Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela passed away peacefully in his Johannesburg home at 20:50 pm on Thursday November 5th the year of our lord 2013. I am ashamed to say that since his death I have grown to get enraged when I hear his name mentioned. He is a worldwide icon so allow me to explain. With the holidays coming up I have taken (more) time out from my gruelling schedule (who am I kidding?) to spend more time at home. I had even come up with a viewing schedule but it was interrupted since Mandela’s passing. I have spent the past two weeks dodging tributes which seemed to be on every channel imaginable. It was — on my part, but that is testament of the impact that he had on the world.
As soon as the news hit, tweets came out from every celebrity imaginable and state leaders from around the world were quick to send their condolences to the Mandela family and the South African people. Kiwi singer Lorde was wrong, even good people live long enough to have their likeness set in stone. Mandela has statues all over the world from New York to London where he is celebrated as a hero. With the death of any great leader individuals take a step back and look at their contribution and take a look at their life and see how they navigated through the tough times among other things. Since his death, a lot has been written and reported about him and his contribution but certain events stand out for me.
Nelson Mandela spent 22 years with his co-accused Dennis Goldberg, Ahmed Kathrada, Andrew Mlangeni and Govan Mbeki in the Rivonia Treason trial of 1964. After being released Mandela sought to unite the country. Entering the room with other previously outlawed political parties like your own ANC (African National Congress) and the same government that put you in prison to negotiate a way for peace could not have been easy. His need to reform the political landscape and tear down the Apartheid model to benefit the country was a heavy task that took a lot of courage, tenacity and strong will.
Following his win and inauguration in the 1994 elections, there was on one side the black people who were angry, frustrated and looking to gain equal rights and on the other where whites who were uneasy and feared reprisal by the incoming black majority government. Mandela worked hand-in-hand with representatives of both parties in different sectors to be the bridge between the two. He fought for the rights of the disenfranchised majority without alienating or vilifying the white minority which would not be beneficial to the nation at large.
Being good natured doesn’t mean you have to be a pushover. In the many failed pre-1994 negotiations there were many types of fallout that threatened peace. When the National Party, which was in power at the time, tried to be boardroom bullies by pushing their own agenda, he pushed back with equal might until his demands were met. When interracial violence broke out, he held mass meetings where he condemned these acts and even reprimanded his generals in the military wing of the ANC party. Civil
Mandela championed forgiveness and a need for the nation to remember their humanity as the basis for movement. He understood that through apartheid not only were the blacks oppressed but so were the whites. As one activist once told a white policeman at an anti-apartheid rally, “you could be at home with your wife and kids but instead you are here watching over us. You too are oppressed.” The whites needed to be removed from the yoke of slavery. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission/committee was set up 1996 whose mandate was to bear witness to, record cases of injustices that went on during the apartheid regime and set a platform for reparation and rehabilitation.
Mr Mandela was a principled man, diplomatic at heart but robust and forceful when he had to but more than anything he was a selfless man who put the nation’s collective interest first before his own. That is highly admirable. One of his grandsons’s stated matter-of-factly that to try and emulate him would be futile but I feel like what you can do is try and live life with some integrity and work towards contributing to society in any way you can. While some roll out and retweet every other Mandela quote to attain The Cool and companies send tributes to attain relevance, we as concerned Africans and citizens of the world take time out to think of the unforgiving past we survived and ponder on charting a course for the future with his ideals and principles in mind.
In an interview a few years ago Mr Mandela said he wanted to sleep for eternity with a broad smile so that when those who are left behind speak, they must say that he was a man who worked for his people. A friend joked that somewhere Jesus is shaking in his boots because someone is on the way that did good and suffered the same kind of persecution to free his people. I think he is at the pearly gates right now. Robala ka kagiso tautona.