Freedom's Fighter Marches Into Glory
President Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela is dead. He finally succumbed to his ailments and died at the ripe old age of 95. However, he has become an iconic figure of history and will always be remembered fondly or celebrated for his dogged fight against the injustice and oppression symbolized by Apartheid. Here was a man who was imprisoned for 27 years (on Robben Island) and he valiantly chose to suffer and perhaps meet his death if such a sacrifice would bring about the end of a system of subjugation, marginalization and oppression.
He won the fight against racial segregation and marginalization in the end, and when the first elections in South Africa were held in which the erstwhile disenfranchised black South Africans voted, he was overwhelmingly elected as the president of a new and modern South Africa—a rainbow nation where all races and creeds can live together in harmony. He exemplified forgiveness and the nobility of the human spirit because he was even willing to forgive his captors inviting them to his inauguration. Indeed, South Africa might have been embroiled in bitter wars of attrition by a newly liberated black majority against their white compatriots if not for the example set by Mandela’s tone of forgiveness and national reconciliation.
Here we have a man who grew up in poverty suffering the indignities that the black people were subjected to in the land of their birth. Then he joined the struggle for the liberation of the common man and for this he lost his freedom and nearly his life. Many people with similar stories, who somehow wind up in positions of power and influence tend to forget their humble roots as they stubbornly cling to power and prestige. This is rampant in Africa. The leaders simply refuse to give up power even when the citizenry have indicated that they’d rather see someone else in that office. This was not the case with Mandela. Even though he was the de facto “father” of New South Africa, in a move embodying the loftiest democratic principles, Nelson Mandela willingly vacated office and handed over the reins of power after just one term—he could have easily transmuted into a megalomaniacal power-hungry politician corruptly snatching out successive terms in office. His example showed that he was never interested in corrupt self-enrichment or self-advancement, but that his was genuinely the soul or essence of service and devotion to timeless principles that collectively exalt the human race.
We have lost a global icon and treasure. May other leaders wherever they are be inspired to draw lessons from Mandela’s shining example.