After all, he was mortal

He personally would never have contested the fact, though. It is just us, the watchers, who nurtured the idea that death would perhaps simply be far too afraid to take him on. Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela has eventually died last night at the age of 95. Amidst a well-meaning storm of obituaries I am left to wonder why I do grieve for a person I never actually met (though I came close at one occasion) and who spent his life on the other side of the planet.

The reason is, of course, personal experience. I arrived at Leicester in the English Midlands, where I had signed up for a law degree, in autumn 1994, just a few months after the first general election in South Africa. South Africa had never featured very highly on my agenda by then. Cold War had been the major topic for political activities at school and the democratisation of Eastern Europe replaced that in my first years at university. Although some rather exotic lefties always seemed to know who Mandela was and how South Africa worked, I somehow never got deeper into it.

The university placed me in a converted house accommodation, which means you can pretend to lead an ordinary life inside a terraced redbrick, while still retaining a student life. Alongside with me, about twenty others arrived at Knighton Drive during the next days. Amongst them were to be some of the best friends I should ever have. Those arrivals included (and they forgive me spilling out their names here, please) Lesedi, Reinett and Juanita. Later in the year we were joined by Gerd. What those had in common was the place they came from: South Africa. I admit Lesedi strictly speaking is originally from Zimbabwe with a Zambian mother (as he would surely point out), but really, from a German viewpoint that did not matter much. What they had not in common was the colour of their skin. It felt awkward to spell this fact out as casually as they did ...

Zum vollständigen Artikel

Cookies helfen bei der Bereitstellung unserer Dienste. Durch die Nutzung erklären Sie sich mit der Cookie-Setzung einverstanden. Mehr OK