Parting with power too soon made Madiba powerful
SINCE every soul's entry into the world is met with a receptive record and marked with celebration, why is it that there is none whose birthday is as world-acclaimed as former president Nelson Mandela's?
There is even a song sung in admiration of him, proclaiming that there is none like him. Nelson Mandela, Ha hona ya tshwanang le yena, Sesotho song goes.
I've seen women of serious repute taking split-second chances to sneak their children into Mandela's company just to be in the picture with him.
Reasons for such unprecedented adulation are as infinite as the grain of sand. But there are a few worth advancing to jog the mind on why this is the case with July 18 1918, now globally renowned as Mandela Day.
The multitudes that believe in Mandela were never asked. Mandela demanded no respect. He has earned it.
The honour he enjoys from all sides of warring political camps is a rare feat. He has become the light in whose glare all inadequacies and the ways of the corrupt lie exposed, named and shamed.
That which is good in Mandela is not limited to his mortal being, but lives in timeless, boundless and measureless values without which humanity would degenerate into robots or zombies taking delight in measuring success by the failure they concoct for others.
When he assumed political office on May 10 1994 he bewildered all and sundry by walking with the very oppressors - responsible for the mess that this new South Africa is gradually copy-catting - an extra mile of forgiveness.
A hopeless sinner in me would not forgive a speck of trash that has attempted to assassinate my character since that is all I have for the love of my life.
Once at the Union Buildings he did not forget the unchanging plight of ordinary people who had dared the streets, while in jail to count to zero, the days of oppressive rule for him to walk free on February 11 1990.
These are ordinary people who sent their children in the service of the armed struggle, convinced that reason was lost to the political affairs of the day.
What makes Mandela powerful is that he parted with power too soon.
If politicians had no knowledge of the comforts that power brings, what would be their justification to stay longer? There is no greater reason why the world just cannot get enough of him. Thoughtless leaders hang on only to leave when they run for dear life.
The rich and famous stop at nothing to obtain his signature for endorsement or to be in a picture with him.
Ordinary people ask for nothing more than knowing he is well. An occasional public appearance, to wave and smile, is their simple reward.
If he were an angel Mandela would certainly be ranked as one who dared to go to hell for a heavenly cause.
No matter how many would wish to dress him in saintly robes, he is first to admit that he is not.
Of the women in his life I have had the privileged honour to work with both. The irrepressible courage of Winnie Madikizela-Mandela on June 16 1976 remains unforgettable. The stately demeanour that Graça Machel exudes is undeniable.
Instead of being an untouchable angel on a throne that undermines God's creation, unmoved by the plight of struggling people, rather be a sinner, like Mandela, who never stopped trying to extinguish the flames that burn in hell rather than watch the dignity of the unacclaimed majority reduced to ashes.
This is the force behind the icon.
Happy birthday, Madiba.