By Stan Friedman
CHICAGO, IL (December 10, 2013) — The work of a Covenant World Relief partner that is helping Zulu women achieve economic independence in South Africa would not have been possible prior to Nelson Mandela’s work to bring down apartheid, Dave Husby, CWR director, said today.
“Apartheid was one of the major factors that kept Zulu women disempowered and voiceless,” Husby said. “Without Nelson Mandela’s courage, sacrifice, and leadership these women would still be without hope. Apartheid left a lot of damage in its wake.”
Much of the damage was unseen as blacks, especially women, internalized the messages of a racist society. “They were taught to believe they were not as good as white people,” said Husby, who was in South Africa earlier this year.
Many blacks continue to struggle to disabuse themselves of that belief, Husby said.
Covenant World Relief’s partner, Zimele, which means, “to stand one one’s own two feet,” works to help women develop businesses and other communal supports such as medical access and daycare.
Husby traveled to South Africa with several members of the CWR board in July. At the time Mandela was hospitalized and believed to be close to death. Debbie Blue, executive minister of the Department of Compassion, Mercy, and Justice, was on the trip and was surprised by the reaction—or lack of one—to Mandela’s hospitalization.
“Nobody was talking about it,” Blue said. It was as if no one wanted to admit that the leader was dying, she added.
In addition to meeting with Zimele leaders, the group visited sites connected with Mandela, including where he was captured before spending 27 years in prison.
“To personally have the privilege to take that walk along ‘the long road to freedom’ and stand at Mandela’s capture site was indescribable,” said Blue, referencing his words, “I have walked that long road to freedom. I have tried not to falter; I have made missteps along the way. But I have discovered the secret that after climbing a great hill, one only finds that there are many more hills to climb.”
Husby said that when he was in college a classmate who lived across the hall was the son of missionaries in South Africa, and the two would argue the morality of apartheid. “He would always list reasons why it was important,” Husby recalled. Like many other South Africans at the time, the student viewed the Mandela-led African National Congress as terrorists.
Having heard the racism from his classmate and then seeing how apartheid had ravaged so many lives, Husby said, “You can’t help but believe this man had more grace and forgiveness than almost anyone.”