Thursday, 12 December 2013

A Tribute to Former President Nelson Mandela


The passing of Former South African President Nelson Mandela features on front page news around the world.
Its a modern day Joseph story; spend 27 years in prison as a political prisoner and end up as the president of a country. It was a life that has captured the imaginations of people world-wide.
Being overseas at the moment I feel like I am watching the events through the lens of someone else's perception. I cannot help but notice that along with a life that large, comes a huge amount of expectation.
What is highlighted regularly is the gap between the political freedom of South Africa and its continued lack of economic freedom. So the question for me is this one.
Whose responsibility is it? Can the lack of economic opportunity be attributed to the shortcomings of the life of a single man? Or is that an expectation of an icon that has been made to be larger than life?
And so: Is his greatness attributable to the positions he filled or the convictions he held?
I doubt that during the Rivonia Trial, Nelson Mandela saw his future as the President of South Africa. At that point I can imagine he only saw possible death or a life spent in prison.
He was a man who simply valued his beliefs more than he valued his life. And so justice, freedom and equality were ideals for which he was prepared to lose his life.
His memorial attracted the who's who of the world.  And the cynic in me cannot help but wonder if it is the values of equality, justice and freedom that the world wants so desperately to publicly associate with or is it the last opportunity to rub off a little of 'Madiba's magic'?  
And so to carry on the legacy of Nelson Mandela is to adopt his thinking not necessarily his political party. A country and world that holds the ideals of justice, freedom and equality as standards for which people are prepared to die, will build a bright future for itself.
But to a large extent it would appear that these ideals are ones which people feel they are entitled too, rather than feel inclined to sacrifice for or work toward.
When ideals are held higher than life itself, that is when history changes. It is when the church grows, tyrannical governments lose power, new regimes get established and justice starts to win over injustice.
Although the world might see former President Nelson Mandela as an icon. Nelson Mandela himself, did not. Having met him a few years back as part of a youth service programme for which I worked, Nelson Mandela himself was touched that a group of young people had the time to come and visit 'an old man'. A comment to which one of the participants of the programme said, "It's like Nelson Mandela doesn't know that he is Nelson Mandela". And therein lay his greatness.
Fighting a struggle because you have nothing to lose, is a fight that has many willing participants. Taking up a cause that will potentially cost you everything you have, is a war that attracts very few warriors.
And that was the greatness of Nelson Mandela. Rest in Peace Tata Madiba.  May your legacy live on... the world needs it.