The passing away of President Nelson Mandela, the globally recognised anti-apartheid icon and the effect of that event on the political life within South Africa in particular and the African continent in general will remain a subject for robust discourse at different fora for some time to come.
In spite of the fact that Mr. Nelson Mandela never pretended to be a saint or an infallible being while he was alive, nevertheless, his uncommon style of servant leadership, his willingness to forgive the arrowheads of the apartheid regime who unjustly incarcerated him and to see white South Africans as brothers and sisters to be loved and not hated, and his integrity to quit the political stage for a younger South African leadership at a time when the ovation was loudest or when he could have consolidated political power make him out as an outstanding global political leader at the start of this century.
Although of a royal descent, Madiba demonstrated great humility, unselfishness and love for the South African people and other Africans. He was the Prince of Africa by all standards and measurements. Eulogies have been given, tributes have been paid but old and new media will continue to accommodate adulations and inspiring compliments paid to him. He occupies a special place in history’s pantheon of heroes and has secured a place in the innermost alcoves of our human hearts.
If leaders are learners and learners are leaders and if everything rises and falls on leadership, leaders of Africa and the countries of the world have lessons to learn from Madiba. They need to be schooled in humility, love of and service to the people, forgiveness, patriotism, courage to speak out against evil and to fight it and integrity in governance. Presiding over a rich commonwealth that South Africa is, Mandela, like some political leaders would have done and some are doing, would have amassed to himself and his family incredible wealth, planted his kith and kin as lords in government even when they don’t merit it, run the state as his personal estate and groomed his own personal army of ruthless and bloodthirsty goons. He would have extended his wallet to the public till and silenced any opposing figure or institution. He would have become a tyrant whose words are law and actions are absolute and unchallengeable. He would have ruled South Africa with an iron fist; rewarding loyalists with largesse and squashing any voice of dissent.
But he chose the path of honour, peace, reconciliation, unification of a divided nation and justice. Why won’t he be called the Father of the New South Africa? Why won’t he be called the Prince of Africa? Why won’t he be considered a global political icon?
There might never be another Mandela anymore, but all of us in our different places, in daily pursuit of our life’s assignments, must cherish the ideals that he incarnated. We need a new generation of leaders in Africa and in all countries of the world to sign up to the credos lived out by Nelson Mandela. We need leaders who are no saints but who are men and women of integrity. We need leaders who are no angels but who believe in justice, equity and the right. We need leaders who may be frail and mortal, but who are courageous enough to speak out against evil, even lead the vanguard to stop it.
We need these leaders to rule our world. We need to sign up to the Mandelan credos and live them. The world’s people need better governance, responsible leadership, honest handling of state matters and a leader who thinks of the people first.
This is the burden of leadership in this century.
I greet you all.
Afroscandic – Celebrating and Connecting Africa and Scandinavia.