The Life That People Lived: The Example Of Nelson Mandela

By Atty Philip N. Wesseh (PNW)

There is gainsaying that whenever the name, Nelson Mandela, the fallen South African former President and former leader of the African National Congress (ANC), is mentioned in whatever forum or document, one would be reminded of a great leader who once dedicated his life to fighting racial discrimination in his country, South Africa. Also, others would say that he was a revolutionary, politician and an advocate, with a clear principle of making sure that the people of his country co-existed despite their colors.

For others, they would characterize him as a principle-minded person who never compromised the interest of his people, despite humiliation, suppression and imprisonment for more than 27 years only for speaking against Apartheid, a policy in his homeland that promoted racial discrimination at the detriment of the black race.

Expectedly and unsurprisingly, since his demise on December 5, world leaders and nations of the world continue to sympathize with the government and people of that country. As activities marking begin today, several world leaders, including the President of the United States, Barrack Obama, British Prime Minister, David Cameron and the first female President of Africa, Liberia’s Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf are expected to attend the official memorial service today at the FNB Stadium in Johannesburg. According to the protocol, from the the13th of December the remains of our beloved Madiba will lie in state…in Pretoria, where he served as the first President of this young democracy; during these days official memorial services will also be held in all provinces and regions.

Because of his role, not only to the people of South Africa, but the suppressed people of all parts of the world during the years of struggle, many nations and groups are planning to hold appropriate programs and ceremonies befitting the home going of this man whose stance and advocacy for equality inspired other people of the world who were faced with similar situation.

In Liberia, I am told that this struggle saw the birth of the Movement for Justice in Africa (MOJA) headed by Dr. Togba Nah-Tipoteh, who under the leadership of the Inter-religious Council of Liberia, is inviting the heads of all Liberian religious, social, economic and political organizations to a meeting today at the Monrovia City Hall at 10 a.m. to discuss how the people of Liberia can come out to show their LOVE for the fallen African icon. For Liberians, the name Mandela is not strange as many Liberians have admired his great contributions, for which a football field in the point four area has been named in his honor, while a Liberian musician, Florence Jlopleh, in which she called for the release of Nelson Mandela.

While this piece is not intended to voluminously detail live sketch of this great man, but for the sake of reflection, it is  necessary to highlight some of his activities, as chronicled in journals. According to research, “Mandela served over 27 years in prison, initially on Robben Island, and later in Pollsmoor Prison and Victor Verster Prison. An international campaign lobbied for his release, which was granted in 1990 amid escalating civil strife. Mandela published his autobiography and opened negotiations with President F. W. de Klerk to abolish Apartheid and establish multiracial elections in 1994, in which he led the ANC to victory.

It is said that as ‘South Africa’s first black President Mandela formed a Government of National Unity in an attempt to defuse racial tension. He also promulgated a new constitution and created the Truth and Reconciliation Commission to investigate past human rights abuses. Continuing the former government’s liberal economic policy, his administration introduced measures to encourage land reform, combat poverty, and expand healthcare services. Internationally, he acted as mediator between Libya and the United Kingdom in the Pan Am Flight 103 bombing trial, and oversaw military intervention in Lesotho. He declined to run for a second term, and was succeeded by his deputy, Thabo Mbeki. Mandela became an elder statesman, focusing on charitable work in combating poverty and HIV/AIDS through the Nelson Mandela Foundation.

Documented records also say that, “Mandela was a controversial figure for much of his life. Denounced as a Marxist terrorist by critics, he nevertheless gained international acclaim for his activism, having received more than 250 honours, including the 1993 Nobel Peace Prize, the US Presidential Medal of Freedom, the Soviet Order of Lenin and the Bharat Ratna. He is held in deep respect within South Africa, where he is often referred to by his Xhosa clan name, Madiba, or as Tata (“Father”); he is often described as “the father of the nation”.

As the world and its leaders pay homage and tributes to this great man of the world, let me say that as many others have said, my admiration about this great man is the fact that he shunned the “pay back’ mentality as others would have done for treatment meted out against him while serving as leader of the ANC, an action that led him to prison for years.

This, I believe helped to promote the process of reconciling the country after years of racial discrimination and also contributed to that country being so cohesive, something for which it has been stable and peaceful. Obviously, this situation has made the country under his leadership to leapfrog to progress. Besides the issue of stability and peace, one of the achievements of that country is that it was the first African country to host the FIFA World Cup in 2010.

In other words, one of the attributes that people can learn from the deceased is the fact that he did not institutionalize revenge or vengeance to those responsible for all of the precarious predicaments he experienced as an advocate. Today, many countries are not at peace because of the failure of leaders to reconcile their people. Although Liberia is relatively stable, the issue of reconciliation remains a problem. There have been many cosmetic approaches to this process, something which must be reviewed for the implementation of the TRC report.

As Liberia joins other nations of the world to mourn the passing away of this son of the continent, we should emulate those principles that he espoused for which his country remains stable and peaceful and also make sure that whatever we do as national leaders, should benefit the people. In other words, our national leaders should ensure that there is love, unity, oneness, and equitable distribution of the national pie, so that all of the citizens would benefit, and not an undeserving few.

Today the world and its leaders are eulogizing this man not only because of the struggle for racial equality, but also for living by what he preached. Sometimes, during the electoral process people seeking national leadership would make all kinds of promises to the electorates, only to see them reneging on those promises made during elections. At the same time, in whatever is done, the interest of the people should always supersede any other interest, to move them from this distasteful state of abject poverty.

More importantly, as we remember the good deeds of this man, let those who find themselves in national leadership, be reminded that the task of a leader is to serve, and not to be served; that the task of a leader is to seek the interest of the country and its people and not one’s interest; that national leaders should always promulgate policies to promote unity, economic growth and development, as well as those policies that would move the country from backwaters to prosperity. These, if done by national leaders, would be highly remembered by their people, as it is being done by the people of South Africa and others from other nations.

Lest we forget that it is the life that one lived for which the people regret their passing, as in the case of Mandela. I REST MY CASE.