Dear Mr Mandela 23 June 2012
I hope this letter finds you in good health and spirits. My name is René and I was born in our beautiful country in December 1977. I grew up in, what was then a small mining town called Witbank. Being raised in a liberal home in the 80s and 90s proved to be very challenging for a young girl in an Afrikaans family.
In hindsight, growing up I made a lot of enemies due to my and my family’s political views. I must add that we were relatively sheltered against what was going on outside politically. We were not aware of historic incidents such as Sharpeville and Hector Pieterson or what our government was currently doing to the future of South Africa. All I knew was that we were pretty much on our own. What with an Afrikaans father who very quickly became seriously involved with the then Democratic Party together with, Zach de Beer, Denis Worrall and Wynand Malan. We had no chance!
But the purpose of this letter is not about my childhood or what I “endured”. The purpose of this letter is to get my feelings across to you. As you are to me, and to the rest of the world, an icon. A hero. Someone who was put on this earth to change the world as we know it. And you did just that.
Today I am 34 years old. I have 2 beautiful young children and a wonderful husband. I am still Afrikaans, still white and still trying my best to look at what is happening around me in a liberal way. The latter proving to be harder each day after I listen to the news…
I feel compelled to apologise to you for what is happening in South Africa. The one cause you were willing to give your life to. 27 years you spent behind bars. And each day you forgave yet another person who was responsible for putting you on Robben Island. Where you found the strength from God alone knows. But you carried on. And I truly believe you did that because you had hope for a new South Africa. Somewhere amongst all the racial chaos taking place, you had a dream. A dream that will one day change everything.
I remember your release day so clearly. Maybe it was because we were few and far between in celebrating in our small town! But maybe it’s because I will never forget the image of a free man walking, side-by-side to his wife, waving and smiling. Exuberating kindness through eyes that should’ve been filled with revenge. Instead I saw a leader. A man who forgave. I remember the guilt I felt as a white African. Barely 12 years old and I suddenly realized that all of this was wrong. I realize now that this could’ve been the start of my rebellious political streak amongst my fellow Afrikaans pupils in a very Afrikaans school? Or maybe politics really do run in the genes?
Tata, our country is crying. When I think about South Africa I see fire. I see fighting and warfare. I see bank notes being pulled and ripped. I see hatred. I feel hatred. I see an ever-growing infliction of racism that, I believe, will never die down. I feel fear for my children. I am anxious. I sometimes find myself looking at other countries and I long for freedom. But then I realize freedom comes with a price tag…
Weeks before your 94th birthday I would like to send you a personal heart felt message to apologise about the state of our country. I feel ashamed to live under a government who cannot provide education to our learners. I feel helpless when yet another murder or rape statistic is released; knowing the families of the victims will possibly never find closure. My heart aches when youth leaders publicly release statements proclaiming that warfare is needed for land claims. When a mentally handicapped child is raped and exposed in the media and the perpetrators run free. Poverty amongst the very same people who voted for the leaders who are not protecting them. Murderers become celebrities. Drug dealers start operating at the age of 10.
I believe that there is no future for South Africa if the youth in our country is denied the basic right to education. 5 year old learners sit under a tree through rain and sun. Teachers have to fight their way through the voices of 80+ pupils in a room…but I guess you know all of this.
My heart aches. South Africa my country. I do not want to leave you. We have so much to offer to this wonderful place. May God guide us in retaining hope and never losing faith.
I wish you a wonderful 94th birthday Madiba. Through all the wrong Africa has done we must have done something right to be honoured with your presence.
Thank you for believing in a nation who let you down. Thank you for always smiling. Thank you for forgiving. I will never stop praying for our land.