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Father Thulani reflects on Nelson Mandela

Posted by Admin On December - 17 - 2013

By Chinta Strausberg

In honoring the National Day of Prayer and Reflection for former South African President Nelson Mandela who passed last Thursday at the age of 95, Saint Sabina’s Pastor Thulani Magwaza last Sunday credited the fallen leader with uniting all races whose love circled the entire world and Father Michael L. Pfleger historically lifted up Mandela’s life and legacy.

Father Thulani, who was born in South Africa, said, “The challenge for us right now is to study Mandela’s speech when he was sent to prison because that speech tells us about his ideas, about his convictions and about why he believed even if he had to die. We need to study that speech,” he told reporters after the early Sunday morning worship service.

Thulani said people should study the books he wrote, “the struggles that he went through, and not forgetting his wife, Winnie, and what she went through when her husband went to prison. Because of the sacrifices on her part, she also suffered a certain amount of solitary confinement…,” he said referring to Winnie Mandela fondly called in South Africa as the “Mother of the Nation.” “Both of them suffered but also Zindzi  and Zenani, who grew up without a father, without a mother because they were constantly being harassed by the police being taken to prison by the police.”

After the passing of the iconic leader, Father Thulani asked, “How are we going to carry the legacy of Mr. Mandela”?

In trying to explain about the life and legacy of Mandela, Thulani said, “The world is now only trying to think of Mandela as a forgiver and we are putting away what he fought for before he forgave. Before he forgave, he went to prison. He went to prison for what he believed. He went to prison because he wanted justice because he wanted to free society. He went to prison because he wanted a democratic, non-racial society.People forget that.

“Mandela is a fighter…warrior and is someone who fought for racial justice and anti-apartheid. We must not lose sight of why he went to prison,” said Thulani. “Why after all these years, he comes back and he says the best solution for South Africa is…different parties  come together and sit together around the table.”

Asked to describe the anti-apartheid in South Africa, Thulani said he first voted at the age of 33. “For 33-years of my life, I did not know what it meant to cast a vote. I went to Pretoria in 1982. We were forced to carry ID’s…to prove we had the right to be in town. We were studying under those difficult conditions where you used to say you remembered your ID, not your wallet in your pocket that had the money. It was difficult.

“I went to school with white students but we could not share the same bus…or go to watch the same movie in the same theater because of separate places for different cultures, different races….The difference between our apartheid and racism here America is we are in a struggle here.

“Blacks would sit on the back of the bus, but we could not share the same bus with whites even with the trains that had separate coaches…coaches for whites…coaches for blacks.”

Thulani recalled the time he was taking a train from Johannesburg to Pretoria and he missed the first coaches. “I got into the last coach that only belonged to whites. I was kicked off a moving train….. When Mandela was freed, he did not only free blacks. He also freed his oppressors because they realized what we were going was immoral, unjust, unthinking in the eyes of the law.”

When asked if Mr. Mandela’s vision been realized yet, Thulani said, “It’s a long walk to freedom. It is not yet realized but thank God South Africa is not what it was 20-years ago and the challenge for us is to carry on where Mandela left.”

Asked about his thoughts on young people who don’t know who Mandela is, Thulani, said, “my challenge to young people, to all of us is to study Mandela, study his ideas, his legacy” not just that he was a forgiver. “Before there was forgiveness in South Africa, there was a fight…a fight against racism….a fight against injustice…against oppression…racial discrimination…. People tend to look at Mandela post Robben Island” where he was a prisoner for 27-years.

Thulani said Mandela was more than just a forgiver. “Mandela stood for everyone’s rights and Mandela put South Africa on the map politically, socially, economically….”

Asked if apartheid made him bitter or hate white people, Thulani said, “I did not hate the white people. I hated the system.”

He referred to the 1995 first South Africa Rugby World Cup championship game and how Mandela was cheered when he walked onto the field wearing a green rugby jersey bearing a gold-colored number 6. “Mandela walked into the stadium having the jersey of the captive. At that time, rugby was a white man’s sports…. By his actions by wearing that jersey, Number 6, it changed our attitudes…understanding, and it made us proud to support the rugby team. For the first time we saw the rugby team as a South African team and not a white team. For the first time, we learned we can forgive others, but forgiveness is not lip service. It is action. Mandela did not forgive because there was repentance on the part of his oppressors. Mandela forgave without the oppressor saying I’m sorry.

“The challenge for Christians is can you forgive when somebody else has not said forgive me? What you can learn from Mandela is that when we go into war with revenge to our enemies, he said when you dig that grave, you might as well dig the second grave for yourself….”

“Mandela looked beyond himself. He looked at the interest of the nation and realized this is where South Africa to be but before there had to be justice, peace, racial harmony,” Johnson said.

“Mandela went to prison with his fist that says power. Mandela realized that they could have taken him in chains, but they could not take the power away from him. When you surrender your power, you lose who you are. Mandela never lost his power….” Thulani said the fight for freedom in South Africa is not yet over.

Father Pfleger took a biblical approach to celebrating the life and legacy of Mandela.

Chinta Strausberg is a Journalist of more than 33-years, a former political reporter and a current PCC Network talk show host. You can e-mail Strausberg at: Chintabernie@aol.com.

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