A legend for all time

WE ARE not about to suggest that the struggle for liberation would not have been won had it not been for Nelson Mandela.

WE ARE not about to suggest that the struggle for liberation would not have been won had it not been for Nelson Mandela.

Indeed, by his own version he was merely a figurehead of what was a generation of men and women who decided that freedom would come in their lifetime and that they would do everything possible to ensure that dream was realised.

Those closest to him and those who have studied him carefully will tell us of the chink in his armour. We will not dispute their findings.

In the same way that saints are not necessarily men and women without vices, but those whose inspirational public lives have made such shortcomings almost irrelevant, Madiba's life has been an inspiration - not only to South Africans but to all freedom loving peoples of the world.

But as we said earlier, as with all historical greats, there will be those who think that our praise for Madiba is too lavish just as there will be those who will say we exaggerate a tad too much.

We will not concern ourselves with these debates.

Madiba belongs to history and it will pronounce on him. All we can say, with total conviction is that it, like the millions around the world, will approve of Madiba's contribution to humankind.

That is why we will never tire of celebrating each of his birthdays as if it is the last.

And as he nears the end of his innings, each birthday becomes more significant than the last.

Forsaking his family and his freedom, he became a symbol of what it means to commit to a cause even if it is to your peril. By his example he showed us what the good book means by none having greater love for his friends than he who is prepared to lay down his life for his friends.

As people around the world gather to celebrate his 91st birthday, we should never forget there are millions more who live in conditions that made Mandela the international hero he became. The cancer of prejudice based on believing ourselves to be children of a greater God than those whose skins are different, who are of a different sex, or are from the wrong side of the street, remains with us.

While we are certain that Madiba will acknowledge us as we raise our glasses to toast 67 years of great humanitarian work, committing ourselves to and ensuring that never again will the world need another Nelson Mandela could very well be the best birthday present we could give Madiba.

Halala Madiba, Mini emnandi kuwe!