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We are at a crossroads in South Africa – and it is frightening us.

Our beloved Tata (father) is ill. He has been in hospital for a week now and we don’t really know how he is. Of course, it really is none of our business. He has retired from public life – he is no longer a political force, he is a private man living with his beloved wife and grandchildren, in a pretty home amongst the trees.

If only it was that simple.

Nelson Mandela is South African’s conscience. He brought us out of the struggle pretty much blood-free. He walked with us as we found our footing. He managed our expectations and our day-to-day as our President. And he said wise words. Things we knew we should be saying ourselves. But were too afraid to utter. He addressed the need to forgive, not to forget – but to see the other as a human. Not as an enemy.

We need to believe he will always be here, watching over us, because we are afraid of what we may do, of what we may become: when he is not.

I met him once, at South Africa House in London, in late April 2001. R.E.M. and The Corrs were playing the Freedom Day Concert in Trafalgar Square and I was coordinating the media.

Madiba sent word to the sound check that he wanted to meet the artists involved in the show. Everyone was thrilled. And we trooped over the road to a room in the South African Embassy – only to be told that the meet-and-greet was for artists and managers only. “No support staff.”

I was dismayed – but got it – he met thousands of people in a week. The process needed to be managed.

Read: Nelson Mandela: His 5 Surprising Health Conditions

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