Alas, Mandela the great man has
We are saddened at Ghanadot by the death of Nelson
Mandela. But we are also glad that there was somebody
like him who shared the same time on this earth with the
rest of us.
Mandela died on December 05, 2013, at age 95. He will be
remembered for his historic achievements for a long time
To sum up the full level of Mandela’s legacy, his being
and moral discernment, we cite this portion of President
Obama’s tribute to him.
Obama said Mandela was “a man who took history in his
hands and bent the arc of the moral universe toward
justice…. He no longer belongs to us; he belongs to the
There are few black leaders left in Africa’s history who
deserve or can inspire such tribute.
But why should he be so loftily remembered?
For one, Mandela will be remembered because he made us
proud. For another, he was a very humane leader - a man
of the people who possessed a character very rare. He
fought for our dignity just like Nkrumah did.
Nkrumah is remembered for Africa unity, his stand
against neo-colonialism and the threat that his ideas
pose for those who still want to dominate Africa.
Mandela will be remembered essentially for his moral
rectitude in bringing apartheid to its knees and for the
concept of peaceful “reconciliation” among warring
parties that he brought to the world.
The world must shudder to think of what would have
happened had South Africa not had a Mandela after the
But then again part of the unspoken gratitude, mostly
from white South Africans and the west, has a cynical
edge: a relief from an expected retribution that never
happened. A reprieve gained because the chaos that was
thought could happen, after the cruelties of the
apartheid regime, did not under the benevolent
administration of Mandela.
After the table turned on apartheid in 1994, the sum
effect was that a minority white South African tyrant
found itself free, safe and prosperous under a majority
black egalitarian rule.
Hence this universal acceptance of Mandela.
This universal acceptance of Mandela is fitting for the
long haul. Allow us to be skeptical of the long-term
prospect of the legacy of this great man were it to be
left solely in the hands of Africa.
Mandela became the first black president of South Africa
in 1994, after his release from prison in 1993. Though
he had started as a revolutionary, fighting hard against
the Apartheid regime, he pursued a moderate political
path as president and became an instant morale force and
a voice for the rest of the world.
Mandela’s arrival at the top was not without
apprehension. F. W. de Klerk, the previous president,
had an uneasy edge in his voice as he handed over the
office after the electoral victory in 1993.
"Mandela will soon assume the highest office in the land
with all the awesome responsibility which it bears. He
will have to exercise this great responsibility in a
balanced manner, which will assure South Africans from
all our communities that he has all their interests at
heart. I am confident that this will be his intention."
After decades of intolerance and blatant racism, the
majority whites had reason to fear. But today, thanks to
Mandela, they are politically secure.
Both Mandela and de Klerk were awarded the Nobel Peace
Prize in 1994 for the peaceful transition. Certainly, a
worthy reward for cooperation, but suffice it to say
that it was Mandela’s aura that boosted de Klerk’s
chances for the award.
“"Mandela has walked a long road, and now stands at the
top of the hill. A traveller would sit and admire the
view. But the man of destiny knows that beyond this hill
lies another and another. The journey is never complete.
As he contemplates the next hill, I hold out my hand to
Mr Mandela – in friendship and in co-operation,” de
Klerk would declare in his speech welcoming Mandela to
the South African presidency.
After stepping down, De Klerk would serve immediately as
a vice-president of South Africa, along with Tabo Mbeki
who became president after Mandela left office in 1999.
Mandela served in office for one term only. Some would
attribute the one term departure to troubles within the
ANC organization of which he was the leader. They forget
a more important demand for great leadership; the chance
to set the right precedence.
Elsewhere in Africa, Mandela contemporary presidents
were clinging to the offices of their nations as if it
were a birthright. But like George Washington who served
as US president for two terms only, Mandela was more
interested in establishing a tradition of term limit for
the South African presidency.
In the face of all the bad examples from many parts of
Africa, history would tell if Mandela’s paradigm as a
short-term president would be successful in South
But for his own heritage as a world leader, Mandela has
already set the best paradigm. The Telegraph of UK
described him as “a principled man of stature and
South Africa has lost its greatest son. The world has
lost a morale leader of the 21st century. It would be
sad if the memory of Mandela were used for any other
E. Ablorh-Odjidja, publisher, www.ghanadot.com,
Washington, DC, December 06, 2013
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