WASHINGTON DC —
Former South African President Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela remains in critical condition in a Pretoria hospital with reports that elders in his impoverished Qunu village, Eastern Cape Province, converged at his homestead Tuesday to discuss his illness with close family members.
The condition of the international political icon, who ruled South Africa for only one term, has affected many hearts – including some Zimbabweans who say the 94-year-old is their hero.
As doctors struggle to save Mandela’s life, some Zimbabweans say the former South African president played a key role in influencing them to fight white domination during the colonial era.
They say Madiba, as he is affectionately known by his traditional Xhosa name, made a huge impact on their lives as he spearheaded the downfall of apartheid in South Africa and the liberation of African nations through riveting speeches that eventually led to his incarceration.
The former African National Congress leader, who was jailed at Robben Island for fighting racial segregation, became South Africa’s first black president and served only one term after the country’s unprecedented all-race elections in 1994.
Zapu leader Dumiso Dabengwa says the Nobel Peace laureate played an important role in the integration of the ANC’s armed wing – Umkhonto Wesizwe with Zapu’s ZIPRA forces in Zimbabwe’s liberation struggle of the 1970s.
Mr. Dabengwa says the former ANC leader has done his part and at the age of 94, people must start celebrating his legacy.
President Robert Mugabe’s nephew, Leo Mugabe, who is a Zanu PF member and a former chairman of the Zimbabwe Football association, agrees, saying Madiba has influenced millions of lives worldwide.
Mr. Mugabe adds that Zimbabweans should draw important lessons from Mandela’s brand name.
And political commentator Gladys Hlatswayo believes that the ‘Mandela magic’ will always influence many lives.
Her sentiments are echoed by school teacher, Itai Dube of Nyika Growth Point in Masvingo province, who says she was in grade one when Mandela was released from prison. She says Madiba is her hero.
Miss Dube says some Zimbabweans are not happy that President Mugabe’s Zanu PF party once reacted angrily when Mandela pointed out that he was not happy about human rights abuses in the country in the run up to the 2000 general polls.
Mr. Mugabe recently claimed that the anti-apartheid leader was too soft on white South Africans, who created apartheid laws.
For lawmaker, Innocent Gonese, such statements are far-fetched as Mandela is an international icon who has played an important role in transforming people’s lives.
Victoria Falls mayor, Nkosilathi Jiyane, agrees, noting Madiba’s memory will remain etched in the hearts of millions of people if he were to depart this world today.
The anti-apartheid leader has been in intensive care for almost three weeks after he was admitted for a recurring lung infection.