I don’t know about you but the current state of world leaders doesn’t inspire much confidence. Where have all the charismatic role models gone?
The recent passing of Nelson Mandela and the outpouring of love and grief around the world made me reflect on this. How can we possible compare Australia’s PM Tony Abbott or the UK’s PM David Cameron to the late Nelson Mandela? To such a giant of history.
As Obama said of Mandela ‘he makes me want to be a better man.’ I like that. I like Obama for that matter, not that I’m that well up on his politics but I find him to be a charismatic leader, a good speaker, a man with integrity; a positive role model. And I like him even more because he ‘s the first black president of the USA. That’s progress surely. Just like Mandela was the first black president of the Republic of South Africa.
Where there were giants of history in Kennedy and Winston Churchill and Martin Luther King, now we’re reduced to wingeing about our leaders, and perhaps worse still, of idolising instead the banal, egoistic celebrities. In contrast to our 15 minutes of fame and celebrity culture, Mandela was a man of longevity. A man who dedicated his whole life to fighting white domination and the brutal regime of apartheid. How many leaders and role models are honoured and mourned all over the world? Who unite all racial, cultural and economic divides? What is it about Mandela that we all aspire in some little way to become? Forgiveness is a big one. How many times have you harboured a grudge? Not forgiven a family member, a friend, continued to make an enemy out of a person who has done you wrong? And for what? Think about Mandela being in jail for twenty-seven years and forgiving his captors and oppressors. He was offered freedom whilst in jail but refused his own personal freedom until all his comrades were freed.
He selflessly and tirelessly worked for the greater good of South Africa and paid with his freedom—a political strategy for reconciliation, democracy and equality—fundamental economic, political and human rights values that any free, respected nation aspires to. And his personal qualities of love, forgiveness, selflessness, courage and compassion are universal aspirations. His passion for justice and fairness make him a hero.
More than 4500 people came to pay their respects and celebrate the life of Mandela at the funeral ceremony. To mourn the most courageous man of our times and to credit him changing their lives. They celebrated their way; by singing and dancing. 95 candles were lit, representing each year of his life.
They call him Tata, meaning Father. He’s both a Father, a son and a lion, his body wrapped in animal skin, denoting his seniority within the tribe. His was truly a long walk to freedom. A walk that ended where it began, as he was laid to rest in the rocky soil on the land where he walked barefoot as a boy, herding cattle and roaming the hills of his tribal land, Qunu.
‘We shall not say goodbye for you are not gone.’ This is a widely held feeling by all South Africans, to whom he has left a legacy of transformation, for them to continue to reconcile South Africa into the place of Nelson Mandela’s dreams. His grandson sat by his body for days, in communication with him, explaining what was happening, helping him transition to the next life. Ancestry is very important to South Africans. The family will continue to communicate with him and be guided by him, as he joins the generations before him in that harsh, dusty soil, the homeland he longed for. A humble grave for a great man, surrounded by indigenous plants, rather than pretty flowers, but nonetheless beautiful.
At the ceremony it was said: ‘Beyond the fighting there is peace.’ Hope remains in all our hearts that this can be true. Hope for another unapologetically radical leader like him, hope that the world can reconcile. Hope that we can all be just a fraction of what he was.