We all knew the inevitable moment would arrive. The world had anticipated and prepared for it.
Indeed at 95, Mandela has been blessed with many years that many of us will not be able to transcend.
Yet, even though we had been anticipating Mandela’s death due to his frailty and advanced age, it is impossible not to describe it as most tragic.
The world has lost a giant colossus. It has lost its moral centre. Mandela is irreplaceable.
As the United Kingdom’s Sun newspaper aptly put it “The President of the world is dead”.
Mandela’s legacy will ultimately not only be defined by his role in overcoming apartheid, but by how he evolved into becoming the moral conscience of the world.
The life of Mandela should continue to be the moral campus that guides present and future generations of leaders the world over.
The magnanimity Mandela showed his former oppressors is an indictment on the vindictiveness of many former liberation war heroes across the continent who have now turned against the very people they purport to have “liberated”.
Mandela showed an uncanny resilience when he spend 27 years in detention because he wanted to see a non-racial South Africa.
On facing the death penalty in 1964 Mandela made the famous speech from the dock at the culmination of the Rivonia Trial in 1964;
“During my lifetime I have dedicated myself 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 live together in harmony with equal opportunities. It is an ideal which I hope to live for and to see realised. But if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die.”
Upon assuming the South African presidency, Mandela lived up to this ideal. Even as South Africa negotiated its new democratic constitution, Mandela spoke out agsinst fostering the “tyranny of the majority”.
Mandela’s peerless heroism did not end with his historic fight for a non-racial South Africa.
He assumed a greater role on the world stage as world leaders trekked to South Africa for a piece of Madiba magic and wisdom.
The average mortal could have sought revenge against their former oppressors. But Madiba did not.
His refusal to keep holding on to power, by handing over the reins to Thabo Mbeki, after only a single term, distinguished him from many other African liberation movement leaders who have clung to power by hook or crook.
We have a number of such vile personalities across the continent.
Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe is a typical case in point. At nearly 90 and after 33 years of misrule, Mugabe refuses to give up power even when it has become crystal clear that he has become a liability to his country.
Mandela’s unparalleled magnanimity has both earned him envy and revulsion.
Some accuse him of having been too lenient to the former oppressors. But those who criticise Mandela are short on detail about the possible alternatives he should have pursued without fostering catastrophic consequences on his country.
The fact remains Madiba did what ought to have been done to defeat apartheid without plunging South Africa into bloodshed. He never compromised on principle. Even when he strode onto the international area, Mandela was always candid:
“We are really appalled by any country, whether a superpower or a small country, that goes outside the UN and attacks independent countries. No country should be allowed to take the law into their own hands,” he trenchantly commented on the eve of President George W. Bush’s invasion of Iraq.
His humility never allowed him to become puffed up even as he was idolised by every nation on earth. When some paparazzi dug his past and tried to scandalise his different relations with women his short answer was a frank admission of past errors which is nothing out of the ordinary for a mere mortal.
As the world celebrates the illustrious life of Madiba, we can only bemoan that this blighted continent has failed miserably in producing more Mandelas.
How things could have been different if we could only have a few more Madibas.
Rest in peace Tata. The world will miss you. You are irreplaceable.
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