tribute zelda

An Employer and a Grandfather,

How does a life of no significance to the bigger sphere pay tribute to the life of a hero? I guess I can only try to express my most intimate thoughts and hope, by trying, I can do justice to the person, although it is highly unlikely that I will succeed. However, I can try.

Khulu, it has been more than 14 years now since I joined your office in 1994. I often ask myself what I had done to deserve the immense privilege that so many people envy me for. I cannot imagine how any human being could be deserving of the life I have been privileged to. I then ask myself: Have I done enough to show gratitude and have I appreciated it every single day? No, I don't think so. Often I get so consumed by the challenges that surround me daily that I don't reflect enough to truly value the opportunities you have afforded me. I guess that's what they refer to as "life" and we often don't appreciate the moment. An initiative like this is therefore welcomed because it forces us to reflect and reminisce and in years to come every person who contributed to this tribute will appreciate that they had done so at the time and most importantly to express gratitude towards you in person.

There is without a doubt a number of highlights in my small existence that I think about and consider to be life-changing experiences. There are many material things that I could list to thank you for, but they are not the ones that I feel ownership of. The lessons you have taught me, the values and principles, are the things that no one can ever remove from me and will remain with me forever. It is a book of life that will guide me forever. I hope that in my lifetime I will be able to influence just one life to the extent in which you changed the mindset of an entire nation. That is almost an impossible goal to set for oneself, but every contribution counts, no matter how insignificant we may feel it is. That is after all what you taught all of us.

Your comment to me in the early days of your presidency, that you did not want to be surrounded by cowards and if I was not prepared to stand up for myself and be courageous, I would not be able to serve you, was probably the one single phrase that changed my life forever. You did not only speak to me as an employer, but also as a grandfather. Your tone was firm and I wanted to break down at that moment but realised that you did so because of your affection for those around you. It took me some time to accept what you had said and up to this day when it rains with criticism, that moment in my life inspires me with so much inner strength. This is only one life you have changed, but I hope that deep inside you realise that it is the magnitude of your spirit and soul that changed an entire nation.

Awards, honorary doctorates, accolades have been bestowed upon you by the hundreds. They are all special in some way but it is the attitudes you created around you that are the true testament of your contributions. Thank you for teaching us and showing us to treat all human beings with dignity and respect. Thank you for teaching us to be proud of our roots, regardless of history. Thank you for entrenching values and principles that are solid and without prejudice. Thank you for showing us to have empathy and sympathy with people one doesn't know and thank you for opening my mind to enable me to reason before acting and to listen before speaking. Life has challenged you in many ways and every time I thought that it has handed you the last blow, life seems to surprise me by even challenging you more. There is a saying that life only gives a person what he/she is able to handle. I can think of no one else who would have handled the blows life had given you, in the way you did and that makes you the extraordinary human that you are. You had no reason to behave the way you did, yet I am proud to be a witness to the soul of the public figure that is the same soul of the private person. There are no different faces to Nelson Mandela. The face the world sees is the only face that exists and it is every bit of the kind, loving, forgiving human being that you are.

There is little I can do that is adequate to pay tribute to you. I hope that my life may become a testament of the values and principles you taught me. I hope I can live a life that in itself pays tribute to you not in a public way but just in my immediate surroundings and that others will pay tribute to you in the same way: by living their lives according to the examples you set.

And thank you for the love, Khulu. There is no reason why you should have treated me well. There is no reason why you should have accepted me the way you did. There is absolutely no reason why you should have believed in me or empowered me to become a servant to you, yet you took that risk. I hope not to disappoint you and to be there for you as a grandchild, for always.
There is no other person more deserving of a "lifetime achievement" award than you.