We watched the movie Invictus this weekend. [it's a story about the rugby world cup in South Africa in 1995 and how South Africa won] The movie centres on rugby but told from the perspective of the rugby team captain and also Nelson Mandela.
Nelson Mandela is one of my all time heroes. A dream I have (which will be realised in heaven) is to meet him. He is a giant among men. A man who endured 27 years of deprivation, hardship and torture in jail, separated from his family and friends and then came out of prison preaching peace and forgiveness.
The movie was incredible. Because I lived that era. I was there. I lived through the change and the fear and propaganda.
Nelson Mandela is a man who has always been part of my life. I am a child of apartheid, growing up in the thick of the struggle for freedom. As a child the state propaganda said that he was a demon, an evil killer who would wash the country in blood. I remember an incident when I was 13 years old. I had a discussion with my friends about the worst thing that could ever happen. Yup, the release of Nelson Mandela was the worst thing we could imagine. The so called evil of the "swart gevaar" [black danger] was entrenched in our thinking.
As I grew into adolescence I began to see things for how they really were. When I was 18 years old a referendum was held to vote yes/ no for change. To move towards democracy or not. One of the defining moments of my life was walking into a school hall to cast my vote. I walked past chanting placard holders from the Conservative party, warning us against voting yes. And as I cast my vote "yes for change" I was so proud. I was part of the change, part of the start of reconciliation.
Afterwards I admit that the release of Nelson Mandela was a fearful time. None of us knew how he would react as he had been hidden from the world for so long. If he had come out of jail preaching vengeance there would have been a civil war. And some would have said rightfully so. But he didn't. He preached peace.
The movie shows the struggle for forgiveness among ordinary people. People who because of the colour of their skin had been persecuted and denied basic human rights for so long. But they overcame.
I believe that God orchestrated those defining years as South Africa was reborn. An amazing book about the hand of God in the first free and democratic elections is Michael Cassidy's book, "A witness for ever". South Africa should have had a civil war by now, if African history is anything to go by. But she hasn't. God has prevailed!
I get so angry at the negativity among the South African community here. I admit that as a family we lived without a mugging, attack or murder. We are blessed in that regard. But South Africa is to be celebrated. She has emerged from oppression into the light and God has brought her through.
This is the poem that Nelson Mandela gave Francois Pienaar in preparation for the rugby world cup. It gave him strength in prison and inspires me.
Out of the night that covers me
Black as the pit from pole to pole
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul
In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced or cried aloud
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed
Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade
And yet the menace of the years
Finds, and shall find me, unafraid
It matters not how strait the gate
How charged with punishments the scroll
I am the master of my fate
I am the captain of my soul
William Ernest Henley