Editorial: Mandela - Farewell privilege

By Andrew Austin

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Nelson Mandela
Nelson Mandela

This editorial comes to you from Johannesburg, South Africa, where I find myself covering the week-long mourning of former President Nelson Mandela.

It is 3.30 in the morning and I am working because my body clock still thinks it is afternoon in New Zealand. To say that it has been a crazy few days is an understatement.

Last Friday I, along with the rest of the world, was told that Mandela had died at the age of 95. The news brought back a lot of memories and thoughts about South Africa, where I was born and spent nearly 35 years. Earlier this year I had sat down and written an obituary for when the inevitable happened and a long life caught up with Madiba, as he is affectionately known. We ran it in last Saturday's Hawke's Bay Today Weekend and a version was also used in our sister paper, the New Zealand Herald.

It was on the back of this that the Herald and APN, the newspaper group we are all part of, asked me to go to South Africa and cover what will surely be known as the biggest ever state funeral.

My first obligation is as editor of Hawke's Bay Today, so once I was sure everything was in place, I said yes, because this is a once in a lifetime opportunity.

After a long flight through Brisbane and Singapore lasting more than 20 hours, I find myself in the City of Gold, Egoli or as local slang has it, Jozi. I lived in Johannesburg for many years and love the city, so I had romantic visions of stepping out into warm sunshine (not unlike Hawke's Bay).

That dream was shattered when I looked out the plane window to see a torrential downpour. Africans believe that rain is a sign of blessing and I can assure you Johannesburg and the Gauteng province have been blessed in the past few days. It is quite symbolic and even though it has messed up many funeral plans, it is quite fitting.

Everywhere you look there are signs of Mandela as the country remembers its favourite son and the architect of its freedom. I am privileged to be part of such a huge occasion to honour a man who, although he was not perfect, taught us a lot about peace and reconciliation.

- Hawkes Bay Today

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