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Saturday, 6 July 2013

A Piece of the Road

I could not imagine that the future I was walking toward could compare in any way to the past I was leaving behind.

-- Nelson Mandela, Long Walk to Freedom

I am the white-breasted
cormorant of the Cape
of Good Hope, I will spread
my wings above a cloud-
less rainbow sky.

You wouldn’t walk against your grain,
holding the aspirations of millions in your DNA
knowing that freedom is more than a step away.

That momentous Rivonia speech moved the sun and
possibility rippled across a country white with fear.
Quartus de Wet, with averted eyes, gave you life and

never witnessed the alchemy of twenty seven years:
a path spiralling towards holiness, embodied
and signatured in colourful Madiba shirts.

And here we are still imprisoned in short sighted
mediocrity, still not honouring the truth
that oppression violates humanity / Ubuntu.

It is not political freedom, but the freedom from self
that has become your legacy. A man dignified, liberated,
tampered into maturity, restored our faith in humanity.

Paved in goodness and forgiveness
The road to freedom now seems short
Yet, many more hills to climb to
work, bread, water and salt for all.

At last the future has arrived and your spirit rests
at ease. Eternally optimistic, you celebrate the move
to banquet with God and all the other saints.

For your single eyed-focus, your Zen-like discipline
the smile that won our hearts and liberated
us from fear, we thank you, Madiba: Nkosi Sikelel’ iAfrika!

I am the white-breasted
cormorant of the Cape
of Good Hope, I have spread
my wings above a cloud-
less rainbow sky.

© Martha Landman

Nelson Mandela's life and times

Martha is a South-African-born Australian poet who resides and writes in tropical North Queensland, Australia.


  1. I love this poem, Martha. Its beautiful and powerful words carry so many messages beyond the salute to Mandela. I've returned to it a number of times now, it certainly holds up to numerous readings. I think the fifth stanza is particularly pertinent in these present times when sometimes it seems that humanity is forgotten.

    1. Thanks Carolyn! I keep on being fascinated by Mandela's humanity and depth. His death is a loss.