Beloved Mandela is dead

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Nelson Mandela - 1918-2013 (Image via

One of the world’s few universal heroes, Nelson Mandela, a man who taught us to seek justice rather than revenge, has died, writes contributing editor-at-large Tess Lawrence.


Death, the indiscriminate apartheid that separates the living from the dead, is intolerant of mawkish sentiment and impatient with false and true messiahs, alike.

His was a long dying. And in that long and enduring embrace, there has been time for reflection of what he meant to the world, what he meant to South Africa and what he meant to some of us, individually.

As each day passed, as for us all, death drew the ailing Nelson Mandela closer until he was finally sent back home to Houghton, Johannesburg from hospital, where he had been treated for a lung infection and other complications. 

In truth, months ago, we started our mourning for this final hour. 

Just over a day ago, his daughter Dr Makaziwe 'Maki' Mandela, the only surviving child of four childen from his first marriage to Evelyn Ntoko Mase, alerted the end was nigh when she told the South African Broadcasting Corporation that

"Tata is still with us, strong, courageous. Even for a lack of a better word .... on his 'deathbed' he is teaching us lessons; lessons in patience, in love, lessons of tolerance.”

As he lay dying, in one of the many heartbreaking ironies of Mandela's life, on the other side of the world in London, two of his other children, Zindzi and Zenani, daughters with his second wife Winnie Madikizela, were attending a Royal premiere in the company of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, of the Justin Chadwick directed, Anant Singh produced film Long Walk  to Freedom, starring Idris Elba and Naomie Harris, based on their Dad's autobiography of the same name.

Whilst both daughters were there for the red carpet and meet and greet with the Royal couple, Zenani left before the film started. Zindzi was in the celebrity-packed audience.

The Mail online reported that

William and Kate were informed of his death discreetly by an aide shortly before the end of the film.

The news, which was revealed on television in an address to the nation by South Africa's current president, Jacob Zuma, was then passed on to stunned guests after the credits had rolled. A two minutes' silence was then held in the West End cinema.'

It was not clear what had happened to Mandela's daughter, Zindzi.

She had appeared jovial and relaxed walking the red carpet outside in Leicester Square before the premiere started but inside, as William and Kate met dignitaries, she seemed to be overcome.

Her publicist waved away reporters, prompting speculation that she had received word that her father was close to death.'

Zindzi Mandela, who was representing the family at the film premiere tonight and was told the news her father was fading just minutes before it was due to start.

Speaking to the Mail just moments earlier, she said of the film: 'It's something that makes me feel really proud, what my family went through and the role my father played has been recognised. It is a reward [for him].

Long Walk to Freedom has already been released in South Africa and burgeoned into the country's highest grossing film — even before Mandela's death.

There are few human beings capable of provoking a sense of anima mundi on planet earth.

He was a man excoriated by heroic circumstance and the Fates; who was emotionally ringbarked by life and those who once considered him the last to their equal.

He taught us to seek justice rather than revenge.

History has delivered few real universal heroes, despite the plethora of masters of the universe.

In death, few human beings live up to their eulogies; even fewer to their eulogies in Life.

Mandela did.

And now our world is one Hero down.

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