A Local Perspective on Mandela

Nelson Mandela’s death has provoked a myriad of analysis in publications throughout the western world.  What does his death mean?  Was Mandela a radical or a pragmatist?  Was he too admired or not admired enough?  Was he the greatest hero of this generation or a deeply flawed family member?

Some of these are necessary, and inevitable, in our modern times.  But I do find that there has been a complete lack of focus on the opinion of those on the ground.  What do South Africans think, in the wake of Mandela’s death?  To me, that’s much more important that what any New York Times columnist might be able to opine.

I think it’s relevant to GC’s work, to the extent that so much of Mandela’s legacy is actually, I think, about the ability of a citizen to fundamentally change the course of history.

In that vein, I asked my friend, Themba Mzingwane, to give some thoughts on Mandela’s passing.  Themba is actually Zimbabwean, but currently lives in South Africa, working as a handyman.  His life has been challenging, largely because his country suffered through the reign of a leader who did not recognize the healing power of forgiveness, as Mandela did.

His thoughts on Mandela are below.  There’s nothing particularly news-worth about them, it’s not a new analysis.  But I do think it shows the power of Mandela’s reach in a way that is completely work remembering.

– Scott Warren 

A Zimbabwean Perspective on Mandela

 South Africa and the world are mourning. One of the greatest leaders the world has ever seen has left us. Nelson Mandela lost his final battle, finally succumbing to a lung disease.

I woke up Friday morning, switched my TV on as I readied myself for work, only to be greeted by the sad news of Madiba’s passing. The greatest African leader we have ever known, who has been a constant source of inspiration and strength to me, will always remain a reference for goodness, humbleness, statesmanship and forgiveness. His death is a terrible loss, but also an opportunity to reflect on his remarkable journey from a liberation struggle leader to a father of the nation, from a prisoner to the first black president of a democratic South Africa.

South Africans have been gathering in churches and other public gathering places to pay their last respects to a truly remarkable hero. While indeed mourning the loss of their greatest leader, South Africans have also taken this time to celebrate his achievements and honor his legacy.

The man who sacrificed his personal happiness by taking on a vicious apartheid government and dedicated his life to fighting for freedom and equality in South Africa has finally reached the end of a long road in the struggle for a better South Africa for all its citizens. He was a flame of virtuousness in Africa, who kept us convinced that there was hope for this continent despite endless wars, poverty, and countless corrupt and greedy leaders. He was a light that gave hope to millions of poor Africans in the midst of so much suffering and crippling despair.

News of his death left me with mixed emotions. While saddened by his passing, there was a feeling in me that him leaving us was perhaps for the best, as it relieved him of the suffering he has been going through. The man that has spent the better part of his life fighting for the freedom of his country deserved to finally have peace.

Mandela brought freedom to South Africa and worked hard to give all its citizens a better life, but it is still far from a place he would like it to be. He wanted a country where no person goes to bed hungry and every citizen had equal opportunities in life. Lots of work and commitment is still required to reach those heights.  The time is now for South Africans to put their differences aside to secure a better future for their country.

The man might be no longer live among us, but his legacy will live on for generations to come. He lay the foundations that this nation must take special care to preserve and build upon if citizens are to realize South Africa’s full potential.

Nelson Mandela is a difficult act to follow. He was a gift to the world, and in particular, to South Africa. It would be in vain to want to act like him, but at least people must try and do what’s good as best as they can.  For me, that’s the best way to honour his legacy. I hope South Africans take the lessons that this man has left this nation to heart and make sure all his sacrifices were not in vain. I hope they stop bickering about who’s to blame for corruption and crime, but instead come together and fight with all their might against these two evils threatening to tear this beautiful country apart and destroy years of Mandela’s selfless and unrelenting dedication to peace and prosperity. I hope South Africa’s media stops their fear mongering crusades about how Mandela’s absence is going to cause all sorts of problems.

Instead, I hope that everyone realizes that this country has already made giant strides forward, which ought to be protected and build upon, and not left to gradual ruin.


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