Sinenhlanhla Mazibuko and her friend Mandisa Miya chose an interesting way to pay tribute to ailing former President Nelson Mandela as he spent his 36th day at the Pretoria Medi-Clinic Heart Hospital. Madiba was admitted for a recurring lung infection last month. The presidency’s last update on his health was that he is “responding to treatment and is still in a critical but stable condition”.
The 13 year-old Mazibuko and her running mate, 12 year-old Miya are members of the Ghost Athletics Club. The Ghost Athletics Club is known for its excellent performances in long distance marathons. For them, it came naturally to decide to walk over 100 kilometres from Soweto to Pretoria. The pair was accompanied by their coach at the club Makhosonke Zikalala.
Zikalala said that the club had been concerned about the freedom icon whose struggle story is told in the popular book ‘Long Walk to Freedom’. It seemed fitting to take the long walk from Soweto to Pretoria to pray for the former president.
According to City Press, a tired Sinenhlanhla Mazibuko said: “We wanted to show Madiba that we appreciate everything he has done for us.” Her friend Mandisa Miya agreed: “We wanted to walk the entire distance and show that we are grateful for the freedom he has brought us.”
Along the way coach Zikalala grew increasingly worried about the girls and offered to get them a lift for the rest of the way. The girls would not abandon the walk and continued on their symbolic journey. The three marathon runners left Soweto at 6am on Friday and arrived at the hospital at 8pm.
Upon hearing their story, the management of the hospital would not let the runners sleep outside in the brutal winter cold. They received a warm meal and coffee. They were given warm blankets and slept inside the hospital. It is clear that as Madiba lies in hospital; his legacy of ‘ubuntu’ and compassion is embedded deeply in hearts of South Africans who continue to flock to the hospital where he is receiving expert medical treatment.