Remembering Madiba

Nelson Mandela, former President of South Africa, accepts the offer to wear an HIV-Positive T-shirt. Photo credit: Eric Miller

by Olehile Maurice Bada Pharasi 

I am only one of thousands of young South Africans who left our country in our teen years, fleeing persecution for our political beliefs and actions, and believing that by leaving our country we would regroup and come back to contribute to the overthrow of the apartheid, racist regime.

Did we really believe that would happen?

I must say that the overwhelming urge for us to go on with the struggle and belief was the specter of Nelson Mandela addressing us in “Freedom Square” one day soon. What was most amazing about Madiba is that, for decades, we led protest marches all over the world without even knowing what he looked like, for the regime had banned all pictures of him and all we had was an artist’s impression of what he should have looked like.

In recent months, we all knew Madiba was about to depart, as we could see his frailty and hospitalization. We should, therefore, accept that he deserves his rest, and we should accept that he had to depart from our midst.

I have been associated with MSH for a lot more than the almost 10 years that I have worked for the organization. I therefore know and deeply appreciate that MSH’s fight to ensure health for all and its fight for greater health systems for all have always taken into consideration our unique conditions in South Africa. I thank all of you for the support we have had as a nation over all the decades. Thank you, thank you. I would not be exaggerating by saying that MSH has been a conscious and deliberate participant in our struggle over the decades.

I know I speak on behalf of all our staff of MSH South Africa when I say that Madiba’s passing has deeply saddened us, but that we will continue to draw inspiration from his life. His well-documented ideals for a democratic South Africa will continue to inspire all.

(Cross-posted on the MSH Global Health Impact Blog.)

Nelson Mandela was joined by celebrities at a concert in London to celebrate his 90th birthday and promote his HIV/Aids charity, 46664. Photo credit: Getty Images.

Olehile Maurice Bada Pharasi (Bada Pharasi), M Pharm, is the MSH Country Representative for South Africa.