By Melanie Nathan, Dec 09, 2013.
When I was a child I was told by my Government that Nelson Mandela was bad man, a terrorist who wanted all white people dead. They did not allow us to see pictures of Mandela, and all images of him were banned. He was serving life in prison. When Mandela was finally released after serving 27 years, many believed South Africa would be a bloodbath, and most South Africans who at that time did not know Mandela the human, could not have imagined that he would ensure peace, unity and equality for all, through a process of negotiation and reconciliation.
And so he became our Tata Madiba, our unifying hero and when he died at the end of last week, we were devastated.
People by the thousands began to descend on Nelson Mandela Square, mere blocks from my hotel in Sandton as well as on the home he died at in Houghton.
Together with the designer of the Gay Flag of South Africa, Eugene Brockman and his partner Henry Bantjes, we decided to join the throngs of people and take some flags down to these memorial venues, where we could place them amongst the thousand of bouquets of flowers, plants, pictures, momentos, placards, cards and notes.
We wanted to thank Madiba for what he had done for LGBT people. We wanted to thank him for our freedom and equality and so we did. Nelson Mandela set the tone for LGBTI equality when he said: “Never, never and never again shall any one be oppressed in this beautiful land of South Africa;” and so South Africa boasts full equality to include sexual orientation and gender identity, in its all inclusive Constitution.
When the TV interviewers asked asked why we were there, Eugene Brockman noted: “We have come to thank Tata Madiba for equality and for giving us the dignity to be who we are.”
Here are the pictures – though no words nor images could convey or capture what we felt doing this – Hamba Kahle Tata Madiba.