I remember the first time I met Baba Mandela. It was in 1995 and at 11 years of age, seeing the man in person was something like anticipating a magician who could fudge together candy out of nothing.  Mr Mandela had come to visit my neighborhood  in Cape Town, South Africa. Among the throngs of people young and old, I waited in anticipation to shake the hand of the man who had freed a country from the brutal pangs of apartheid .

Though I didn’t quite grasp the magnitude of the feat he had accomplished; I knew I wanted to be a part of this phenomenal experience of shaking Tata Mandela’s hand. Eventually, the long awaited moment came and all the children were nudged to the front.

Across his face was the iconic smile as he shook scores of little hands. With one hand he gave each child a firm handshake and with the other,  capped tiny palms and fingers as if to seal the handshake for all time.

When my turn came – I was overcome by tears. I reached out my little hand, smiled and said,”Thank You Tata.” Beaming even more, the look on Tata’s face seemed to say,  “Take this freedom and make it your own, be the best you can be.”

All I could think of when I returned home was,  “I met a great man!”


17 years later , I look in retrospect and realize that I shook the hand of an African icon. A man who stood for justice and believed in reconciliation. A courageous man, a man filled with hope, a man of integrity,  a man with a dream for his country to be free.

Tata Mandela achieved his own desire to see African people free. As we celebrate this freedom and say Rest In Peace to Tata Madiba .I wonder – how do we continue Tata’s Legacy as African people. I spoke to a couple of people to get their views on uTata uMadiba and his Legacy;

‘Mandela, comes for a generation who fought beyond themselves – it was whatever I am doing now is for now and for generations to come. There was a sense that I am investing more than myself, my family or my family or my generation – I am investing in the future of this nation’ – Phillipa Namutebi Kabali – Kgwa (Uganda)

‘If we can learn to love and learn from other people – instead of fighting for limited resources, let’s embrace each other and love each other to build together‘– Peggy Zinziswa Mathatho Mongoato   (South Africa)

Dearest Madiba,

As you sat on Robben Island and toiled, chipping into the yellow limestone of the quarry on that island prison, singing songs of fortitude and forgiveness – you may already have had the God given vision and understanding that you were building a great legacy for this continent – reminding us that we as Africans can indeed embody greatness, that we can indeed have good and selfless leaders, that we can rise above and beyond all expectations to achieve anything we seek to achieve. You were giving a wounded continent her dignity.

We love you. You have shown us courage, intelligence, wisdom, goodness, greatness and excellence. The greatest gift we can give you in return is to take your example and seek to rise above all our worst circumstances – to reject hate and division and embrace determination, resilience and forgiveness. Because of your example we can and must dream great dreams, and beyond all expectations work towards achieving those dreams for our continent, for humanity and for the greater good.

Thank you Baba, thank you.Julie Guchuru – (Kenya)