The Africa Alliance of YMCAs today are united in grief as we mourn the loss of a true African visionary, former South African President, Rolihlahla “Nelson” Mandela. As a young boxer, Mandela would frequently train at his local Soweto YMCA. During this time the centre was frequently used for ANC political meetings, serving as a safe place for discussions which would ultimately shape Mandela’s young mind, and South Africa’s future. Decades later, his influence is still felt within those historic walls as youth continue to visit the centre and shape their own thinking and development.
Mandela led South Africa through her greatest challenge, ensuring that the revolutionary end to institutionalised discrimination and repression, Apartheid, was met with relatively little conflict and welcomed with a determined spirit of peace and reconciliation.
While the world will feel the loss of such a remarkable man, Africans have lost a leader who steadfastly worked to prove that the continent is capable of peaceful conflict resolution through leadership that aspires to moral honesty, tolerance and acceptance.
Born on 18 July, 1918, to the Madiba clan of Mvezo in the Transkei, Mandela spent much of his life striving to educate himself and standing in political opposition to an unjust system. His stand against seemingly insurmountable prejudice is a cause for which he sacrificed much in the face of great threat to his life and freedom. Following a conviction for sabotage and conspiracy to overthrow the government, Mandela spent 27 years in prison, but throughout this time maintained a strong loyalty to peaceful resistance and the unconditional repealing of the Apartheid system. Following his release in 1990, Mandela guided South Africa through her first democratic elections and stepped in as South Africa’s first African statesman when he shouldered the presidency in 1994. Perhaps his most significant contribution to African politics is the implementation of South Africa’s first constitution which is perceived world-wide as one of the most forward thinking constitutions in global governance today.
Since then, Mandela has received more than 250 awards, many for his humanitarian work, including the US Presidential Medal of Freedom and the Soviet Order of Lenin. His work has been internationally recognised through his awarding of the 1993 Nobel Peace Prize which he shares with former Apartheid president F.W. de Klerk.
The contribution Mandela played in African politics will forever stretch far beyond the current South African landscape. His legacy to Africa is true leadership that is both thoughtful and honest but does not prize retribution and corruption. Mandela ensured that the African Renaissance has a framework for peaceful conflict resolution and that in all things, human rights becomes a principle of long-lasting social evolution.
We mourn together as Africans, in much the same way that we celebrated together the achievements that Madiba brought through his actions. We are a better continent today through his determination, sacrifice and unflinching faith in an Africa capable of peaceful change.
Nelson Mandela never wavered in his devotion to democracy, equality and learning. Despite terrible provocation, he never answered racism with racism. His life has been an inspiration to all who are oppressed and deprived, to all who are opposed to oppression and deprivation.
Mandela is survived by his wife, Graca Machel, 3 children, Pumla Makaziwe Mandela, Zenani Dlamini and Zindzi Mandela, 17 grand-children and 14 great-grandchildren.
Our thoughts also go to the extended family of his late former wife Evelyn Mase and his former wife Winnie Madikizela.
As we mourn our deep loss, let us pledge to ensure that Mandela’s legacy lives through us and that our children are able to fully appreciate the freedoms he and his peers fought so hard to attain.
Carlos Sanvee, AAYMCA General Secretary
Sipho Sokhela, South Africa YMCA National General Secretary
For over twenty years, Rolihlahla Nelson “Madiba” Mandela has been a beacon for South Africa’s national recovery and pride. Following centuries of oppression, bitterness and distrust, Mandela united the country through his unfailing belief that lasting change can come through peaceful reconciliation much more easily than through violent revolution and retribution.
It is a lesson he has consistently taught well throughout his long political career as he worked to dismantle apartheid, first through diligent protest and later through legislative overhaul of policies that supported racism, poverty and inequality.
Born on 18 July, 1918, into the Madiba clan of Mvezo, Transkei, Mandela received the name “Nelson” from a school teacher following the practice of giving children “Christian” names so they would better be able to work and live in the English, white-dominated world.
For much of his young adult life, Mandela’s education took second place to his growing political aspirations and activism. While studying towards his first degree, a Bachelor of Arts at the University of Fort Hare, Mandela was expelled for taking part in a student protest. He would later complete his degree through correspondence and return to Fort Hare for graduation in 1943.
Mandela’s first marriage to Evelyne Mase in 1944 produced four children; Madiba Thembekile (b.1945 - 1969); Makaziwe (b.1948 - died at 9 months); Magkatho (1950-2005); and Pumla (b.1954). 14 years later, in 1958, the two would divorce and he would marry Winnie Madikizela with whom he had 2 children: Zenani (b1959) and Zindzi (b.1960).
Madiba became a founding member of the ANC Youth League in 1944, progressively becoming more politically visible and a vocal opponent of the formalised framework of legislative discrimination, known as Apartheid, in 1948.
He steadily rose through the echelons of the ANCYL and was selected as the National Volunteer-in-Chief of the Defiance Campaign in 1952 and was elected President of the Transvaal ANC branch as well as overseeing the landmark Congress of the People in 1955. His continued protest through civil disobedience led to his arrest under the Suppression of Communism Act. With a two year law diploma in hand, Mandela joined Oliver Tambo to establish South Africa’s first black legal practice in 1952. His growing reputation for civil disobedience and legal wrangling led to numerous arrests and prosecution through the Treason Trial from 1952 to 1961 which resulted in his acquittal. It was during this period that Mandela would marry then social-worker Winnie Madikizela in 1958 and following is acquittal in 1961 Mandela immediately began to develop a national worker strike. The strike would eventually be called off in the face of overwhelming, armed, state and policy security roll out which reminded protesters of the 69 unarmed protestors killed during the Sharpeville massacre a year earlier on 21 March 1960. Following the Sharpeville Massacre, a state of emergency was declared by the Apartheid government during which Mandela and thousands of other political protestors were detained and interrogated. In the face of such a strong militant force, Mandela would, for the first time, venture into armed strategies to undermine Apartheid.
Left with little choice against an uncommunicative militant government unafraid to kill unarmed civilians, Mandela political path would see a period of disconnect with his peaceful intentions when his actions became more militant. Along with the South African Communist Party, Mandela co-founded the military movement Umkhonto we Sizwe in 1961 which led a bombing campaign against government targets and structures. Early in 1962, Mandela left South Africa to garner military support anti-Apartheid activities, receiving military training in Morocco and Ethiopia before returning in July 1962 where he was arrested a month later for illegally leaving the country and inciting workers to violence and began serving a five year prison sentence following his conviction. He would then be arrested again a year later, in October 1963, and sentenced to life imprisonment on charges of sabotage and conspiracy to overthrow the government at would become known as the Rivonia Trial.
Mandela’s speech from the dock on 20 April 1964, as he faced the death penalty at the Rivonia trial, would become one the most internationally recognised statements of opposition and defiance to the Apartheid government:
“Above all, My Lord, we want equal political rights, because without them our disabilities will be permanent. I know this sounds revolutionary to the whites in this country, because the majority of voters will be Africans. This makes the white man fear democracy.
But this fear cannot be allowed to stand in the way of the only solution which will guarantee racial harmony and freedom for all. It is not true that the enfranchisement of all will result in racial domination. Political division, based on colour, is entirely artificial and, when it disappears, so will the domination of one colour group by another. The ANC has spent half a century fighting against racialism. When it triumphs as it certainly must, it will not change that policy.
This then is what the ANC is fighting. Our struggle is a truly national one. It is a struggle of the African people, inspired by our own suffering and our own experience. It is a struggle for the right to live. [someone coughs]
During my lifetime I have dedicated my life to this struggle of the African people. I have fought against white domination, and I have fought against black domination. I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons will live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is an ideal for which I hope to live for and to see realised. But, My Lord, if it needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die.”
During his imprisonment, Mandela was offered the opportunity to renounce violence and political opposition to Apartheid in exchange for his freedom, offers he refused to accept. While his long imprisonment is reason enough to admire the man for the sacrifices he was forced to make, his real legacy is in his determination, despite suffering, to see the improvement in the lives of his country men and women.
Mandela’s political strategies and motivations matured during his lengthy incarceration, seeing a strongly reaffirmed belief in peaceful disobedience and revolution upon his release. As an African nationalist and democratic socialist, Mandela quickly became involved in negotiations to end the Apartheid regime and took over as ANC President from Oliver Tambo in 1991. On 27 April 1994, after four years of careful, often tense, strategising, South Africa held its first democratic elections. Less than a month later, on 10 May 1994, Mandela found a place as the country’s first democratically elected President, becoming the first black South African to hold high office.
During his first year in the Presidency, he established the Nelson Mandela Childrens Fund which today focuses his attention on assisting homeless and impoverished youth, as well as those affected by the HIV and Aids crisis in the country.
In 1998, on his 80th birthday, Mandela married Graca Machel, his third wife, a woman much beloved by the nation, and stepped down as President. Following his presidency, Mandela dedicated himself to charitable organisations, placing a special emphasis on working to improve the lives of disenfranchised and impoverished children and youth. He established the Nelson Mandela Foundation in 1999 and the Mandela Rhodes Foundation in 2003.
Perhaps one of the greatest contributions Mandela made to social development was the unflinching honesty with which he confronted and discussed HIV and Aids. Remaining one of the most heavily affected countries in the world, South Africa struggles with social stigma and isolationism associated with those affected and infected by the disease. Mandela took a socially invisible issue and putting it on the public forum, making it okay to discuss opening, by announcing in 2005 that his eldest son, Makgatho, had died of an Aids related illness.
During his life Mandela has received more than 250 awards, many for his humanitarian work, including the US Presidential Medal of Freedom and the Soviet Order of Lenin. His work has been internationally recognised through his awarding of the 1993 Nobel Peace Prize which he shares with former Apartheid president F.W. de Klerk.
By Gil Harper, Africa Alliance of YMCAs
As word began to spread that Madiba had died, South Africa prepared to mourn.
Outside the Houghton home where Nelson Mandela spent his final days, the first chorus of Nkosi Sikelel' iAfrika broke out just moments after President Jacob Zuma ended his address to the nation, in which the passing of Madiba was announced.
It was more than a little ragged. The tiny crowd that gathered was still outnumbered by the contingent of journalists, and everyone was still dealing with the sad news.
But more mourners arrived, first in a trickle, then in a stream. Within an hour the crowd grew to several hundred people, and the songs equally grew in strength, and changed tone. The national anthem was replaced by struggle songs and chants, with the occasional "Viva Madiba!" thrown in.
Some arrived with South African flags, some with candles, some with blankets to ward off the very unusual chill that settled on Johannesburg earlier in the day. Some brought children still rubbing sleep from their eyes.
They wanted their children to have a lasting memory of the night that a giant of a man, a father of the nation, passed, one such couple said.
The tree-lined residential streets were soon clogged with cars as police struggled to control traffic. People walked, and occasionally stumbled in the dark, to where bright TV lights and strobing blue police lights lit a scene more than a little confused in its tone. There were tears and hugs, but also a sense that a great life was worthy of celebration, and that an energetic toyi-toyi was as fitting to his memory as lighting a candle.
"This man, he was a hero of our revolution," said George Nkosi, after leading a song. "He was a fighter, he was a warrior. We will bury him as a revolutionary."
The confused nature of the first scene of gathering, and mourning, came long before the confirmation that Mandela had died. A small group of journalists gathered in the late afternoon and early evening on a corner where many had previously held vigil for weeks, attracted by an unusual number of cars and visitors to the house.
For the next few hours there was little movement and no news. Official channels said that Mandela remained critical but stable.
Mandela's grandson Mandla said he knew nothing of a gathering or a change in Mandela's condition; members of his family in London for the royal premier of the biographical movie Long Walk to Freedom also knew nothing new. That remained the case even as rumours started to swirl that Mandela had passed away – rumours almost identical to those that had swirled the previous time Mandela had been hospitalised, and the time before that, and the time before that.
But just before 11pm, things began to move rapidly. Rumours of death started to come from highly placed government and ANC sources, none with first-hand knowledge, but plenty of credibility. Shortly after 11pm, a substantial contingent of police arrived at the house, including elite tactical response units. By 11:15pm the first cordons had gone up, and shortly thereafter official confirmation started to stack up: there would be a government statement soon, the statement would be delivered by Zuma, and that Zuma's address would be carried across all the channels of the national broadcaster.
In the end the journalists who had spent many days over the past year waiting outside hospitals and the Houghton home for any change, heard the news at exactly the same time the rest of the country did. Huddled around a single cellphone tuned to a radio station, the words were barely audible: "He has departed."
By Phillip De Wet
Source: Mail and Guardian
Johannesburg - Nelson Mandela, who died on Thursday, once the world's most famous political prisoner, emerged from a 27-year jail term in 1990 to lead South Africa from apartheid to democracy.
His charisma, generosity of spirit, and an unwavering commitment to the well-being of his fellow humans, earned him love and acclaim across the globe.
It also earned him the Nobel Peace Prize in 1993.
Even after he stepped down from the presidency in 1999, he continued as an elder statesman to champion the cause of reconciliation, peace and human rights, speaking out strongly on issues including Aids and armed conflict.
Nelson Rolihlahla Dalibungha Mandela was born in the Transkei on July 18, 1918, and trained as a lawyer. He became a key figure in the African National Congress (ANC) and its decision in 1955 to embark on organised resistance to the newly-elected National Party in the form of the Defiance Campaign.
Going underground after the ANC was banned in 1960, he was arrested and sentenced in 1964 to life imprisonment for plotting the overthrow of the government.
He served the bulk of his time on Robben Island, where he became a symbol of apartheid injustice.
Freed by the reformist head of state FW de Klerk in 1990, he was elected president of the ANC the following year. In May 1994 he was inaugurated president of South Africa by a new non-racial Parliament.
He formally retired from public life in June 2004, just short of his 86th birthday, and only weeks after playing a major role in helping secure the 2010 soccer World Cup for South Africa.
However he continued to lend support to causes such as the 46664 anti-Aids campaign, and to speak out against poverty.
On his 80th birthday in 1998 he married Graca Machel, widow of former Mozambican president Samora Machel.
In his later years Mandela was increasingly frail. He made his last public appearance at the closing ceremony of the World Cup.
In early 2011, fears for his health grew when he battled a serious respiratory infection that would recur in coming years. When he turned 93 a few months later, he retired to his country home in the Eastern Cape.
In December 2012 he was treated again for a lung infection in hospital then was admitted again on March 27, 2013 to be treated for pneumonia.
After his discharge, the public broadcaster televised footage of him on April 27, looking remote, but comfortable in an easy chair at home.
In the early hours of June 8, Mandela was again taken to hospital.
A news report that his ambulance had broken down on the road there was confirmed by the presidency which hastened to add that there was no danger to his health at the time because he had seven doctors, nurses, and a fully equipped ICU in his convoy.
On Sunday night, June 23, the presidency said his condition had changed to critical, and Zuma asked for prayers of support for him, his family, and his medical team.
On Monday 24, family and key government ministers flew into Mthatha for a private meeting in Qunu. The presidency issued another statement, to say Mandela remained critical.
On Wednesday, June 26, the nation held its breath after President Jacob Zuma cancelled a trip to neighbouring Maputo at short notice but the next day he reported that Mandela's condition had stabilised overnight.
Mandela had six children by two previous marriages, including two daughters with Winnie Madikizela-Mandela.
US President Barack Obama lauded Nelson Mandela on Thursday as “one of the most influential, courageous and profoundly good human beings that any of us will share time with on this earth.”
Obama pointed to the transformation that Mandela oversaw in South Africa, noting, “He no longer belongs to us; he belongs to the ages.”
The first black US president also said South Africa's first black leader had had a tremendous influence on his own political career, noting his first political action as a youth had been an anti-apartheid protest.
“I cannot fully imagine my own life without the example that Nelson Mandela set, and so long as I live I will do what I can to learn from him.”
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon sent his deepest condolences to Mandela's family and the people of South Africa on Thursday calling Mandela “a giant for justice and a down-to-earth human inspiration.”
“Many around the world were greatly influenced by his selfless struggle for human dignity, equality and freedom,” Ban said.
“He touched our lives in deeply personal ways.”
Ban said that Mandela advanced the values of the United Nations more than anyone else. “Let us continue each day to be inspired by Nelson Mandela's life-long example of working for a better and more just world,” Ban said.
British Prime Minister David Cameron on Thursday said “a great light had gone out”, revealing that flags would be flown at half-mast at his Downing Street Office.
“A great light has gone out in the world,” Cameron wrote on his official Twitter account.
“Nelson Mandela was a hero of our time. I've asked for the flag at No.10 to be flown at half mast.”
A Downing Street spokesman said a fuller statement was expected later.
British shadow finance minister Ed Balls also took to Twitter, writing: “Seeing Nelson Mandela walking free is one of the great moments of my life - proving leadership and hope can triumph. Thank-you. RIP”
Irish prime minister Enda Kenny paid tribute to the “gift” of Mandela, and offered the country's deepest sympathies to the people of South Africa.
“The name Mandela stirred our conscience and our hearts. It became synonymous with the pursuit of dignity and freedom across the globe,” he said in a statement.
“As we mark his passing, we give thanks for the gift of Nelson Mandela. We ask that his spirit continues to inspire, guide and enlighten us as we strive to bring freedom and dignity to the family of man, our brothers and sisters, across the world,” he added.
Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott on Friday hailed Mandela as "a truly great man".
"Nelson Mandela was one of the great figures of Africa, arguably one of the great figures of the last century," Abbott told Fairfax radio, referring to him as the father of modern South Africa.
"A truly great man."
In an official statement, the prime minister said Mandela "will forever be remembered as more than a political leader, he was a moral leader".
"He spent much of his life standing against the injustice of apartheid.
"When that fight was won, he inspired us again by his capacity to forgive and reconcile his country.
"While the world may never see another Nelson Mandela, he has inspired countless men and women throughout the world to live more courageous and honest lives."
Former Australian prime minister Malcolm Fraser, among the first international figures to visit Mandela in prison as chairman of the Commonwealth Group of Eminent Persons in 1986, said his death was a loss to the world.
"We need to remember his achievements and his essential character, which made those achievements possible," he wrote in pre-prepared piece for the Sydney Morning Herald.
"We can learn from his example. He leaves a legacy that all subsequent leaders should seek to emulate."
Source: Sapa-dpa, AFP
Johannesburg - Nelson Mandela seduced audiences with his wit, then often bludgeoned them with his observations. Here is a collection of some of his most memorable quotes:
"No power on earth can stop an oppressed people determined to win their freedom" - June 1961.
"I have fought against white domination, and I have fought against black domination. I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is an ideal which I hope to live for and to achieve. But if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die" - at the Rivonia treason trial in April 1964, when he faced the possibility of a death sentence.
"I stand here before you not as a prophet but as a humble servant of you, the people" - release from prison in February 1990.
"Never, never and never again shall it be that this beautiful land will again experience the oppression of one by another and suffer the indignity of being the skunk of the world. Let freedom reign." - inauguration as president in May 1994.
"The award was a tribute to all South Africans and especially to those who fought in the struggle; I would accept it on their behalf" - on receiving the Nobel Peace Prize in December 1994.
"Late in life, I am blooming like a flower because of the love and support she has given me" - marrying Graca Machel in July 1998 at the age of 80.
"I step down with a clear conscience, feeling that I have in a small way done my duty to my people and my country" - retiring as president in May 1999.
"At least we have the right to get drunk... next time we will win" - after Germany pipped South Africa for the right to stage 2006 World Cup in July 2000.
"My bosses always say that I have had 27 years in prison to loaf. It is now time to do some catching up" - on life in retirement in November 2000.
"One issue that deeply worried me in prison was the false image I unwittingly projected to the outside world; of being regarded as a saint" - he said in his latest book (2010) Conversations with Myself.
"The threat of death evoked no desire in me to play the role of martyr. I was ready to do so if I had to. But the anxiety to live always lingered" on the risk of execution in Conversations with Myself.
"Our demand is for a non-racial society... We are fighting for a society where people will cease thinking in terms of colour... It's not a question of race; it's a question of ideas." - passage from the book.
"What I am condemning is that one power, with a president who has no foresight, who cannot think properly, is now wanting to plunge the world into a holocaust" - about then-US president George W Bush on the build-up to Iraq war in January 2003.
"We should take heart from our own experience and performance. In a cynical world we have become an inspiration to many." - last address to parliament in May 2004.
"I can confirm that we are ready, able, willing and capable as well as passionate about hosting the World Cup" - during successful pitch for South Africa to host 2010 World Cup in May 2004.
"Aids is a major problem to be tackled by the entire world. To deal with it requires resources far beyond the capacity of one continent. No single country has the capacity to deal with it." - in his book Conversations with Myself.
"The ANC has the historical responsibility to lead our nation and help build a united non-racial society" - to ANC supporters in a pre-recorded message ahead of April 2009 elections.
President Jacob Zuma has addressed the nation on the passing of former president Nelson Mandela.
Our beloved Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela, the founding president of our democratic nation has departed.
He passed on peacefully in the company of his family around 8.50pm on December 5 2013.
He is now resting. He is now at peace.
Our nation has lost its greatest son. Our people have lost a father.
Although we knew that this day would come, nothing can diminish our sense of a profound and enduring loss.
His tireless struggle for freedom earned him the respect of the world.
His humility, his compassion, and his humanity earned him their love. Our thoughts and prayers are with the Mandela family. To them we owe a debt of gratitude.
They have sacrificed much and endured much so that our people could be free.
Our thoughts are with his wife Mrs Graca Machel, his former wife Ms Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, with his children, his grandchildren, his great grandchildren and the entire family.
Our thoughts are with his friends, comrades and colleagues who fought alongside Madiba over the course of a lifetime of struggle.
Our thoughts are with the South African people who today mourn the loss of the one person who, more than any other, came to embody their sense of a common nationhood.
Our thoughts are with the millions of people across the world who embraced Madiba as their own, and who saw his cause as their cause.
This is the moment of our deepest sorrow.
Our nation has lost its greatest son.
Yet, what made Nelson Mandela great was precisely what made him human. We saw in him what we seek in ourselves.
And in him we saw so much of ourselves.
Fellow South Africans,
Nelson Mandela brought us together, and it is together that we will bid him farewell.
Our beloved Madiba will be accorded a state funeral.
I have ordered that all flags of the Republic of South Africa be lowered to half-mast from tomorrow, December 6, and to remain at half-mast until after the funeral.
As we gather to pay our last respects, let us conduct ourselves with the dignity and respect that Madiba personified.
Let us be mindful of his wishes and the wishes of his family.
As we gather, wherever we are in the country and wherever we are in the world, let us recall the values for which Madiba fought.
Let us reaffirm his vision of a society in which none is exploited, oppressed or dispossessed by another.
Let us commit ourselves to strive together – sparing neither strength nor courage – to build a united, non-racial, non-sexist, democratic and prosperous South Africa.
Let us express, each in our own way, the deep gratitude we feel for a life spent in service of the people of this country and in the cause of humanity.
This is indeed the moment of our deepest sorrow.
Yet it must also be the moment of our greatest determination.
A determination to live as Madiba has lived, to strive as Madiba has strived and to not rest until we have realised his vision of a truly united South Africa, a peaceful and prosperous Africa, and a better world.
We will always love you Madiba!
May your soul rest in peace.
God Bless Africa.
Nkosi Sikelel' iAfrika.
Source: The Mail and Guardian
The words "Nelson Mandela is dead" feel strange in the mouth today, almost impossible to say, given the unique way he was both martyred and canonised during his lifetime. He embodies a paradox: on the one hand we love him for his humanity; on the other, he already passed long ago from the world of the flesh. He is a peak of moral authority, rising above the soulless wasteland of the 20th century; he is a universal symbol for goodness and wisdom, for the ability to change, and the power of reconciliation. In person, he was not notably affectionate, but his image beams a very particular sensation: you just look at him and you feel held, hugged.
Mandela epitomised those instincts we most associate with childhood: trust, goodness, optimism; an ability to vanquish the night's demons with the knowledge that the sun will rise in the morning. But he also made us feel good, and warm, and safe, because he found a way to play an ideal father, beyond the confines of his biological family or even his national one. He was the father we would all have wanted if we could have designed one. He was wise with age, benignly powerful, comfortingly irascible, stern when we needed containing, breathtakingly courageous, affirming when we needed praise – and, of course, possessed of the two childlike qualities that make for the best of fathers: an exhilarating playfulness and a bottomless capacity to forgive.
Mandela is often paired with MK Gandhi. Unlike the godly Indian liberator, however, he was an unapologetic (even if delightfully self-deprecating) patriarch. A leader's claim that his subjects are his children can be the very definition of tyranny, but what made Mandela so singular a leader of modern times is the way he re-appropriated such clichés. He inhabited his paternity in such a way that it seemed fresh and emancipatory even as it comforted in the way it recalled more traditional understandings of what a leader should be.
Mandela: The early years & political life
In his own life, he was a failure as a father – in part, but not entirely, because of his three decades of incarceration. His daughter Maki once said to him, describing a rebuffed hug: "You are a father to all our people, but you have never been a father to me." Like so many great leaders, he found refuge from the difficulties of familial intimacy in politics and struggle – in the family of humanity. This led to a personality that combined "extreme heartiness with impenetrable reserve", as Arthur Schlesinger famously described Franklin Roosevelt, cited by Anthony Sampson in his biography of Mandela.
For most of humanity, only the heartiness was visible. "Ah, Elizabeth!" he once greeted the British queen with a rural bellow as she approached him at Buckingham Palace, folding her in embrace. "You are as beautiful as ever! How do you manage to keep so young?" While courtiers and diplomats expired with embarrassment at his multiple faux pas, the queen simply blushed – and giggled: "Nelson!"
Perhaps America's former president Bill Clinton put his finger on the power of the Mandela icon when he welcomed his fellow-president to Washington in 1998. Speaking of the universal experience of suffering and hatred as an "apartheid of the heart", Clinton said that the world adulated Mandela because it sought "wisdom from the power of his example to do whatever we can, however we can, wherever we can, to take the apartheid out of our own and others' hearts".
Just as apartheid became a global semaphore for evil, so too did Mandela come to symbolise the power of good. More than that: the impulse, in an increasingly malevolent world, to look evil in the eye and do good. Listen, for example, to Clinton's description – 10 years after the above comment – of the roots of Mandela's sanctity: "Mandela is a very godly man because he's the living embodiment of the importance of second chances in life: giving them and getting them, and becoming bigger through adversity."
Mandela got his second chance – at liberty, at leadership, at love. Forgiveness allows both victim and perpetrator to start again, and the way that Mandela bettered himself through adversity serves as an object lesson to us all: if he can walk out of 27 years in jail without anger or the desire for retribution, we too can rise above our petty problems and disputes. Brilliantly, Mandela set himself up to embody the nation – and then, as he saw his effect, to allow himself to be turned into a symbol for that best of human impulses: the desire to make things better. He made a fetish of his biography. As he was in chains, so were we; as he managed to negotiate himself into freedom, so could we; as he forgave his oppressors and his adversaries, so must we. Now, though, this makes his death more complicated: witness ANC chief whip Mathole Motshekga's inane comments, made when Mandela was admitted to hospital in June 2013, that the ill man's "well-being is a barometer for the well-being of the nation".
Mandela: Retirement years
The Jesus imagery has always been present. Listen to Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu: "Suffering can of course embitter the one who suffers. But in many other circumstances it can ennoble the sufferer. We are richly blessed that the latter happened with Mandela."
But to view Mandela's prison experience solely through the prism of revelation is to misunderstand his life. Certainly, he went into jail a militant hot-head (in the 1940s, if you needed a meeting broken up you called Mandela) and came out a profound statesman. Even if prison damaged him irrevocably in some senses – how could it not? – he did succeed in using it as both a political laboratory and a place of profound introspection. Sampson describes how he was "cut off from mass audiences, public images and television cameras, stripped down to man-to-man leadership and to the essentials of human relationships". He thus "learned about human sensitivities and how to handle the fears and insecurities of others, including his Afrikaner warders. He was sensitised by his own sense of guilt about [the] family and friends he had used during his political career." Mandela, writes Sampson, was "racked by remorse" about his absence as a husband and a father. By coming to see himself as an actor – a perpetrator, if you like – as well as a victim, he developed his most admirable quality: a capacity for empathy.
He used this to formidable effect, and while he may indeed have lived the racial reconciliation he preached, this is critical to any understanding of the man and his political gifts: he deployed empathy as a strategy to get what he wanted – for himself while in prison, for his people, and for his country. He learned Afrikaans in prison not because it was a beautiful language or even because he wished to use the master's tools to destroy the master's house, but so that he could sweet-talk his warders into granting him and his fellow-prisoners the concessions that would make their lives more bearable.
He came upon his almost inhuman lack of bitterness and desire for reconciliation in the prison laboratory because he saw that this approach lifted the scrim of prejudice from his savage captors' eyes and transformed them into human beings. Once they were human, they could reason, and once they could reason, they would – as he had – understand that South Africans' futures were interlocked, and that they were dependent on each other.
Politics of gesture
He might have had an extraordinary instinct, but he was profoundly instrumentalist: he often told intimates that his legendary humour was part of his "sense of duty", used either to help his interlocutors relax, or to disarm them, or both, depending on the circumstance. He did not take a step – do a jig – without calculating its odds.
From the way he cultivated a romantic "Black Pimpernel" image while in hiding during the 1960 state of emergency, through to the way used the 1995 Rugby World Cup to deepen his project of racial reconciliation, he was a master at the politics of gesture. Even his legendary public outburst at FW de Klerk during the 1992 multiparty negotiations cannot be simply described as a pot boiling over: it was carefully calibrated to humiliate the South African president at a key moment, thereby demonstrating both to recalcitrant whites and to impatient blacks that the balance of power had shifted. As Jacob Zuma once told me – speaking, no doubt, from personal experience – if you wanted to win a battle, you needed to get Mandela on to your side.
The conventional wisdom is that Mandela's extraordinary sense of self, unassailable by even the grossest depredations of apartheid, has its roots in his heritage as a Thembu noble. While there is truth to this, he bore another – potentially damaging – legacy from childhood: he was also a fatherless son, taken on by the Thembu king out of obligation to a trusted adviser. From a distant branch of the royal house, he was raised to be a courtier himself, without the expectation of ever attaining power. This trained him to be frank and strategic. He was an outsider – both in the Thembu royal house and in the ranks of the ANC elite he would find in Johannesburg – and he would need wit and courage and charisma to match his ambition.
He was always a maverick within the ANC. In two critical instances, he took on the conventional wisdom in his movement and won. In the 1940s and 1950s, when the ANC was the preserve of conservative "Black Englishmen", he advocated taking up arms and fomenting insurrection; three decades later, when the ANC was too often blindly following revolutionary theory, he insisted on laying down these arms, even if it meant being branded a sellout. He was deeply and intractably loyal to the ANC – and often, to a fault, to many of his comrades in it its leadership. But, unlike his successors Thabo Mbeki and Jacob Zuma, he transcended membership of the "ANC family" into the "South African family" once he came out of jail, and self-consciously sought to embody the nation rather than just the movement.
It is naive to believe, as many in both the ANC and his own family have, that he was duped by his advisers into setting up his Nelson Mandela Foundation, outside of both family and party, as custodian to his legacy: he did this very deliberately, precisely so that he could put himself beyond the reach of more atavistic familial or political ties – and remain there, even when he no longer had agency, or life.
Relive Mandela's release
But it is equally naive to believe that Mandela was duped into his last – and very grand – public act: appearing before the rapturous masses at the party's final 2008 election rally, as if to grant a benediction to Zuma, the ANC's presidential candidate. Certainly by this point Mandela was, if not in his dotage, then stuck on certain subjects, in the way that very old people often are. One of these subjects was Mbeki: how poorly he had treated Zuma, and how he had wrecked the ANC. Certainly, too, many of Mandela's closest friends and advisers were now firmly in the Zuma camp, including Mac Maharaj, Tokyo Sexwale, and his own grandson Mandla Mandela.
Still, to the last, the elder Mandela was calculating. He saw how Zuma's global reputation was deeply sullied by both the corruption and the rape charges, and he understood how this might negatively affect South Africa's own global reputation. Zuma would be president with or without Mandela's imprimatur: the elder statesman thus calculated that it would be in the national interest to lend his moral authority to the new leader.
Perhaps, too, Mandela succumbed to Zuma's flattery: the new leader's promises that he would return the ANC to a Mandela style of leadership from which the party had strayed under Mbeki. But even if Mandela's support for Zuma was driven in part by his often-remarked-upon vanity, it had a salutary effect on South African statecraft: it re-established "the Madiba way" as the ANC way, the South African way.
Zuma set out to emulate Mandela, and claimed to subscribe to his values of reconciliation and non-racialism, of accountability and responsiveness. But in Zuma's singular failure as South African president – and the ANC's unwillingness to let go of him – there is an important lesson: an empty template, like an empty icon, can be filled to suit one's own needs. And in the way that Julius Malema distorted Mandela's history in the ANC Youth League to buttress his own ambitions, we saw the Mandela legacy further sullied; a short-cut to demagoguery and tyranny rather than the model for a way out of it. Even when it is practised with the finesse and integrity of a Nelson Mandela, paternalism is ultimately antithetical to democracy.
'This brick once imprisoned me. Now I will hold it captive'
My relationship with Mandela was professional, not personal. I met him frequently as a journalist and interviewed him several times. It is no measure of my prowess that he always recognised me, and sometimes remarked on something I had written: he practised this art indiscriminately, on my colleagues great and small. I learned one great lesson from him, in 2003, when, in my capacity as heritage curator at Constitution Hill, I showed him round the site.
Constitution Hill is the home of South Africa's Constitutional Court, built on the site of Johannesburg's notorious Old Fort prison; constructed, brilliantly, out of the very bricks of the prison, and surrounded by the abandoned old buildings, as if to demonstrate architecturally how the possibilities of South Africa's future are built on the difficulties of its past. Every significant political prisoner passed through the Old Fort's gates, from Gandhi to Mandela, who was held there twice.
On his visit, Mandela was presented by the then-chief justice Arthur Chaskalson (his legal counsel at the Rivonia trial) with one of the bricks of the old jail, encased in glass. As always, after painstakingly greeting every construction worker and cleaner, Mandela said the right thing, upon receiving the brick: "Ah! This brick once imprisoned me. Now I will hold it captive!"
More edifying, for me, was his attitude during the tour of the old prisons. As we pored over a model of the site and explained it to him, and took him to see the cell he was held in when he was arrested in 1962, he seemed listless and even a bit bored. He only lit up when we mentioned to him that there was a new centre for research into and treatment of Aids across the road, animatedly asking questions to which we were not qualified to respond.
His lesson was an invaluable one, and one I am sure he would want us to apply to his own life: do not dwell in the past. Use it, rather, to attack the problems of the present.
To see more about Mandela's life, visit: http://madiba.mg.co.za/
Mark Gevisser's next book, Dispatcher: Lost and Found in Johannesburg will be published by Farrar, Straus & Giroux, Granta and Jonathan Ball in early 2014.
By Mark Gevisser
Source: The Mail and Guardian
I am Elody Mendy from Manduar Village in the West Coast Region of The Gambia. I am 24 years old and come from an extended family and still live with both ny parents. I completed my primary and secondary education in Brikama, West Coast Region.
After completing my secondary education, due to a poor family background, I had to remain at home. I was not doing anything other than helping my mother with household chores despite my willingness to further my education. If you don’t have skills, I won’t say you don’t have anything... but you have little. If you have skills, life becomes easy and you determine your own future.
I enrolled as a beneficiary in The Gambia YMCAs BLF Funded Project in Life Skills and Enterprise Development for Disadvantaged and Marginalised Young People in The Gambia. Through this I pursued a one-year training in Food Preservation. I completed my training in 2009 and since then have been involved in private catering on a small scale.
Additionally, The YMCAs gave me some entrepreneurship and business development training which positioned me strategically as a young entrepreneur, qualified to access both soft loans and start up grants.
In October 2013, The YMCA selected me to be amongst the six young entrepreneurs to represent The Gambia in Benin for a One Month ECOWAS intensive training.
The ECOWAs experience has changed my life and my skills! I have been adequately exposed to the concept of entrepreneurship and business concepts.
Previously, The Gambia only saw poor quality imported bathing soap but now I can make all types of good soap which are recommended for better skin and hygiene, for example: medicated soap, cucumber soap, carrot soap and aloe-vera soap etc.
My intention is to start something as soon as possible as a measure of putting into practice what I have learnt in order to perfect my product. Additionally I intend to share the skills with my fellow youth in The Gambia and those at the YMCAs Skills Training Centre to ensure my skills and experience trickle down and give back to my nation.
I will train other youths and at the same time my family and local community will be exposed to the various products that will be produce through my work. Most importantly, I am confident now to use my own product and desist from buying soap again.
I wish to thank ECOWAS and The Gambia Ministry of Youth and Sports and want to commend the YMCAs for trusting me to represent them.
By Elody Mendy, The Gambia YMCA
Source: Joseph Peacock, Deputy National General Secretary, The Gambia YMCA
L’atteinte des objectifs de tout projet de développement repose fortement sur les performances des agents de terrain lesquels sont en contact direct et maintenu avec les bénéficiaires, la communauté et les autres parties prenantes pour délivrer les services, faciliter les activités et collecter les informations. Les agents de terrain suivent de près les activités des jeunes et travaillent en étroite collaboration avec eux. De cette façon ils peuvent suivre leur évolution et surtout leur transformation car ils les connaissent presque individuellement.
Une des particularités du projet Agir pour Vivre dans sa mise en oeuvre par YMCA Madagascar est le fait que les agents de terrain sont toutes des jeunes filles – des animatrices santé – qui témoignent d’un engagement et d’un dynamisme remarquables dans l’accomplissement de leur travail. Leur aptitude à communiquer, leur attention et leur empathie à l’égard des jeunes inspirent la confiance chez ces derniers. Les figures féminines des équipes de terrain constituent des sources de motivation pour les jeunes.
Mialinandrianina Andrianantenaina (Mialy) est l’animatrice santé de la zone Carion. Agée de 21 ans, elle est la seule fille d’une famille de 4 enfants. Bien que le poste d’animatrice au sein de YMCA Madagascar soit sa première expérience professionnelle, son expérience avec les jeunes est probante car elle est membre active de l’association des jeunes de son église. Etre en interraction avec d’autres jeunes dans des activités diverses lui a permis de développer un intérêt particulier à travailler dans le cadre de programmes pour la promotion et le développement des jeunes.
Basiquement, le travail de l’animatrice santé consiste à faciliter les interractions des jeunes entre eux (pairs éducateurs, groupes de plaidoyer, bénéficiaires et autres), les jeunes et la communauté, les autorités et les autres parties prenantes. Par ailleurs, l’animatrice accompagne et encadre les jeunes dans toutes leurs activités, qu’il s’agisse de sensibilisation, de plaidoyer, de formation ou d’activité sportives et récréatives. Une forte aptitude à communiquer et relationnelle sont les qualités de base requises pour la fonction d’animatrice. Etant elle-même originaire de Carion, Mialy a une facilité à entrer en interraction avec les jeunes de cette région, avec les membres de la communauté et autres parties prenantes ; ce qui facilite la mise en oeuvre des activités du projet, surtout lorsqu’il s’agit de mobilisations communautaires et de campagnes de sensibilisation.
Toutefois, le travail d’animatrice présente bon nombre de défis. Pour Mialy, le plus grand défi c’est d’approcher les autorités qui ont des responsabilités qui ne leur permettent pas toujours d’être disponibles pour collaborer. Elle fait également face au risque d’être refusée ou de se faire rejeter par ses interlocuteurs, surtout lorsqu’il s’agit de faciliter des activités liées au plaidoyer. Par ailleurs, certaines parties prenantes ne sont pas toujours ouvertes pour collaborer et cela demande une forte capacité à négocier et à convaincre de la part de l’animatrice. “Les gens ne sont pas toujours disposés à nous recevoir à tout instant. Toutefois, il faut persévérer jusqu’à ce que l’on obtienne ce que l’on recherche ; revenir à plusieurs reprises si cela est nécessaire, avec des arguments qui démontrent que l’implication de ces personnes est importante, dans l’intérêt des jeunes et des parties prenantes”, suggère-t-elle.
(Mialy, première partant de droite, habillée en rose, encadre un groupe de jeunes lors du rassemblement des pairs éducateurs à Carion) Au cours des 1 an et demi au sein de YMCA Madagascar, Mialy a pu constaté des changements dans la situation des jeunes de sa zone de travail – Carion. Les jeunes démontrent un intérêt pour les activités du projet à travers leurs participation active et engagée. Grâce à leur assiduité et leur implication dans les formations et aux diverses activités telles que les activités de sensibilisation et d’éducation par les pairs et les activités de plaidoyer, les jeunes de Carion deviennent progressivement des agents de changement qui sont eux-même en cours d’un processus de transformation.
L’animatrice joue un rôle crucial car elle accompagne les jeunes tout au long du processus, au moyen des visites à domicile et des discussions individuelles, l’accompagnement dans toutes les activités. “Etre en interraction directe et maintenue avec les jeunes me permet de connaître davantage leurs caractères et personnalités, de comprendre les problèmes qu’ils traversent et ainsi les aider à les surmonter et les résoudre”, affirme Mialy.
Finalement, l’animatrice tient le rôle de motivateur et représente aussi à une source d’inspiration pour les jeunes. Titulaire d’un Baccalauréat de l’enseignement général, Mialy envisage encore de poursuivre des études supérieures ; ce qui lui permettra de renforcer davantage ses capacités et d’apporter plus de contribution pour mieux servir les jeunes. “Si vous avez les moyens, quels qu’ils soient, si des opportunités se présentent pour améliorer vos conditions de vie, n’hésitez pas à les saisir. Cherchez toujours à tirer le meilleur de vous même et toujours améliorer ce que vous possédez déjà”, tel est le message que Mialy lance aux jeunes.
Source: Miray Razanajatovo, Advocacy Coordinator, Madagascar YMCA