Friday, 6 December 2013

Farewell Mandela - a truly great man

I urge you to go to South Africa and see the places that Mandela grew up in, and see the change his leadership has brought. A few years ago I went with a South African friend and drove around Mandela's homeland; I journeyed to the spot at Howick, where on 5 August 1962, police captured Mandela along with Cecil Williams, driving back from a political meeting in Pietermaritzburg. I went to the Plessislaer Arya Samai Manaye Hall in Imbali Township in Pietermaritzburg where the meeting was held that night. Both are mystical places. Kwa Zulu Natal is full of the past life of Mandela, and the British history from Rorkes Drift and so much more.

It was a very moving journey for me in 2009. I learnt a lot. I never met the great man but am of no doubt that Nelson Mandela was South Africa's Abraham Lincoln, their Gandhi, their Winston Churchill, and more.

The tributes have rightly been pouring in for the great man: last night the PM, David Cameron, who met him and I know was very moved by the meeting, said:
‘A great light has gone out in the world. Nelson Mandela was a towering figure in our time; a legend in life and now in death – a true global hero. Across the country he loved they will be mourning a man who was the embodiment of grace. Meeting him was one of the great honours of my life. My heart goes out to his family – and to all in South Africa and around the world whose lives were changed through his courage.’

Like many great leaders, Nelson Mandela had one shining hour that eclipsed everything else and made the world better. Mandela’s came in 1994 when, after a lifetime of hardship and persecution, he became the first democratic president of South Africa. His finest quality was his sense of calm and grace. It flowed like a healing balm over a fearful, angry and anxious land. It disarmed his most ferocious enemies and soothed his most vengeful allies. The great dread of civil war ended the moment he spoke to the nation. For all its problems, South Africa has complete political stability, and this we owe to Nelson Mandela. The struggle for democracy had been bloody and violent, mostly whilst Mandela, trained as a lawyer, was in prison. He spent 27 years in jail.

In February 1990, President F.W. de Klerk made his speech that essentially ended apartheid, unbanned the ANC and released Mandela. Mandela emerged from prison in 1990 at the age of 71, and began his progress to power. During his years in prison he had been turned into a legend. When he ruled he presided over a peaceful transition to democracy where nations of different colours and creeds live as one. That will be his true legacy.

Two great quotes to finish:
On Freedom:
"There is no easy walk to freedom anywhere, and many of us will have to pass through the valley of the shadow of death again and again before we reach the mountaintop of our desires."

On Courage:
"I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear."