Iconic anti-Apartheid activist Nelson ‘Madiba’ Mandela is fighting for his life in a Pretoria hospital. Admitted for a lung infection, the 94-year-old’s condition was downgraded to “critical” over the weekend. His family has been holding vigil at his birth hometown of Qunu and many have been sending thoughts and prayers his way, including U.S. President Barack Obama, who called Mandela “a hero to the world.”
Many share that sentiment in South Africa, recognizing him as a symbol of hope and freedom who gave 27 years of his life to the fight to end apartheid. Others, including some black South Africans, feel as though Mr. Mandela failed to deliver on promises he made after becoming President of South Africa.
The Burton Wire contributor Fundiswa Fihlani, stationed in the Eastern Cape, randomly polled South Africans (in person and on Facebook) about their thoughts on what the ailing former president means to them and their lives and here is what was said:
Mzondeleli Matthews, 39, Port Alfred
Ngoyena mntu undenza ndizingce kakhulu ngobuntu bam (he is the one person that makes me proud of being human. He is one of those people that makes me keep going. He is really everything. If you really follow his story you become inspired.
Asanda Payi, 28, Kenton on Sea
Ubutshintsile ubomi bam kakhulu because ngexesha le apartheid bekunzima ukuya kwezinye iindawo ezifana neevenkile kwakunye nezindlu zangasese ezisetyenziswa ngabamhlophe. Waze wasenza ukuba silingane singabantu beli lizwe. Ezikolweni sayeka nokuxhatshazwa.
Translation: He has changed my life because during the apartheid era it was difficult to enter and use same facilities that the white South Africans used. He united and gave the people of this land equality. We are no longer abused in our schools.
Ntsikelelo Tobi, 29, Kenton on Sea
His selflessness is very inspiring and he was a visionary as a leader which is what has helped me as a youth leader because I always refer back to how he did things.
Siya Rafani, Port Elizabeth
Andinamvakalelo nguMadiba, nokuba umkile okanye akemkanga kuyafana kum. Mna wandibona njenge item wandithengisa ukuze akhululeke.
Translation: I don’t feel anything for Madiba, whether he dies or not that makes no difference to me. He saw me as an item and sold me in exchange for his freedom.
Maureen Notununu, late 40s, teacher, Transkei
To me Mandela means the most irresponsible man I ever saw. He did not bring up his kids. He endured 27 years in jail, but what was he doing there for my life? Nothing. I was schooled under difficult conditions, fortunately in his homeland Transkei. What is in Transkei was the efforts of K.D Matanzima who was referred to as the apartheid puppet. This includes the ‘mud schools’ (schools that lack water, electricity and sanitation), teacher training and the university of Transkei. When Mandela came out of prison he promised us that the infrastructure in the rural areas would be changed to look like the urban areas. Only electricity was supplied and we don’t have roads. Even the existing poor roads are not maintained. Decentralisation he promised was never implemented. He is the only person with a billion rands house in Qunu whilst there are neither sites nor RDP (Reconstruction and Development Programme) houses in the rural areas. During his lifetime he did nothing for me. The right to vote for a government in SA does not improve my life.
Temesgen Mathewos, Ethiopian Entreprenuer
Mandela is a good man. He stood up for other people. I like Mandela.
Gift Kembo, Zimbabwe
I want him to get well soon. He gave the South African people democracy. I like him because he is the father of the nation.
Pierre Van Der Vyver, Kenton on Sea
He is a great and fascinating man. This country will be in total chaos if he dies.
Nobert Chasi, Venda
I wish him a speedy recovery. He is a true freedom fighter.
Willem Helmie, Harmony Park
Mandela has done a lot for this nation like the welfare grants, he fought for us. Now we have housing and democracy.
As you can see, Nelson Mandela means many things to many people. What does Nelson Mandela mean to you? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.
This post was written by Nsenga K. Burton, Ph.D., founder and editor-in-chief of The Burton Wire in collaboration with Fundiswa Fihlani, contributor to The Burton Wire.