Many readers will remember the apprehension and delight with which the world watched South Africa in the early 1990s as the racial oppression of apartheid came to an end and the beloved country achieved a peaceful transition to a non-racial constitutional democracy.
The most widely recognized symbol of the struggle against apartheid, and of South Africa in the aftermath of that struggle, was Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela (July 18, 1918 to December 5, 2013), known to the millions who loved him as Tata Madiba ("Tata" is "daddy" in Xhosa, and "Madiba" is Mandela's clan name; in the usage of his Xhosa ethnic community is a form of address that shows respect). He died today at 95.
I share the deep affection many feel for Tata Madiba—as a participant, in a small way, in the struggle against apartheid; as a witness to its consequences as an interpreter for the testimony of both victims and perpetrators of gross human rights abuses before South Africa's Truth and Reconciliation Commission; and as a citizen of South Africa. I am deeply grateful for his leadership both in resistance and as president. I pray that we will see him enjoying resurrection in Christ, come God's new earth.
And yet, and yet.
In the late 1980s we would sing along with Johnny Clegg's band Savuka in their song for the imprisoned Mandela, "Asimbonanga":
Asimbonang' umandela thina (We have not seen Mandela)
Laph'ehleli khona (in the place where he is kept)
Hey wena nawe (hey you and you as well)
Siyofika nini la' siyakhona (when will we arrive at our destination)?
For all of the great work of Mandela and his generation, the people of South Africa continue to suffer much violence at one ...