it meant for our country, how people back home were reacting and how the “ladies at the office sang straight from the heart”. We spoke about how tough it was to carry on with a working Friday in South Africa, what the radio stations were saying and what Madiba meant to our own family. When the talk of conspiracies came up, mom urged me to turn a blind eye: “It’ll make us bitter.”
Misery loves company, they say. And in many ways, I feel I should be home where the misery is because it’ll be easier to digest with others than on my own. For the first time since I left South Africa 616 days ago, I feel removed from my home country, a sense of absolute loss and mourning. It feels as if I’ve lost a father and I can’t be there to pay my final respects.
So we did what we could — we said a prayer and lit a candle, which we left burning all day. Swedes are notoriously nonreligious but I have always felt prayer to have such a sense of healing and closeness — it was my way of saying goodbye.
The calm after the storm, it’s now gently snowing as I write this. It’s the first snow of the Skåne winter and the first snow I have seen in ten years. I can’t help but think that there are stories of storms and snow and sobbing all over the world.
South Africans forget that our news travels lightning fast. The world has a hobby in watching our country with a fish-eyed lens — will they or won’t they make it post-Apartheid? I remember watching the news of Oscar Pistorious killing girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp while I was in a fishing village of no more than 300 people in Palomino, Colombia. Our news seems to travel with more scrutiny than the rest.
So I urge South Africans both at home and abroad — let’s mourn together and forget what the world says about a country that is one of the world’s most beautiful children. We have our troubles, yes. But we also bred a hero that the world has never, ever before seen. Let’s wear our hearts on our sleeves and be proudly South African. Today and always.