Friday, July 18, 2008

Imini emandi kuwe!


Happy Birthday, Madiba!

From Long Walk to Freedom, Nelson Mandela, 1994:

"Almost from the beginning of my sentence on Robben Island, I asked the authorities for permission to start a garden in the courtyard. For years they refused without offering a reason. But eventually they relented, and we were able to cut out a small garden on a narrow patch of earth against a far wall.

The soil in the courtyard was dry and rocky. The courtyard had been constructed over a landfill, and in order to start my garden I had to excavate a great many rocks to allow the plants room to grow. At the time, some of my comrades jested that I was a miner at heart, for I spent my days at the quarry and my free time digging in the courtyard.

The authorities supplied me with seeds. I initially sowed tomatoes, chillies and onions - hardy plants that did not require rich earth or constant care. The early harvests were poor, but they soon improved. The authorities did not regret giving permission, for once the garden began to flourish, I often provided the warders with some of my best tomatoes and onions.

A garden was one of the few things in prison that one could control. To plant a seed, watch it grow, to tend it and then harvest it offered a simple but enduring satisfaction. The sense of being the custodian of this small patch of earth offered a small taste of freedom. "


  1. Viva, Madiba, VIVA!!!

  2. Today my friend wondered aloud.... why do we consider Mandela so great when he shows basic important human values? - is it maybe because our leaders and politicians are so abysmal?
    Makes one wonder...
    I think she has a point.

    And yet - I also feel / think Madiba is an extraordinary man. Not really because he can grow vegetables, or smile at people - but because of his capacity to forgive and show real compassion. It remains an inspiration.

  3. "...a miner at heart." I see him as a miner of the heart. Some hearts in that environment would be as hard as that rocky soil,but I'm sure Nelson Mandela chipped away with the same quiet and gentle determinatiion.

  4. Such an inspirational piece of writing. I look on my patch as my freedom too. x

  5. Mary - yes.

    Jane: Long Live!

    Marijke: he is extraordinary because "basic important human values" are so seldom seen, especially in leaders. Any leaders. Anywhere. Most politicians are by nature corrupt thanks to the games of compromise which get them there in the first place. There is actually nothing basic about these values: most humans are very ordinary. He is extraordinary because he did not succumb to what 99% of us would have succumbed to. Bitterness. Retributive action. Look at Winnie. An easy life of selfish pleasure. And even that is understandable. After decades of suffering, he doesn't say, Ok, time for me.

    Those are basic human traits. And what we see, and live, all the time.

    Off my sopabox now, ;-)

    Pam: pressure, and time, as Tim Robbins says in The Shawshank Redemption.

    Louise - yes, a garden has kept me sane, too.

  6. You know, I think that is so sweet. That garden provided him with far more than just vegetables....


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