Dear Mr Mandela…
We’ve all been reading daily reports of your progress in hospital. We’ve also been watching television footage of the many well wishers who have gathered outside the hospital to pay tribute to you while praying for you. We also heard the President of the United States of America, Barack Obama, pay repeated tributes to you during his recent visit to South Africa – just as everyone else around South Africa and indeed, the world, have been doing. Please know that the South African trucking industry’s prayers and thoughts are also with you and your family.
I cannot do justice in this tribute to what you have done for South Africa and indeed, for the world – there are not enough words in my vocabulary to do that. I am therefore going to use just two words which I feel encompass all that we feel towards you. The words are ‘˜respect’ and ‘˜appreciation’. We respect and appreciate so much the man that you are , and always have been. We respect and appreciate what you have done for South Africa. We respect and appreciate so much the courage, the strength, the vision, the love, the leadership you have always shown in everything you have done. Madiba, we respect and appreciate the fact that while you are a Giant of a Man and one of the greatest Statesman this world has ever seen, you have always been a ‘˜boykie’ – a ‘˜mench’. You have always had a way of making everyone – no matter what the person’s title or position – feel so special and important. While walking with world leaders, you have stopped to reach out to what many of those leaders would regard as the ‘˜peasant class’ , and you have made them feel like Kings and Queens. You always gave freely of that wonderful smile of yours and in so doing, lit up the lives of so many. We respect and appreciate the fact that no person was considered by you to be too small or too big not to receive your attention. You had so much to give , and you just kept on giving. We so respect and appreciate that.
Certainly we are all sad to have you ill in hospital but to be honest, I personally do not feel overly grieved at the events as they are playing out. Perhaps this is because I came to terms long ago with the fact that God gives us all a purpose and a time on earth before taking us home. It happens to all of us. I watched my late mother lying peacefully in hospital for many days last year , just as you are doing now – until she finally slipped away to go to her Maker. She had done her job on earth , part of which was working as a pharmacist in Soweto at Baragwaneth Hospital and St John’s Eye Hospital until the age of 80. Her time in hospital last year was a sad but not devastating time. After all, she was 95 , one year older than you – and she had lived a fine life. And like you, she was loved by many. OK, certainly not by as many as love you but she was loved. She knew it, we knew it and God had the final say. Like you, she was a giver rather than a taker , not of material things but rather of her love and her spirit. Her legacy will live with us forever , just as yours will forever be embedded in the South African psyche.
Please know that you enjoy a special place in the heart of the trucking industry. In fact, you may recall that back in 1994, this magazine gave you and Mr F W De Klerk each an award as Friends of the Trucking Industry. The citations read: “For showing exceptional statesmanship in creating a climate for South Africa that is conducive to peace and prosperity in which the road transport industry can play its rightful role in uplifting the lives of all South Africans.’ The picture alongside shows Mr De Klerk receiving his award. You were overseas at the time and yours was presented to one of your representatives.
The trucking industry also came to the party when MTN donated to you a herd of nine breeding cows and a prize Bonsmara bull as a retirement gift. The then International Truck and Engine Overseas Corporation , through its local Tyco dealership – donated the use of an International 9200 to deliver the herd to you in Qunu. One of my favourite FleetWatch covers depicts you with the herd and the truck in the background.
It is these warm memories , and so many more , that will always live with us. That is why as I write this, I am sad but accepting. You have left us with such a rich legacy. There is a saying: “I like to leave people richer in spirit for knowing me,’ Madiba, you have left us all multi-billionaires in spirit for knowing you. We respect, appreciate and salute you Sir!