Dear Mr Mandela,
Please allow me to write a few words to you, showing my appreciation and respect for you. I’m just a foreigner having the honour of living in your beautiful home country that you have once been president to. Long before I first came here, I was thinking about South Africa. I remember as a 14-year-old (that must have been 1992) when talking about our annual family holiday and the suggestion of travelling to South Africa came up. One of my parents ( I can’t remember if it was my mom or dad) wanted to visit South Africa and the other one said no.. he or she didn’t want to travel to a country where Apartheid existed. This was my first memory of South Africa. Two years later I sat in front of the TV in Saudi Arabia and had goosebumps all over me and tears in my eyes when I saw you had been elected President of the Republic of South Africa and a peaceful transition is taking place with F.W. de Klerk standing next to you. Seeing this historical event live on TV when living in Saudi Arabia that time isn’t something to take as granted as we were ony allowed to have satellite TV shortly before. So, witnessing this event on TV was something special.
My mom and/or dad had no more reason not to visit South Africa, but somehow it still never happened. Until 10 years later, when I made my own way to your beloved home country. At first, just another country I lived in, has now become my home, too. Therefore I wanted to thank you for what you have done to this country. Mr Mandela, you have saved it, your vision has made this country to a prosperous player in the world league. It has already and will even further develop to a country that will play a significant role in the economic and political world stage.
It could have gone the other way and ended in a civil war like many other African countries did. Thanks to you alone it didn’t happen that way. About a year ago I visited the FNB stadium and the guide told us the story why the stadium has been built where it is today. The site has made history because of you Mr Mandela. As far as I remember you were holding your first Jo’burg speech after being released from prison right there. According to our guide the people didn’t know what to expect and showed up with machetes and other weapons ready to go on war and claim back their land and rights that have been taken from them during Apartheid. You welcomed the crowd with the words “I greet you all in the name of peace, democracy and freedom for all” which made them lay down their weapons. As a landmark of peace and democracy the stadium should not only serve as a sports and concert venue, but should also be seen as a symbol of the modern South Africa.
Shortly, after my first arrival in South Africa, I have had the privilege of seeing you live at the University of Cape Town when you were addressing thousands of students. It was an event that I will never forget. Even though I cannot remember your words in detail, I still remember your presence and your aura in that room. Something that cannot be described in words.
Even though your country is still on its way to fully economic equality it has already done huge steps and I pray that the people know that this is the way to continue. It does take time and maybe even more than a generation to achieve this. People are naturally impatient and want it with immediate effect. I pray that the peaceful path continues and if it does, the years to come will be prosperous for all South Africans.
I also pray for you Mr Mandela as you are in hospital at the moment. May you have a speedy recovery and live on for some more year to see your country flourish even further.
P.S. I think it was my mom who refused to come to South Africa while Apartheid was still in place. She would be the one with the moral dilemma. Since 2005 she has been here a couple of times and has fallen as much in love with your country as I did. Ironically and unfortunately my dad never made it here…