“They Behave Better than My Grandchildren”

It remains a sad, yet historic time for most Africans who attempt to keep vigils and strain their ears for any credible news on the ailing statesman, Nelson Mandela. He has been hospitalised for a month now, and most of us believe that his time is drawing closer and closer.


Recalling “The Gift”, I was proudly showing my missus the book NELSON MANDELA – CONVERSATIONS WITH MYSELF (published by MacMillan) which was presented to me by my brother, Giovanni, my sister, Freedom, and my strange Godchild, and quite by chance came across this poignant paragraph written by Mr Mandela during his last days of incarceration at Victor Verster Prison in Paarl, near Cape Town.

I have devoted less time to my blog recently owing to a thorough revision and reflection of my life, in writing, relationally and existentially, and introspectively strategizing towards what I have now come to observe as the “bigger picture”.

It is also a time of sobering thought on why we suffer, while our chosen leaders feast on our behalf.

If he had not devoted his life professionally to law, and to the service of South Africans as a statesman, I am so certain that he would have been a great writer alongside fellow South African literary giants such as Zakes Mda, Ndjabulo Ndebele and Es’kia Mphahlehle. He writes so thoughtfully and precisely. His handwriting is as beautiful as his prose.

“Flocks of ducks walk clumsily into the lounge and loiter about apparently unaware of my presence. Males with loud colours, but keeping their dignity and not behaving like playboys. Moments later they become aware of my presence. If they got a shock they endured it with grace. Nevertheless, I detect some invisible feeling of unease on their part. It seems as if their consciences are worrying them, and although I feared that very soon their droppings will decorate the expensive carpet, I derive some satisfaction when I notice that their consciences are worrying them. Suddenly they squawk repeatedly and then file out. I was relieved. They behave far better than my grandchildren. They always leave the house upside down.”

These words, diarised by Madiba in 1990, appear to be intentionally ambiguous and metaphorical, and surrealistically prophetic.


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