Mandela-An unwavering Spirit
East African history books (which I read for history studies purposes) are riddled with stories of the great African leaders who led the various liberation struggles. Their actions, decisions and struggles are often documented in great detail, yet their true personage is often a subjective and ignored sentiment. Unfortunately the same case can be said for one of the greatest African leaders- Nelson Mandela. Facts about his life are numerous and well discussed on various forums yet the spirit behind the man is often deferred to his own autobiographical work, “Long walk to freedom”. Yet we the young generation may have a tough time relating to the man who many have called “father”. Whether it is the generational gap or the fact that he chose to dwell in the shadows from as early as the late nineties remains debatable.
What will always transcend is his inner peace. This to me is not only what won the war but gave hope for a truly free generation. In the novel piece “Tuesdays with Morrie”, the protagonist speaks of his mentor’s advice. Paraphrasing, he states ‘to truly experience an emotion one must detach himself from it.’ This can probably be said for Mandela, whose efforts are a result of his detachment. His life in forced solitude, or his quiet resignation after successfully leading South Africa through post independence adjustments both curved him into a man of taciturn defiance. The lessons he taught were those of a man well balanced. His advocacy for National reconciliation presented a type of forgiveness that the world grappled with for many years; they thought it was impossible. The incumbent burden he had to bear when many of his fellow men could not see what he saw is what made him a leader. He was a non conformist who drew his view from Christian and Muslim values and debated on both communist and capitalistic policies. This is probably what created the wholesome figure who was able to rule a land with a firm, kind and polite hand.
What is his creed though and how can we emulate a man whose legacy is often tied within the political spheres of life? We look at the man. He not only forgave, he gave! Mandela’s life has been about giving wholeheartedly. He gave himself to his cause, gave his wealth to the poor and gave his life to the people. This is what we should hang onto if we are to make any indelible mark in the lives of our peers. His fervent pursuit of studies in the midst of looming darkness are further exemplified in what he says about education, “A good head and good heart are always a formidable combination. But when you add to that a literate tongue or pen, then you have something very special.” Speaking to my peers most agree with that sentiment.
Mandela is the true epitome of the words painted by John Milton in his poem “In his blindness”, God doth not need either man’s work or his own gifts; who best bear his mild yoke, they serve him best.
As we celebrate his life this week, let us take time to pause and reflect not on his history, accolades or sometimes controversies but rather focus on the man whose true victory was setting a precedent for leaders to have a good heart. Regal but humble, quiet but ever present, bold and ever so truthful. May his legacy never be tainted.