Two Soweto girls paid tribute to ailing former president Nelson Mandela in the only way they knew, by walking from their local club to the Medi-Clinic Heart Hospital in Pretoria.
“We wanted to show Madiba that we appreciate everything he has done for us,” said 13-year-old Sinenhlanhla Mazibuko today.
Mazibuko, her running partner Mandisa Miya (12) and their coach Makhosonke Zikalala left Soweto yesterday morning around 6am to make their way to the city. They arrived at the hospital just after 8pm.
They are part of the Ghost Athletics Club, and specialise in long distance running.
Zikalala said after he heard about Mandela’s health in the media, he spoke to the club and it was agreed that something had to be done for the iconic leader who had done a lot for the country.
“We agreed that his long walk to freedom inspired the nation so we will do the long walk to his hospital as a token of our appreciation,” Zikalala said.
He said the walk was also a symbolic gesture to say they felt his pain.
Zikalala said there were moments when he felt tired and suggested to the girls to get lifts in cars, but they refused.
“We wanted to walk the entire distance and show that we are grateful for the freedom he has brought us. He fought for our rights,” said Mandisa.
Upon their arrival in Pretoria, the three had supper and proceeded to the hospital where they held a small prayer. As they prepared to camp outside the hospital, they were approached by one of the guards.
“He asked where we were going to sleep and we said outside. He said we can’t do that after such a long walk,” said Zikalala.
Their enthusiasm and love for Mandela saw the hospital offer them a place to sleep inside. “They arranged for us to sleep on the first floor. We were given blankets and coffee,” he said.
Today they were taking pictures next to the hospital’s perimeter wall, which was filled with messages and flowers from well-wishers.
Mandela is spending his 36th day in hospital for a recurring lung infection.
The presidency said on Thursday that Mandela was still responding to treatment.
“Former president Nelson Mandela continues to respond to treatment, and is still in a critical but stable condition,” spokesman Mac Maharaj said in a statement.
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