Monday, December 9, 2013


What an incredible week I’ve had. I fully intended blogging today on the birth of my grandson last Monday, or the arrival today of my youngest son from Finland whom I haven’t seen in over a year, or the signing and execution of a publishing contract with White Rose Publishers (Pelican Book Group) for my novelette set in Helsinki, Finland.

But on Friday, 6th December, our nation woke to gray skies, heavy with rain—a fitting picture of South African hearts at the passing of anti-apartheid hero, Nelson Mandela, at 9 p.m. the night before. Our nation, and the world, is in mourning for this man revered as a moral giant.

I will never forget the day I first heard the name Nelson Mandela. I was about eighteen years old. A childhood friend and I were walking through the streets of Johannesburg. We’d both moved from our hometown to study and work in the city. As we chatted, she relayed the story about a T-shirt a varsity friend of hers had worn on campus. Written on the front were the words: Hang Nelson Mandela.

“Who’s Nelson Mandela?” I asked.

I grew up in the apartheid era. As my friend explained who Mandela was, an image formed in my mind. One that remained for many years. The man had been tried and sentenced to life in prison for high treason against the white-minority government and I came to see him as nothing more than a terrorist. This word struck fear in my heart, for these were the years when young white South African men (some my classmates) lost their lives on our borders fighting a war against terrorism.

But this exceptional man crept into the hearts of all South Africans, black and white alike. That is why I felt it fitting to use this blog post to pay tribute to a truly great man.

The morning after his death, the radio was abuzz with snippets of his life and interviews with those who knew him. I was particularly impressed by the interview with his Personal Assistant, Zelda la Grange.  After Mandela retired he was allowed to take one person from the staff with him into retirement—a privilege granted to all former presidents. He chose this white ‘boeremeisie’ (Afrikaans girl) who had come to be his secretary, butler, aide-de-camp, spokesperson, travelling companion, confidante and, honorary granddaughter.

Zelda relayed the story of the first time she met Nelson Mandela. She’d been working as a typist on the president’s personal staff for two weeks when she ran into him. He began to speak to her in a language she didn’t understand. “Pardon?” she said. When President Mandela spoke again, she realized he’d been addressing her in her native tongue, Afrikaans, something she hadn’t expected.

The reality of Nelson Mandela’s death hit home as I drove into work Friday morning and saw the row of flags flying half-mast on the flagpoles at our work entrance.

Seated at my desk, I scrolled through Facebook on my cellphone. The messages I found told the tale of a nation, and world, in mourning. The messages showed how revered and loved Nelson Mandela wasand still is:
  • Our country is forever changed because of him.
  • RIP Madiba. Thank you for bringing peace and hope to our country, South Africa. God bless Africa!
  • Even the weather is mourning Madiba today.
  • To an icon who epitomized humility and integrity! May his ideals live on in South Africa and beyond!
  • Nelson Mandela faced racism face to face. With all of the challenges, his journey changed the course of history. He became an inspiration to so many, not only in South Africa, but around the world. His legacy will be remembered as one who accepted the mantle of leadership and responsibility. His example will be one of a hero to so many, regardless of nation, tribe or tongue! Thank you, Madiba, for choosing forgiveness and reconciliation over hate and conflict. RIP Madiba!
  • Why do I feel like I’ve lost a friend? Hamba Kahle (Go well) Madiba. I will one day show my children photographs of you and say, “Look closely guys—that is the only evidence around today that proves that South Africa once had true leadership.”
  • RIP Madiba. You showed humanity what can be achieved when we change our attitudes and perceptions.
  • Fighting back the tears as we hear the sad/joyful news that the father of our nation rests now with The Lord of all creation. I can think of no other human being who has had more influence and wisdom and impact in so many lives and on this nation. An ordinary man. And we can call him ‘ours’. Thank you, Tata (Father). Today the angels are learning a new dance style in heaven – the Madiba!
  • We mourn the passing of Nelson Mandela. God gave him to us to show the world that forgiveness can be shown by the great as well as the oppressed. He guided us through the transition of South Africa. May he rest in peace. He will never be forgotten and will always have a prominent place in the history of our land. May God comfort his family and our nation. RIP Madiba.
  • RIP to an amazing leader. May we also strive to live a life of significance!
  • Our challenge is to ensure that his vision lives on into the future. His genuineness and forthrightness will never be forgotten. What a privilege to have had a leader who walked and lived his truth.
  • Humanity has not lost an icon, we have gained a legacy that we dare not disgrace.
  • We will forever remember you, and the lessons you taught us. RIP Madiba.
  • A true legend and selfless patriot of freedom has passed.Although I only lived in South Africa for the first part of my life, the ties I have to my country of birth are still strong within me. Today I feel a loss in my heart for the man who did so much to change a country of oppression into a brighter rainbow nation. It cannot be said enough: RIP Madiba.
Archbishop Desmond Tutu said, “The sun will rise tomorrow, and the next day and the next … It may not appear as bright as yesterday, but life will carry on.” With the rain, comes the rainbow, and Madiba (the honorary tribal name by which Mandela is largely known) has taught South Africa to be a true Rainbow Nation.

As one of my American Facebook friends rightly stated, South Africa could have had decades of civil war but for the attitude of Nelson Mandela.

In Mandela’s honor I’d like to post some of his top quotes. Each one is so challenging. What a man!
  • “If I cannot change when circumstances demand it, how can I expect others to?”
  • “What counts in life is not the mere fact that we have lived. It is what difference we have made to the lives of others that will determine the significance of the life we lead.”
  • “For to be free is not merely to cast off one’s chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others.”
  • “Difficulties break some men but make others. No axe is sharp enough to cut the soul of a sinner who keeps on trying, one armed with the hope that he will rise even in the end.”
  • “It always seems impossible until it's done.”
  • “Lead from the back - and let others believe they are in front.”
  • “I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.”
  • “Do not judge me by my successes, judge me by how many times I fell down and got back up again.”
  • “I could never reach the standard of morality, simplicity and love for the poor set by the Mahatma...While Gandhi was a human without weaknesses, I am a man of many weaknesses.”
  • “It is never my custom to use words lightly. If 27 years in prison have done anything to us, it was to use the silence of solitude to make us understand how precious words are and how real speech is in its impact upon the way people live or die.”
  • “The greatest glory in living lies not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall.”
  • “I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is an ideal which I hope to live for and to achieve. But if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die.”
  • “When a man has done what he considers to be his duty to his people and his country, he can rest in peace.” (1996)

Hamba kakuhle tata! (Go well Father!) May your legacy of forgiveness, justice, equality and humanity live on forever.


Marion Ueckermann’s passion for writing was sparked in 2001 when she moved to Ireland with her husband and two sons. Since then she has published devotional articles and stories in Winners (2009), The One Year Devotional of Joy and Laughter (August 2011 - Tyndale House Publishers) and Chicken Soup for the Soul: Miraculous Messages from Heaven (15 October 2013). She blogs for International Christian Fiction Writers and belongs to Christian Writers of South Africa and American Christian Fiction Writers. She now lives in Pretoria East, South Africa in an empty nest with her husband and their crazy black Scottie, Wally.


  1. Love the blog sis ........ sad times for our country xxxx

  2. Well said, Marion! He was an amazing man. I'm so glad he had the longevity God granted him. While we mourn his loss, we can also celebrate the life he lived and the example he set.

  3. Thanks for doing this, Marion. Excellent insight into an amazing man. As I type this we are watching his memorial service in the huge FNB stadium. All of South Africa seems to be in mourning as the rain pours down across that nation!

  4. Marion, thanks for sharing your tribute to a remarkable man.

  5. Congratulations, Marion! And thank you for sharing this lovely tribute!