‘I had experienced Madiba magic’

Northglen News journalist, Rianette Cluley, shares her first experience with Madiba Magic.

JUST short of turning seven years old I embarked on my 12-year-long school career, but unlike many others, I got to start my school career in a free and democratic South Africa.

It was 1994 and a redheaded, pigtail, freckle-faced seven-year-old version of who I am today, stood in a massive school hall learning the new South African National Anthem, Nkosi Sikelel’ iAfrica.

A group of primary school pupils, all tongue tied, struggling to pronounce the Zulu and Xhosa words, painted a picture of hope for the new South Africa. By our 10th try, we managed to sing right through, and by the end of that term we were already teaching our parents and grandparents to sing along.

But at that age, I still had no idea who this Nelson Mandela was that everyone was talking about.

A whole year older, and all the more wiser, I got to know a little more about who Mr Mandela was as I embarked on my Grade 2 school journey.

Midway through that year, most children in my class already knew what Madiba, and his comrades, had done for the country. And by then we already knew about the injustice our forefathers had caused. In that moment, at the tender age of eight, I was grateful that my parents did not raise me in a home where racism was practiced and that I knew, even before I was taught at school, that all people were to be treated fairly and equally.

That same year, on 24 June, just before the kick off of the iconic rugby world cup final against the All Blacks, we all lined up, gearing up to sing the anthem. With clenched fists glued to our chests trough out the anthem, tears painting the faces of some uncles (or ooms) I  thought didn’t have an emotional bone in their body, we sang the national anthem with precision and pride.

And when the final whistle blew in the match I remember my parents and their friends all jumped in the air, hugging each other and wiping the tears off their cheeks. Although we were told ‘children were to be seen and not heard’, we were all there to celebrate with our parents and once again sang the national anthem to commemorate our country’s win.

Francois Pienaar, and our president, Nelson Mandela, lifted the world cup with pride, and although I was too young to understand, I knew that South Africa would be okay. In that moment I experienced Madiba Magic.

Now, more than 20 years after I was lucky enough to embark on a school career where the colour of a person’s skin did not matter, I can’t imagine a life without democracy and I will never forget what this iconic man and his friends have done for all South Africans.

Tell us about your first memory of Nelson Mandela as South Africa’s first democratic president and what it meant to you. Email [email protected] or comment below.

Rianette Cluley

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