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Global_17

Inbox Nelson Mandela walks past George Bizos as he leaves a press briefing about South Africa’s National Archives in 2008 more content than I had seen him in a long time. But Anglican archbishop emeritus Desmond Tutu thought their cohabitation was unbecoming of an icon and called on his friend to marry, and so they wed in a quiet ceremony in 1998. High on Machel’s agenda was the unity of the various Mandela families and, in the years that followed, she forged a peace between the children and grandchildren from his first marriage to Evelyn Mase and his second marriage to Madikizela-Mandela. I recall many happy birthday celebrations that followed, when Mandela would take his rightful place at the head of the table, surrounded by the family he had always wanted to nourish, but which life had prevented him from doing. I imagine he would have been heavily disappointed by the family disputes that played out for the world to see towards the end of his life. He did not expect any privilege for himself and I know he would appeal to them now to follow his example. The matter of his final resting place is also beyond dispute and is a decision he made a long, long time ago. I was reminded of that fact in January 2013, not long after he was released from hospital, when I went to visit him at his Houghton home. As soon as I entered the living room, he called out to the staff: “Get me my boots.” “What do you want your boots for, Tata?” one of them asked. “George is here. He will take me to Qunu,” he answered. It was clear that he wanted to go home. Qunu is a place that is very near and dear to Madiba’s heart. It is where he has enjoyed his retirement, where his contemporaries knocked on his door uninvited and unannounced, something he greatly enjoyed. It is also there, in the kraal, that he chose his final resting place, in consultation with Machel, something he has talked about many times and always in practical tones. Mandela didn’t fear death. He once said that when he eventually departs, he will look for the nearest ANC branch in heaven and join it. And he has often said – in jest – that when he dies, he will be in the good company of Walter Sisulu, Govan Mbeki, Albert Lutuli and Oliver Tambo. I last saw him at his Houghton home in early 2013 and we strolled down memory lane, as we often do. But he asked some questions that saddened me. “When did you last see Oliver (Tambo)?” he wanted to know. “How’s Walter (Sisulu)?” I could not lie to him and so I reminded him that they had passed on many years ago. I recall a blank expression sweeping over his face for a moment or so, before the conversation got back on track. As I was saying goodbye, he turned to me and said: “George, make sure that you don’t leave your jacket behind.” As it turned out, I had left it in the car. But Mandela’s words touched me. He was being thoughtful and wanted me to shield myself from the winter chill that had crept into this part of the world. His death on 5 December affected the whole world. Many have said that they will follow his footsteps. If they are serious they will follow his example of contributing a third of his presidential salary to build a children’s school. Article first published in Business Day, Johannesburg George Bizos is a senior advocate at South Africa’s Legal Resources Centre global f i rst quar ter 2014 www.global -br ief ing.org l 5 © Reuters


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