Nelson Mandela was not just defined by his Presidency: He was the embodiment of the legend a man who portrayed – in his image and what he seemed to represent- everything good in a role model. A man who fought and suffered for his ideals. A man worth looking up to.
Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela was born 95 years ago in the region that encompasses what is now Cape Town in South Africa. He was born into the Thembu royal family. His middle name Rolihlahla means ‘troublemaker’ in Xhosa and it’s fair to say he lived out the creed of his name.
Mandela came into prominence as a young lawyer in the 50s when he was elected President of the Transvaal ANC Branch and oversaw the 1955 Congress of the People which ended up drafting what became the manifesto of the African National Congress. He went on to form the armed militia wing of the ANC and led armed campaigns against the then South African government. He was subsequently arrested and sentenced to life in prison in 1962 on charges of conspiracy to overthrow the government and sabotage.
Mandela would then spend 27 years in prison in a few locations including the now famous Robben Island. After a long international struggle for his release, he was released in 1990 and ran for the presidency of his country. He won the election to become the first black president of his country. On a continent dominated by power-drunk sit tight leaders, his choice not to run for a second term and in 1999 stepped down to be replace by Thabo Mbeki.
He was a man not only defined by his presidency but by what he represented. He gained worldwide respect for his humanity. He became a favorite of some sort for many people who preach for the advancement of the goodness that lies somewhere within us as humans. He earned the admiration of many world leaders around the world including former American president Bill Clinton. They served at the same time as presidents of their countries. Bill Clinton recently was talking about Nelson Mandela at a ceremony to mark his 95th birthday at the United Nations. “Tell me the truth: when you were walking down the road that last time didn’t you hate them?” Clinton said he asked Mandela about the people who had jailed him as he was finally being released. “He said briefly: ‘I did. I am old enough to tell the truth.’ He said: ‘I felt hatred and fear but I said to myself, if you hate them when you get in that car you will still be their prisoner. I wanted to be free and so I let it go.’ “He said: ‘People can take everything from you. I lost my family, the chance to see my children grow up, the best years of my life. They can take everything except your mind and your heart. Those things I decided not to give away.’ Barack Obama also said of Mandela “The struggle here against apartheid for freedom, Madiba’s moral courage, this country’s historic transition to a free and democratic nation, has been a personal inspiration to me. It has been an inspiration to the world, and it continues to be in so many regions that are divided by conflict, sectarian disputes, religious or ethnic wars, to see what happened in South Africa.”
Nelson Mandela lived a long, good life – at least by many counts. Perfect, he was not but he certainly laid down many good examples. Whatever anyone thought of him, it cannot be argued Mr Nelson Mandela has left his foot prints in the sand of time.
Editorial by Olajide Jatto