Yazalwa sekusaziwa ukuba iyakuphelela phi na
He was born with his destiny written for him
Nangona umzimba wayo wawuthozamile
Though his boyhood was humble
Yaba yingangamsha esebenzela ilizwe
He became a great statesman
Yayihamba njengekumkani kodwa inentobeko
He walked like a king yet was modest
Yakha yaligorha elixhobileyo
He was once an armed warrior
Kodwa yazibeka phantsi izigalo
But he put down his weapons
Yaza yangumfuziselo woxolo
And become an icon of peace
Yayingumthetheleli wabo bacinzelekileyo
He was a spokesman for the oppressed
Nabo babefumene uphum’ aphele
And for the banished
Yawaqhawula amakhamandela ocalucalulo
He broke the chains of apartheid
He taught us reconciliation
Yazamkela iintshaba zayo
He embraced his enemies
Ayizange ibenekratshi kwabo babeyivalele entolongweni
He had no hatred for those who imprisoned him
Silandela ekhondweni layo
In his flight path we follow
Iimpiko zentaka enobuqaqawuli zisikhumbuza ngendoda yamadoda
The wings of a majestic bird remind us of a great man
Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela!
Siyakubhotisa Madiba! Hail! Madiba!
Siyakuhlonipha! We honour you!
In Xhosa bird lore, ingqanga, the bateleur eagle (terathopius ecaudatus), is held in great awe and thought to be a bird of omen.
It is now so rare and so seldom seen that its very name has a magical quality.
Should its call be heard, it is considered extremely lucky and it is believed that something good will happen.
The esteem in which the bateleur is held is echoed in the proverb ingqanga ifile ‘the bateleur is dead’, an expression used when a man of renown dies.
Ingqanga ifile: The Bateleur is dead – Praise Poem to Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela 1918-2013
Patricia Schonstein Pinnock
Photograph A by Eli Weinberg
Photograph B from cover of Long Walk to Freedom