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Poet Don Mattera tells Capetonians to live Madiba's message

Glynnis Underhill

Celebrated South African writer Don Mattera has addressed a crowd in Khayelitsha in remembrance of former president Nelson Mandela.

South African poet and author Don Mattera. (Gallo)

A frail, 86-year-old Don Mattera had to be assisted on to the stage on Monday night, where he thanked God for sparing him so he could address the crowd at an evening of remembrance for Nelson Mandela in Khayelitsha on the Cape Flats.

Born and raised in the cultural hub of Sophiatown in Johannesburg, Mattera's fire has not dimmed with age. So many others also fought against an unjust system, he said, but nobody had even heard about them. 

In his case, he had been arrested 202 times and spent 12 years in jail during the apartheid years. "Not all of us here have our names up in lights," he said. "We remember you all tonight."

Mandela loved all the people of South Africa, said Mattera. "When you were born, Madiba, you freed the spirit of a shackled nation."

The nation has been in mourning since Mandela died on Thursday night and the country engulfed in paying homage to the greatest statesman and political figure South Africa has ever known. The positive message of reconciliation left by Mandela has touched its citizens. 

Mattera said all South Africans must take a lesson from Mandela.

"South Africans must love their country. Love its people," said Mattera. "Mandela loved them all. Live the message."

'The ANC is corrupt'
Cape Town mayor Patricia De Lille, who has been addressing numerous gatherings in Cape Town in honour of Mandela, appears to be tireless. Joining in the dancing and singing at the OR Tambo community hall, she laid wreaths beside a blown-up photograph of Mandela. De Lille is sometimes given a hard time in Khayelitsha because she represents the Democratic Alliance, but the atmosphere on this occasion was peaceful and at times jovial.

Some in the crowd expressed disappointment that the hall was only half-full.

"It makes me mad more people haven't come to remember Mandela," said one woman, who declined to be named.

Another woman, who wanted to be referred to as only Nosipho, said she was feeling upset. "I just don't feel good. I am very sad. Madiba had to die because he was very old. Now he is rid of his pain, but he is not going to be with us anymore."

Nosipho reflected for a little while before returning to the subject of what would happen to the ANC in the future. Her parents had raised her as an ANC person, and she said she could not imagine joining any other party.

"I really wish the ANC could change after Madiba's death because the ANC is corrupt," said the 42-year-old mother of three. "Tata Madiba put us on the right path. The ANC must return to that path." 

'Pain, pain, pain'
A man leaning over the railing nearby was staring down at the singing and ululating, looking slightly dazed. Shephard Nwtawa (42) said he felt terrible because Mandela had died. 

A shack dweller, Nwtawa said when he heard the news of Mandela's death, he had cried and virtually choked with sadness.

"I am feeling pain, pain, pain," he said. "He was a good Tata. Now I don't have a Tata anymore. I am very worried about the country now that Tata is dead."

The City of Cape Town provided a lively programme, which included stunning performances by the Masi Choir from Masiphumelele township in Cape Town.

Yet it was four-year-old Yonda Matashoba who caught the attention of many news photographers as she danced with her grandmother, draped in ANC colours. Her smile was wide and captivating, like that of Mandela in many of his pictures.

"Yonda knows Madiba well. She followed him on TV," said her proud grandmother Mandisa. "She told me: 'Madiba our father is dead.'"


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