News / Africa

The 'Mandela Generation' Reflects on South Africa's Founding Hero

A girl holds a South African national flag as people mourn the death of former President Nelson Mandela outside Cape Town City Hall, where Mandela made his first speech after his release from his 27-year incarceration, Dec. 6, 2013.
A girl holds a South African national flag as people mourn the death of former President Nelson Mandela outside Cape Town City Hall, where Mandela made his first speech after his release from his 27-year incarceration, Dec. 6, 2013.
Nadia Samie
Nelson Mandela was one of the most loved and respected politicians in the world,  but for South Africans he was more than that. For them, he was the father of their reborn nation and adored even by young South Africans who were born as he was ending his political life. 
 
For many in South Africa, the advent of democracy in 1994 offered the promise of hope, a future where all would have equal access to health care, education and jobs. The reality has been different. Public education and health services are crumbling, the gap between rich and poor has grown, unemployment has increased and government at all levels has been plagued by corruption and poor administration.
 
Until the end of his life, former President Nelson Mandela remained a beacon of hope and a source of pride for all South Africans, continuing to inspire his fellow citizens and millions around the globe each day. These include the youngsters who make up the so-called “Mandela generation," the first children to be born and raised in a democratic South Africa.
 
Twelve-year-old Jonathan Sibandi is among those children, and saw Mandela as a father figure.
 
”Mandela is like the father of our nation. To be in this country and say you don’t know Mandela, is actually a slap in the face. If it wasn’t for him, we would still be there, where I would be scrubbing the floors. So Mandela is an inspirational leader,” said Sibandi.
 
Another 12-year-old, Phumelele Mothadi, doesn’t take lightly the fact that she’s been privileged to grow up in a democratic country.
 
“I feel like I’ve got a huge responsibility on my shoulders, because I feel like I have to do whatever I can, for South Africa not to go back to what it was, before ’94,” said Mothadi.
 
Thirteen-year-old Daniel Singh says that, after a painful history, Mandela has managed to make South Africans proud of their heritage once again.
 
“I mean it shows that us South Africans are capable of doing something. You shouldn’t judge us by the way we look, the way we say things and about the way that we do things… We are capable of changing the world and we’ve done so through Mandela and he’s proven the world a point, that we can do anything,” said Singh.
 
Sibandi agrees, and also touched on the pride engendered from such a prominent figure coming from one’s country.
 
“It makes me feel proud, because at least someone from a little country, a little person, someone that may be of insignificance can make a big difference in the world… To become so large and so popular, it’s amazing to see what he has done,” said Sibandi.
 
Sibandi identified forgiveness as the most important thing he has learned from Mandela, who spent 27 years in prison for fighting apartheid.
 
“The ability to come out of prison and still be peaceful with everyone around him.  I mean if other people had come out of prison, there would have been violence, but to see how he came out of prison, and actually still love the people who put him in prison, it’s pretty amazing,” said Sibandi.
 
For Mothadi, the lesson to be learned from the popular late president is selflessness.
 
“I love him because he fought for me to be free, and he doesn’t even know me, and that’s pretty special,” said Mothadi.
 
Meanwhile, Singh said he couldn’t have found a better role model.
 
“I love Nelson Mandela because he is an awesome role model to look up to.  He has never given up. He was persevering through whatever he did. He had his mind set on one thing, and he went for that one thing, and because of him today I have a better future, I have a reason for living today,” explained Singh.
 
Perhaps Mothadi best summed up the feeling among the Mandela generation in modern South Africa: “I feel relieved, that I don’t have to fight like the struggles of the apartheid and everything. I feel… free.”
 
Children from across South Africa will be given opportunities to express their feelings and pay their last respects to the man fondly known by them as Madiba (his Xhoze clan name) or Tata (Xhosa for ‘father’) at school and community memorial events.

You May Like

DRC Tries Mega-Farms to Feed Population

Park at Boukanga Lonzo currently has 5,000 hectares under cultivation, crops stretching as far as eye can see, and is start of ambitious large-scale agriculture plan More

Video Survivor Video Testimonies Recount Horrors of Guatemalan Genocide

During a conflict that spanned more than three decades, tens of thousands of indigenous Mayans were killed More

Video War, Drought Threaten Iraq's Marshlands

Areas are spawning ground for Gulf fisheries, a resting place for migrating wildfowl, source of livelihood for fishermen and herders who have called the marshes home for generations More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOAi
X
August 31, 2015 2:17 AM
Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOA

Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video War, Drought Threaten Iraq's Marshlands

Iraq's southern wetlands are in crisis. These areas are the spawning ground for Gulf fisheries, a resting place for migrating wildfowl, and source of livelihood for fishermen and herders. Faith Lapidus has more.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Rebuilding New Orleans' Music Scene

Ten years after Hurricane Katrina inundated New Orleans, threatening to wash away its vibrant musical heritage along with its neighborhoods, the beat goes on. As Bronwyn Benito and Faith Lapidus report, a Musicians' Village is preserving the city's unique sound.
Video

Video In Russia, Auto Industry in Tailspin

Industry insiders say country relies too heavily on imports as inflation cuts too many consumers out of the market. Daniel Schearf has more from Moscow.
Video

Video Scientist Calls Use of Fetal Tissue in Medical Research Essential

An anti-abortion group responsible for secret recordings of workers at a women's health care organization claims the workers shown are offering baby parts for sale, a charge the organization strongly denies. While the selling of fetal tissue is against the law in the United States, abortion and the use of donated fetal tissue for medical research are both legal. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.

VOA Blogs