‘What counts in life is not the mere fact that we have lived. It is what difference we have made to the lives of others that will determine the significance of the life
we lead.’ Nelson Mandela
Born in Mveso, Transkei, South Africa on July 18, 1918, Nelson Mandela, the human rights activist who fought for the rights of humanity, died at his home in Johannesburg on December 05, 2013, at the age of 95. Many people have written about this great man in the past and many more will continue to write about him. He has touched so many people in diverse ways. As a young politician I can learn so much from him - his humility and capacity to forgive, his sense of humour and his passions to name a few.
‘Real leaders must be ready to sacrifice all for the freedom of their people.’ Nelson Mandela
For twenty years Nelson Mandela led peaceful, non-violent protests against the South African government and its racist policies. He was imprisoned for twenty-seven years of his life. One would imagine that such a man would be consumed by anger, revenge and bitterness. Instead, Mandela preached reconciliation, forgiveness and tolerance. He spent the rest of his life promoting peace in his country as well as globally. In his own words, ‘I have fought against white domination and I have fought against black domination. I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony... it is an ideal for which I hope to live and to achieve... for which I am prepared to die.’ Forgiveness and tolerance was what reconciled South Africa then and this is what is prescribed to heal any bitterly divided nation at any given time.
Mandela’s sense of humour was notorious. He charmed everyone with witty one-liners. It is reported that he even amused the British royal family when he called the Queen, ‘Elizabeth’ rather than ‘Your Majesty’. When one of his grandchildren commented on this, his response was, ‘Well, she calls me Nelson.’ He charmed crowds with self-deprecating jokes. He would often start a speech by thanking everyone for coming to listen to ‘such an old man’. He also used his jokes and good humour to great effect in his political life. He would crack a joke at an unexpected time to ease a tense situation or as an ice-breaker.
‘Everyone can rise above his/her circumstances and achieve success if he/she is dedicated to and passionate about what he/she does.’ Nelson Mandela
South Africa’s first black president and Nobel Prize winner was passionate about protecting and promoting the rights of minorities and freedom of expression. At the present stage of our country’s history, these two passions must be embraced by us, the leaders of our country. We must be dedicated enough to rise above our circumstances to achieve success. He was passionate about the fight against AIDS, a disease that killed his own son in 2005.
"Forgiveness and tolerance was what reconciled South Africa then and this is what is prescribed to heal any bitterly divided nation at any given time"
He was passionate about world peace and women’s rights. In 2007, he convened a group of world leaders, including Desmond Tutu, Kofi Annan, Jimmy Carter, Mary Robinson and Muhammad Yunus to address some of the world’s toughest issues. They called themselves ‘The Elders’. In recognition of his dedication, passion and successes, July 18, Mandela’s birthday, was declared as ‘Mandela Day’ to encourage citizens worldwide to give back to their societies.
‘When a man has done what he considers to be his duty to his people and his country, he can rest in peace.’ Nelson Mandela
Mandela is no more but his legacy lives on. He has done more than his duty to his people and his country. He has touched many, both within and outside his country. I have been touched by the way Madiba, as he was fondly referred to, lived his live. May he rest in peace.