Happy birthday, Nelson Mandela!

Today ntate Mandela is 63 years old, if you consider the fact that he spent 27 years in jail for wanting to live like a human, and wanting the same thing for his people. But he’s really 90 years old, if you consider the fact that he used those 27 years to change South Africa and, I dare say, the world. He changed me. Happy birthday, ntate Mandela.

In 1981 my family ran away from Lesotho, as the then government of Lesotho had tried to kill my father, and killed my 3-year old nephew, instead. How does one forgive? My country is completely surrounded by South Africa, so we had to find ourselves in South Africa at some point, in our quest for asylum elsewhere. While we were there, we were duly picked up for pass law offences by the SAP.

We spent 24 hours in prison. It was very long. And there was a lot of sadism on the part of the gaolers. I won’t go into details but one of their favourite practices was sleep deprivation. The next day we went to court and faced a judge: “Why didn’t you have your pass?” The fact that we were not South Africans took a very long time to register. Not that black South Africans had to carry the damn thing, but I mean…

Once we were out, I had an experience. I had a light bulb above my head, just like in cartoons, and the hair on my arms stood on end. The name Nelson Mandela dropped of it’s own accord into my head, and I truly, really understood why he had sacrificed his life against this… thing. For that particular zombie instant, hair on end, a stupid smile on my face, I knew why. I want to wish him a happy birthday today, and tell him that we know.