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Obama to young Africans “make Mandela’s life work your own.”
December 10, 2013 | 0 Comments

President Obama’s Speech at Mandela Memorial

To Graça Machel and the Mandela family; to President Zuma and members of the government; to heads of state and government, past and present; distinguished guests – it is a singular honor to be with you today, to celebrate a life unlike any other. To the people of South Africa – people of every race and walk of life – the world thanks you for sharing Nelson Mandela with us. His struggle was your struggle. His triumph was your triumph. Your dignity and hope found expression in his life, and your freedom, your democracy is his cherished legacy.

It is hard to eulogise any man – to capture in words not just the facts and the dates that make a life, but the essential truth of a person – their private joys and sorrows; the quiet moments and unique qualities that illuminate someone’s soul. How much harder to do so for a giant of history, who moved a nation toward justice, and in the process moved billions around the world.

Born during World War I, far from the corridors of power, a boy raised herding cattle and tutored by elders of his Thembu tribe – Madiba would emerge as the last great liberator of the 20th century. Like Gandhi, he would lead a resistance movement – a movement that at its start held little prospect of success. Like King, he would give potent voice to the claims of the oppressed, and the moral necessity of racial justice. He would endure a brutal imprisonment that began in the time of Kennedy and Khrushchev, and reached the final days of the Cold War. Emerging from prison, without force of arms, he would – like Lincoln – hold his country together when it threatened to break apart. Like America’s founding fathers, he would erect a constitutional order to preserve freedom for future generations – a commitment to democracy and rule of law ratified not only by his election, but by his willingness to step down from power.

Given the sweep of his life, and the adoration that he so rightly earned, it is tempting then to remember Nelson Mandela as an icon, smiling and serene, detached from the tawdry affairs of lesser men. But Madiba himself strongly resisted such a lifeless portrait. Instead, he insisted on sharing with us his doubts and fears; his miscalculations along with his victories. “I’m not a saint,” he said, “unless you think of a saint as a sinner who keeps on trying.”

It was precisely because he could admit to imperfection – because he could be so full of good humor, even mischief, despite the heavy burdens he carried – that we loved him so. He was not a bust made of marble; he was a man of flesh and blood – a son and husband, a father and a friend. That is why we learned so much from him; that is why we can learn from him still. For nothing he achieved was inevitable. In the arc of his life, we see a man who earned his place in history through struggle and shrewdness; persistence and faith. He tells us what’s possible not just in the pages of dusty history books, but in our own lives as well.

Mandela showed us the power of action; of taking risks on behalf of our ideals. Perhaps Madiba was right that he inherited, “a proud rebelliousness, a stubborn sense of fairness” from his father. Certainly he shared with millions of black and colored South Africans the anger born of, “a thousand slights, a thousand indignities, a thousand unremembered moments … a desire to fight the system that imprisoned my people.”

But like other early giants of the ANC – the Sisulus and Tambos – Madiba disciplined his anger; and channelled his desire to fight into organisation, and platforms, and strategies for action, so men and women could stand-up for their dignity. Moreover, he accepted the consequences of his actions, knowing that standing up to powerful interests and injustice carries a price. “I have fought against white domination and I have fought against black domination,” he said at his 1964 trial. “I’ve 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.”

Mandela taught us the power of action, but also ideas; the importance of reason and arguments; the need to study not only those you agree with, but those who you don’t. He understood that ideas cannot be contained by prison walls, or extinguished by a sniper’s bullet. He turned his trial into an indictment of apartheid because of his eloquence and passion, but also his training as an advocate. He used decades in prison to sharpen his arguments, but also to spread his thirst for knowledge to others in the movement. And he learned the language and customs of his oppressor so that one day he might better convey to them how their own freedom depended upon his.

Mandela demonstrated that action and ideas are not enough; no matter how right, they must be chiseled into laws and institutions. He was practical, testing his beliefs against the hard surface of circumstance and history. On core principles he was unyielding, which is why he could rebuff offers of conditional release, reminding the Apartheid regime that, “prisoners cannot enter into contracts.” But as he showed in painstaking negotiations to transfer power and draft new laws, he was not afraid to compromise for the sake of a larger goal. And because he was not only a leader of a movement, but a skillful politician, the Constitution that emerged was worthy of this multiracial democracy; true to his vision of laws that protect minority as well as majority rights, and the precious freedoms of every South African.

President Obama offers condolences to Mandela's widow Graca Machel (AFP)

President Obama offers condolences to Mandela’s widow Graca Machel (AFP)

Finally, Mandela understood the ties that bind the human spirit. There is a word in South Africa – Ubuntu – that describes his greatest gift: his recognition that we are all bound together in ways that can be invisible to the eye; that there is a oneness to humanity; that we achieve ourselves by sharing ourselves with others, and caring for those around us. We can never know how much of this was innate in him, or how much of was shaped and burnished in a dark, solitary cell.

But we remember the gestures, large and small – introducing his jailors as honored guests at his inauguration; taking the pitch in a Springbok uniform; turning his family’s heartbreak into a call to confront HIV and Aids – that revealed the depth of his empathy and understanding. He not only embodied Ubuntu; he taught millions to find that truth within themselves. It took a man like Madiba to free not just the prisoner, but the jailor as well; to show that you must trust others so that they may trust you; to teach that reconciliation is not a matter of ignoring a cruel past, but a means of confronting it with inclusion, generosity and truth. He changed laws, but also hearts.

For the people of South Africa, for those he inspired around the globe – Madiba’s passing is rightly a time of mourning, and a time to celebrate his heroic life. But I believe it should also prompt in each of us a time for self-reflection. With honesty, regardless of our station or circumstance, we must ask: how well have I applied his lessons in my own life?

It is a question I ask myself – as a man and as a president. We know that like South Africa, the United States had to overcome centuries of racial subjugation. As was true here, it took the sacrifice of countless people – known and unknown – to see the dawn of a new day. Michelle and I are the beneficiaries of that struggle. But in America and South Africa, and countries around the globe, we cannot allow our progress to cloud the fact that our work is not done. The struggles that follow the victory of formal equality and universal franchise may not be as filled with drama and moral clarity as those that came before, but they are no less important. For around the world today, we still see children suffering from hunger, and disease; run-down schools, and few prospects for the future. Around the world today, men and women are still imprisoned for their political beliefs; and are still persecuted for what they look like, or how they worship, or who they love.

We, too, must act on behalf of justice. We, too, must act on behalf of peace. There are too many of us who happily embrace Madiba’s legacy of racial reconciliation, but passionately resist even modest reforms that would challenge chronic poverty and growing inequality. There are too many leaders who claim solidarity with Madiba’s struggle for freedom, but do not tolerate dissent from their own people. And there are too many of us who stand on the sidelines, comfortable in complacency or cynicism when our voices must be heard.

The questions we face today – how to promote equality and justice; to uphold freedom and human rights; to end conflict and sectarian war – do not have easy answers. But there were no easy answers in front of that child in Qunu. Nelson Mandela reminds us that it always seems impossible until it is done. South Africa shows us that is true. South Africa shows us we can change. We can choose to live in a world defined not by our differences, but by our common hopes. We can choose a world defined not by conflict, but by peace and justice and opportunity.

We will never see the likes of Nelson Mandela again. But let me say to the young people of Africa, and young people around the world – you can make his life’s work your own. Over thirty years ago, while still a student, I learned of Mandela and the struggles in this land. It stirred something in me. It woke me up to my responsibilities – to others, and to myself – and set me on an improbable journey that finds me here today. And while I will always fall short of Madiba’s example, he makes me want to be better. He speaks to what is best inside us. After this great liberator is laid to rest; when we have returned to our cities and villages, and rejoined our daily routines, let us search then for his strength – for his largeness of spirit – somewhere inside ourselves. And when the night grows dark, when injustice weighs heavy on our hearts, or our best laid plans seem beyond our reach – think of Madiba, and the words that brought him comfort within the four walls of a cell:

It matters not how strait the gate,

How charged with punishments the scroll,

I am the master of my fate:

I am the captain of my soul.

What a great soul it was. We will miss him deeply. May God bless the memory of Nelson Mandela. May God bless the people of South Africa.

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“The struggle was Madiba’s life.”
December 10, 2013 | 0 Comments

-Jacob Zuma’s Speech At Mandela’s Memorial

“Mama Graca Machel, mama Winnie Madikizela Mandela and the entire Mandela family and the abaThembu clan,

Excellencies heads of state and government,

Excellencies former heads of state and government,

Deputy presidents and representatives of governments,

Heads of international organisations in all regions of the world,

The leadership of the ANC and alliance partners,

Leaders of fraternal political organisations in Africa and abroad,

Activists of the former anti-apartheid movement,

Eminent persons, friends of South Africa from all over the world,

Fellow South Africans,


Good day!



South Africans sing a popular freedom song about former president Nelson Mandela.

We sing that he is one of a kind, that there is no one quite like him. Nelson Mandela, Nelson Mandela akekho ofana naye.

The song is one of the most accurate descriptions of this global icon who is the founding president of a free and democratic South Africa and also the former president of the oldest liberation movement in the continent, the ANC.

His passing has marked an unprecedented outpouring of grief across the world. Yet, it is grief, tinged with admiration and celebration.

Everyone has had a Mandela moment, when this world icon has touched their lives.

Let me begin therefore, by thanking all the heads of state and government and  international delegations present here today.

We also extend our deepest gratitude for the messages of condolence that we continue to receive.

The Mandela family, the South African people and the African continent as a whole, feel stronger today, because we are being comforted by millions throughout the world.

Dear South Africans,

That we are Madiba’s compatriots and have lived during his time, is a cause for a great celebration and enormous pride.

Never before has our country celebrated a life as we are doing with that of Madiba.

We do not call Madiba the father of our rainbow nation merely for political correctness and relevance.

We do so because he laid a firm foundation for the South Africa of our dreams – one that is united, non-racial, non-sexist, democratic and prosperous.

We do so because Madiba was a courageous leader.

Courageous leaders are able to abandon their narrow concerns for bigger and all-embracing dreams, even if those dreams come at a huge price.

Madiba embodied this trait. He was a fearless freedom fighter who refused to allow the brutality  of the apartheid state to stand in the way of the struggle for the liberation of his people.

Being a lawyer, he understood the possible consequences of his actions. But he also knew that no unjust system could last forever.

He said at an ANC Youth League conference in 1951;

“True, the struggle will be a bitter one. Leaders will be deported, imprisoned, and even shot.

“The government will terrorise the people and their leaders in an effort to halt the forward march; ordinary forms of organisation will be rendered impossible. But the spirit of the people cannot be crushed … until full victory is won.”

The struggle became Madiba’s life.

He was at the forefront of the radical change in the ANC in the 1940s, advancing the long walk to freedom.

He became a volunteer in chief during the Defiance Campaign in the early 1950s and became the first commander in chief of the ANC’s armed wing, Umkhonto We Sizwe, in the early 1960s.

He paid dearly for his beliefs and actions through imprisonment.

He stated in 1962;

“I was made, by the law, a criminal, not because of what I had done, but because of what I stood for, because of what I thought, because of my conscience.”

Arrested and sentenced to life imprisonment during the Rivonia Trial later in 1964, he never lost his fighting spirit.

For 27 years, the South African people spoke about him in hushed tones, out of fear. In fact, if the apartheid government had its way, they would have been banned even from thinking about Madiba.

But the powerful name of Nelson Mandela lived on.

He continued to inspire our people every single day, from inside prison walls.

He demonstrated unique leadership in starting negotiations with the enemy whilst in prison. He also negotiated for the release of his fellow political prisoners first before his own release.

His release from Victor Verster prison on the 11th of February 1990 was one of the most remarkable and moving moments in world history.

The world came to a standstill watching this tall imposing figure walking out into a world he had left behind 27 years before.

The emotions and feelings we felt on that day are difficult to express in human language.

A downtrodden people who had been dehumanised and made to feel like pariahs in the land of their birth, suddenly saw signs that freedom would be attained in their lifetime.

South Africa needed a leader like Madiba to help us through a difficult transition from apartheid to a free democratic society.

In the bumpy road to our historic first free and fair elections, there are many times that he brought our nation back from the brink of catastrophe.

The massacre at Boipatong in 1992 and the killing of the popular leader of our people, Chris Hani in 1993, are some of the occasions when our country faltered in its long walk to freedom, when we stared into the heart of darkness.

It is at these times that Madiba restored a sense of calm and purpose and brought us back on the road to freedom.

South Africa’s first democratic elections were largely peaceful because of this leadership that he displayed.

Indeed, there is no one like Madiba. He was one of a kind.

Today, on International Human Rights Day, we celebrate Madiba the man of peace. Today is the 20th anniversary of his being awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, on the 10th of December 1993.

This freedom fighter had always stated that the ANC had resorted to arms because of the intransigence of the apartheid regime which responded with violence, bannings and detentions to simple demands for equal citizenship, human rights and justice.

To him, for South Africa to attain peace, the armed struggle was inevitable, but it was a means to an end but not an end in itself.

Madiba’s love for peace was also evident in the work he did in the continent. The people of Burundi enjoy peace and democracy today because of the seeds of peace planted by Madiba.

Following the historic national elections on April 27 1994, an unprecedented number of Heads of State and Government and eminent persons from around the world descended upon our shores for Madiba’s inauguration as the first president of a free and democratic South Africa.

Today, the whole world is standing still again, to pay tribute to this greatest son of South Africa and Africa.

Fellow mourners,

There is no one like Madiba, he was one of a kind.

The world speaks fondly of Madiba’s promotion of unity, reconciliation and non-racialism during his Presidency.

He had declared as follows during trial in 1964;

“The ANC has spent half a century fighting against racialism. When it triumphs it will not change that policy”.

Thus his promotion of non-racialism and reconciliation during his tenure as president of the Republic was not surprising.

Compatriots and friends

Speaking at the adoption of a new Constitution of the Republic adopted in 1996, Madiba outlined the vision of the new society.

He said;

“Let us give practical recognition to the injustices of the past, by building a future based on equality and social justice.

“Let us nurture our national unity by recognising, with respect and joy, the languages, cultures and religions of South Africa in all their diversity.

“Let tolerance for one another’s views create the peaceful conditions which give space for the best in all of us to find expression and to flourish.  Above all, let us work together in striving to banish homelessness, illiteracy, hunger and disease.”

With the magnitude of challenges facing the young South Africa in mind, Madiba set about uniting the nation.

He carefully managed the anger and frustrations of both the oppressors and the oppressed, and reminded us of our common humanity that transcended racial boundaries.

He also managed both the fears of the minority and the high expectations and impatience of the majority.

He told us that the promises of democracy would not be met overnight and that the fears of the few would not be allowed to derail the newly won freedom.

We all agreed with him, as Madiba never hesitated to speak his mind when it was necessary to do so, regardless of how uncomfortable the words may be to recipients!

Many leaders, some of whom are present here today, have experienced his sharp tongue.

Realising the power of sport to conquer prejudice, former president Mandela embraced South Africa’s 1995 Rugby World Cup ambitions, donning the Springbok jersey at a time when it was much-maligned by the majority of the population.

This would be a hallmark of his Presidency.

Our sports teams yearned for the “Madiba magic”that his visit would bring, each time they faced formidable opponents.

Beyond promoting reconciliation, Madiba also laid a firm foundation for transformation as well as reconstruction and development.

He knew that reconciliation without transformation and reconstruction, would be meaningless.

Under his leadership, the new democratically elected government focused on addressing historical injustices and creating new institutions to facilitate the building of a democratic society based on the principles of non-racialism and non-sexism.

Close to 800 racist apartheid laws were removed from the statute books in the first 10 years of democracy.

The dismantling of the legal framework of apartheid and transformation of many state institutions led to the visible improvement of the socio-economic conditions of millions of people.

Thus, Madiba laid a foundation for a better life for all, which was the rallying cry of his Presidency.

Madiba also laid the foundation for our country’s now successful fight against one of the greatest scourges of our time, that of HIV and Aids, while still in office and during his retirement.

The global 4 666 4 campaign gave birth to Mandela Day, a global call to action, mobilising people to spend at least 67 minutes helping those in need.

In November 2009, the United Nations General Assembly declared the 18th of July as Nelson Mandela International Day.

Each year on the 18th of July, the world comes together to celebrate Mandela Day, recognising Madiba’s selfless sacrifice in betterment of others.

Indeed, Madiba was one of a kind.

Bantu baseNingizimu Africa,

Silahlekelwe kakhulu ngobaba wesizwe uTata uMadiba.

Siyazi benimthanda kakhulu, futhi nisamthanda kakhulu namanje.

Leliqhawe liyibekile induku ebandla. Sikhumbula namhlanje leliVolontiya elikhulu likaKhongolose.

Sikhumbula umkhuzi wokuqala wamabutho oMkhonto weSizwe.

Sikhumbula iqhawe elalizimisele ngisho nokufa imbala, ukuze abantu abamnyama bathole inkululeko.

Sikhumbula iqhawe elalwela ukuthi abantu baseNingizimu Africa baphile ngentokozo ezweni elingenakho ukwesaba, elingenanhlupheko nalapho abantu belingana bonke khona.

Yingakho nje sithi akekho ofana no-Tata uMadiba.

Compatriots and friends,

While saying Madiba was one of a kind, we also remember that he believed in collective leadership and that he never wanted to be viewed as a messiah or a saint.

He emphasised that all his achievements were derived from working with the ANC collective, among whom in his own words, were men and women who were more capable than he was.

Thus, the South Africa that you see today, is a reflection of Madiba and many others like him, who sacrificed their lives for a free nation.

We thus remain truly grateful to his peers, Walter Sisulu, Oliver Reginald Tambo, Govan Mbeki, Raymond Mhlaba, Dorothy Nyembe, Florence Mophosho and countless others who left indelible marks in the history of our struggle.

Compatriots and friends,

Today Madiba is no more.

He leaves behind a nation that loves him dearly.

He leaves a continent that is truly proud to call him an African.

He leaves the people of the world who embraced him as their beloved icon.

Most importantly, he leaves behind a deeply entrenched legacy of freedom, human rights and democracy in our country.

In his honour we commit ourselves to continue building a nation based on the democratic values of human dignity, equality and freedom.

United in our diversity, we will continue working to build a nation free of poverty, hunger, homelessness and inequality.

As the African continent led by the African Union, we will continue working to fulfil his desire for a better Africa and a more just, peaceful and equitable world.

Tomorrow, our people will accompany Madiba on his last journey to the seat of government, the Union buildings in Pretoria, where his body will lie in state for three days.

I have the honour today, to announce, that the Union buildings amphitheatre, where Madiba was inaugurated as president in 1994, and where his body will lie in state, will, with effect from today, be called the Nelson Mandela Amphitheatre.

This is a fitting tribute to a man who transformed the Union Buildings from a symbol of racism and repression to one of peace, unity, democracy and progress.

Compatriots, comrades and friends,

We extend yet again, our deepest condolences to mama Graca Machel, mama Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, the children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren and the entire extended family.

Madiba has run a good race. He declared in his own words in 1994;

He said;

“Death is something inevitable.

“When a man has done what he considers to be his duty to his people and his country, he can rest in peace.

“I believe I have made that effort and that is, therefore, why I will sleep for eternity.”

I thank you.”

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Nelson Mandela and the Elusive Rainbow Nation
December 10, 2013 | 0 Comments

James N. Kariuki*

download (3)In addition to being the largest economy in Africa, post-apartheid South Africa beats the entire world as the most skewed society worldwide. Discussion of this lopsidedness is not new. It gathered momentum from May 1998 when the country’s Deputy President, Thabo Mbeki, stated before the National Assembly that SA was still not a nation, it was merely two nations rolled into one.

To Mbeki, SA was a synthesis of a small and affluent white society whose lifestyles rivaled the superrich of the world. In the other SA, the majority of fellow citizens languished in abject poverty and happened to be black. Mbeki’s statement came to be known as the ‘Two Nations Speech,’ a concise indictment that was heard around the world.

In Mbeki’s vision, it would take a long time for this South African divide, a 350 years’ legacy of ‘inequality,’ to be obliterated and allow the country to evolve the necessary psychological cement to form a bona fide nation. Until then, talk of a rainbow nation was merely a dream deferred. And a dream deferred swells into explosive rage which, ultimately, explodes. Was Mbeki warning about the possibility of racial confrontation?

In trying to grasp the phenomenon, a small school of thought has since emerged that suggests that South Africa’s post-apartheid economic gap originated partly from history and partly from compromised negotiations on the part of the liberation icon, Nelson Mandela. While Madiba was admirably tough on the political front, he was too soft on the economic issues in dealing with the apartheid machine. In the end, Mandela settled for a deficient economic deal for his people. In the view of one prominent analyst, “a great Faustian bargain was struck between the two races. The Whites said to the Blacks: ‘You take the Crown and we will keep the Jewels.’”

This view of economic-soft-to-apartheid approach has been articulated by prominent personalities deeply loyal to Mandela. The list includes his former wife, Winnie Mandela, Archbishop Desmond Tutu and the iconic Pan-African analyst, Professor Ali Mazrui. They do not accuse Mandela of deliberate sell-out but they do suggest that he could have done better for fellow Africans. Neither wrong-doing nor corruption is suggested anywhere. Other than this aspect of Mandela’s leadership, his political legacy is unblemished.

It is arguable that Mandela’s approach to dislodge apartheid was not an accident; it was inspired by older African thought. Indeed, Ghana’s Kwame Nkrumah once addressed the same question of, given the choice, what should come first target: political or economic power? Nkrumah spoke as an elder statesman of African nationalism in his dictum, ‘Seek ye first the political kingdom, and all things shall be added unto you.’ This is one of Nkrumah’s three most cited dogmas—ever. Was Nelson Mandela of 1994 acting under the ideological spell of former Pan-African icon?


In all likelihood, Mandela responded to the circumstances that surrounded him, realities that were uniquely South African. He decided to seek a political kingdom first by pursuing reconciliation and nation-building instead of confrontational economic kingdom. He realized that pushing for blacks’ economic sovereignty at that time (for example nationalization of mines and forceful takeover of white-owned land) would have triggered racial violence. Mandela was mindful that SA could not survive the loss of life, white skills and capital that would follow.  He, therefore, opted to go softly-softly on the economic domain to save the nation.


Prof-James-KariukiClearly, Mandela was a profoundly practical man. By sparing apartheid economic structures, he responded pragmatically to the realities that surrounded him. Against this background, his critics, the so-called ‘romantic revolutionaries,’ have tended to be dismissed for their indictment of Madiba for “being too conciliatory, too soft on the whites in negotiating our transition.” What tangible realities did Mandela face?

In the run up to the 1994 negotiations, South Africa was a deeply polarized society; violence and strife were everywhere. Indeed, it is an everlasting tribute to Mandela’s vision that he accepted and engaged the white military leadership, who stood prepared to welcome a racial conflict. After all, military lopsidedness was immense in favor of the apartheid machine.

I once heard Mandela blast his black fellows via the public media to the effect that ‘Some of us talk of revolutionary change as if we are dealing with a defeated enemy; far from it.’ These were code words for: ‘entertaining violence at this juncture is tantamount to mass suicide.’

At just about the same time that Mandela was publicly warning his people of the inadequacies of violence, he was secretly reasoning just as firmly against violence with the superbly trained and armed white right-wing military. As he once told a group of professional Afrikaner solders, “If you want to go to war, I must be honest and admit that we cannot stand up to you in the battlefield…. It will be a long and bitter struggle. Many people will die and the country may be reduced to ashes… but you cannot win because of our numbers. You cannot kill all of us. And you cannot win because of the international community; they will rally to our support and they will stand with us.”

Words of this nature turned the tide from looming deadly racial conflict to reconciliation and nation-building. However imperfect reconciliation might have been, it was infinitely preferable to racial war.

Mandela had considered the option of a civil war in SA and had dismissed it. He understood that demanding further economic concessions from the apartheid monster was crossing the red line. Blaming Mandela for what he did in 1994 is naive. He did what he could with what he had at this disposal.  The challenge is what the current leadership should do given that the circumstances are different from those that Mandela faced.

Mandela has finally died but he left this world a man in peace. He did not see the rainbow nation that he so craved for his country. He left a country more prepared to become a rainbow nation if nurtured carefully. He left the world a frail man but spiritually he was a giant that the world adored in every way possible. Most importantly he left South Africans of all colors shedding tears that their icon was no more.  In unison, they said to him: we will miss you Madiba.  That was enough Rainbow Nation in Nelson Mandela’s spirit.

*James Kariuki is Professor of international Relations and an independent writer. He is a Kenyan based in Johannesburg, South Africa. Views expressed in the blog Global Africa are his.








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Nelson Mandela changed the course of history – for South Africa and the US
December 7, 2013 | 0 Comments

– Rev Jesse Jackson

Nelson Mandela takes the oath during his inauguration as South African president in Pretoria on 10 May 1994. Photograph: Walter Dhladhla/AFP/Getty Images

Nelson Mandela takes the oath during his inauguration as South African president in Pretoria on 10 May 1994. Photograph: Walter Dhladhla/AFP/Getty Images

President Nelson Mandela was truly a transformative force in the history of South Africa and the world. My heart weighs heavy about his transition, but we are reassured because his life was full, and we know the imprint he left on our world is everlasting.

If ever the teaching that “Suffering breeds character. Character breeds faith. In the end faith will not disappoint” rang true, it did in the life of Mandela.

Despite imprisonment in Robben Island for 25 years and 8 months, Mandela never lost faith in winning freedom for the South African people. Suffering breeds character.

Mandela was a transformational figure; to say he was a “historical figure” would not give him his full due. Some people move through history as being the “first this or that” – just another figure in a lineage of persons. To be a transformer is to plan, to have the vision to chart the course, the skills to execute. To be transformational is to have the courage of one’s convictions, to sacrifice, to risk life and limb, to lay it all on the line. “Historical figures” will reference Nelson Mandela.

I recall marching against apartheid with Oliver Tambo and the enormous rally at Trafalgar Square in November 1985. I later met with the prime minister, Margaret Thatcher to decry Britain’s economic, political and military support of the apartheid regime. Let us not forget that Britain, the US, all of the western powers, labelled Mandela a terrorist and steadfastly propped up the apartheid regime – they were on the wrong side of history. I appealed to her to support the release of Mandela, and departed for South Africa.

My heart burst with excitement on that day of Mandela’s release from Victor Verster prison, 11 February 1990. When word got out about his impending release, maids started doing the toya toya in the hallways, beating pots and pans, weeping and demonstrating. “In the end, faith will not disappoint.”

I met Mandela and Winnie at City Hall, and when we spoke later at our hotel, he thanked me and recalled hearing about my 1984 convention speech. Even from his jail cell, he was keenly aware of the outside world, and the ebbs and flows of the world. Three years later, as part of the official US delegation, I was honoured to celebrate Nelson Mandela’s inauguration as president of the new, free South Africa.

image27-nelson-mandela-chicago-1993We forged an everlasting relationship. We’ve welcomed him to our home and headquarters in Chicago. We’ve met numerous times in South Africa – the last time in 2010 where we spoke about boxing, sports, politics and traded baseball caps.

Mandela was a giant of immense and unwavering intellect courage and moral authority. He chose reconciliation over retaliation. He changed the course of history.

Now, both South Africa and the US have unfinished business to complete.

Nelson Mandela is not gone, he remains with us always. He’ll always be a chin bar to pull up on. He has indeed forged South Africa as a new “beauty from ashes”. He has left this earth, but he soars high among the heavens, and his eloquent call for freedom and equality is still heard amongst the winds and the rains, and in the hearts of the people the world over.

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South Africa: Desmond Tutu Pays Tribute to Nelson Mandela
December 7, 2013 | 0 Comments


Cape Town — Nelson Mandela is mourned by South Africans, Africans and the international community today as the leader of our generation who stood head and shoulders above his contemporaries — a colossus of unimpeachable moral character and integrity, the world’s most admired and revered public figure

Not since Kenyatta, Nkrumah, Nyerere and Senghor has Africa seen his like. Looking for comparisons beyond Africa, he will go down in history as South Africa’s George Washington, a person who within a single five-year presidency became the principal icon of both liberation and reconciliation, loved by those of all political persuasions as the founder of modern, democratic South Africa.

He was of course not always regarded as such. When he was born in 1918 in the rural village of Mvezo, he was named Rolihlahla, or “troublemaker.” (Nelson was the name given to him by a teacher when he started school.) After running away to Johannesburg to escape an arranged marriage, he lived up to his name. Introduced to politics by his mentor, Walter Sisulu, he joined a group of young militants who challenged the cautious elders of the African National Congress, founded by black leaders in 1912 to oppose the racist policies of the newly-formed union of white-ruled British colonies and Afrikaner republics.

After the Afrikaner Nationalists came to power in 1948, intent on entrenching and expanding the dispossession of blacks, confrontation became inevitable. As the new government relentlessly implemented one racist, repressive law after another, the ANC intensified its resistance until its banning in 1960, when it decided that, having exhausted all peaceful means of achieving democracy, it had no option but to resort to the use of force.

Madiba, the clan name by which South Africans refer to Nelson Mandela, went underground, then left the country to look for support for the struggle. He received it in many parts of Africa — undergoing military training in Ethiopia — but he failed to get meaningful support in the West.

Upon his return to South Africa, he was captured by the police and first imprisoned for inciting strikes and leaving the country illegally. Two years later he was brought from prison to face charges, along with other leaders, of preparing for guerrilla warfare. At the end of the trial, they were all sentenced to life imprisonment.

In 1964, Madiba was sent to Robben Island prison off the coast of Cape Town as a militant guerilla leader, the commander-in-chief of the military wing of the ANC, Umkhonto weSizwe, committed to overthrowing apartheid by force. When he emerged from prison in 1990, his eyes damaged by the blindingly-bright limestone quarries in which prisoners had been forced to crush rock, and having contracted tuberculosis as a result of prison conditions, he might have been expected to come out hell-bent on revenge and retribution. White South Africans certainly feared so. On the other side of the political spectrum, some of his supporters feared that after campaigners had lionized his role in the struggle, he might turn out to have feet of clay and be unable to live up to his reputation.

None of this would turn out to be so. Suffering can embitter its victims, but equally it can ennoble the sufferer. In Madiba’s case, the 27 years in jail was not wasted. Firstly it gave him an authority and a credibility difficult to attain in other ways. No one could challenge his credentials. He had proved his commitment, his selflessness through what he had undergone. Secondly, the crucible of excruciating suffering which he had endured purged the dross, the anger, the temptation to any desire for revenge, honing his spirit and transforming him into an icon of magnanimity. He used his enormous moral stature to good effect in persuading his party and many in the black community, especially young people, that accommodation and compromise were the way to achieve our goal of democracy and justice for all.

At talks which the Methodist Church’s leader, Dr. Stanley Mogoba, and I convened, to try to settle the differences between the ANC and Chief Mangosuthu Buthelezi’s Inkatha Freedom Party, Madiba went beyond his mandate to offer Dr. Buthelezi a senior position in the post-apartheid government, even the post of foreign minister. Yet Madiba was no pushover in negotiations: when black South Africans were being massacred during the transition by forces trying to retain the power which apartheid gave them, he could get livid with indignation at the government’s failure to prevent the killing — so much so that once a union leader came to see me, saying he was worried that Madiba’s intransigence would wreck the talks.

When freedom came in 1994 and he became president, instead of baying for the blood of those who had oppressed and ill-treated him and our people, he preached a gospel of forgiveness and reconciliation. He invited his white former jailer to his inauguration. He flew to a remote rural Afrikaner enclave, set aside as a refuge for those who could not stomach black South Africans ruling an undivided country, to meet the widow of the prime minister who was recognised as the architect and high priest of apartheid. He invited to lunch the prosecutor who had sent him to jail. And who in South Africa will ever forget the day at the rugby World Cup in 1995, memorably celebrated in the film, “Invictus,” on which he donned the Springbok rugby jersey of green and gold — formerly despised in the black community as a symbol of apartheid in sport — and inspired the team to victory, with tens of thousands of whites who barely five years earlier had regarded him as a terrorist, chanting in the rugby stadium, “Nelson, Nelson.”

Having set out in prison to learn his enemy in his dealings with his warders, and with a shrewd grasp of human psychology, he realised that Afrikaners were feeling threatened and sore, having lost political power and thinking they would lose even their cherished symbols. In a master-stroke, he had them eating out of his hand, defusing the potential for instability. As president, and afterwards, he worked tirelessly, a prodigal spendthrift as he raised funds for schools and clinics in rural areas. Business leaders would receive an invitation to join him for the day, and he would take them by helicopter to a remote village and ask them to donate money for a school. And he used part of his president’s salary to set up the Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund and later established his foundation for charitable works.

At the end of his first term, Madiba made another contribution of enormous importance to South Africa and the continent: he refused the second term to which the Constitution entitled him, and went into retirement, setting himself apart from those African leaders who don’t seem to know when to leave office.

Madiba had faults. His chief weakness was his loyalty to his comrades and to the party for which he spent nearly three decades in prison. He allowed poorly-performing ministers to stay in office for far too long. He failed to comprehend the scale of the HIV/Aids crisis — although later, after he had left office, he saw he had been wrong. Realising his mistake, he appeared before the leadership of the ANC to try to persuade the party to take the crisis more seriously, and was attacked by his colleagues for doing so.

I disagreed with him a number of times, firstly over his government’s decision to continue to manufacture and trade in weapons and over Parliament’s insensitive decision to grant itself big pay increases soon after coming to power. He attacked me publicly as a populist, but he never tried to shut me up, and we could laugh over our tiffs and remain friends. On one occasion during the proceedings of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, one of our commissioners was accused of being implicated in a case before a commission. Madiba appointed a judicial inquiry to look into the claims and when its report was complete, I had a telephone call from his secretary asking for contact details for the commissioner. I told her that I was upset with the President: as chairperson of the commission, I should know the findings of the inquiry first. Within minutes Madiba personally called back to apologise and acknowledge that he was wrong. People who are insecure and uncertain of themselves find it hard to apologise; Madiba showed his greatness by his willingness to do so quickly and fulsomely.

He was amazing in his selfless altruism for others, recognising — just as did a Mahatma Gandhi or a Dalai Lama — that a true leader exists not for self-aggrandisement but for the sake of those he or she is leading. Sadly, his personal life was marked by tragedy. Sacrificing personal happiness for his people, prison separated him from his beloved wife, Winnie, and his children. He was deeply distressed that while Winnie was being hounded and persecuted by the police, and later became caught up in the machinations of people who surrounded her, he was forced to sit helpless in his cell, unable to intervene. While worrying about Winnie, and grieving for his mother, he lost his eldest son, Thembi, in a road accident.

Soon after his release my wife, Leah, and I invited Nelson and Winnie to our Soweto home for a traditional Xhosa meal. How he adored her: all the while they were with us, he followed her every movement like a doting puppy. Later, when it was clear their marriage was in trouble, I spent some time with him. He was devastated by the breakdown of their relationship — it is no exaggeration to say that he was a broken man after their divorce, and he entered the presidency a lonely figure.

It was all the more wonderful then when he and Graca Machel, the eponymous widow of Mozambique’s founding president, Samora Machel, found love together. Madiba was transformed, as excited as a teenager in love, as she restored his happiness. She was a godsend. He showed a remarkable humility when I criticised him publicly for living with her without benefit of matrimony. Some heads of state would have excoriated me. Not this one. Soon afterwards I received an invitation to his wedding.

The world is a better place for Nelson Mandela. He showed in his own character, and inspired in others, many of God’s attributes: goodness, compassion, a desire for justice, peace, forgiveness and reconciliation. He was not only an amazing gift to humankind, he made South Africans and Africans feel good about being who we are. He made us walk tall. God be praised.

*Desmond Tutu is Anglican Archbishop Emeritus of Cape Town, the 1984 Nobel Peace laureate and, most recently, the recipient of a Mo Ibrahim Foundation Special Award and the 2013 Templeton Prize

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“I cannot fully imagine my own life without the example that Nelson Mandela set”
December 6, 2013 | 0 Comments

– U S President Barack Obama

At his trial in 1964, Nelson Mandela closed his statement from the dock saying, “I have fought against white domination and I have fought against black domination. I’ve 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.”

Nelson Mandela lived for that ideal and he made it real.

He achieved more than could be expected of any man.

Today he’s gone home and we’ve lost one of the most influential, courageous and profoundly good human beings that any of us will share time with on this Earth. He no longer belongs to us; he belongs to the ages. Through his fierce dignity and unbending will to sacrifice his own freedom for the freedom of others, Madiba transformed South Africa and moved all of us. His journey from a prisoner to a president embodied the promise that human beings and countries can change for the better.

His commitment to transfer power and reconcile with those who jailed him set an example that all humanity should aspire to, whether in the lives of nations or in our own personal lives. And the fact that he did it all with grace and good humor and an ability to acknowledge his own imperfections, only makes the man that much more remarkable. As he once said, “I’m not a saint unless you think of a saint as a sinner who keeps on trying.”

I am one of the countless millions who drew inspiration from Nelson Mandela’s life. My very first political action — the first thing I ever did that involved an issue or a policy or politics was a protest against apartheid. I would study his words and his writings. The day he was released from prison it gave me a sense of what human beings can do when they’re guided by their hopes and not by their fears.

And like so many around the globe, 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.

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Mandela Taught a Continent to Forgive
December 6, 2013 | 0 Comments


ACCRA, Ghana — FOR years, it seemed as though only one photograph of Nelson Mandela existed. It showed him with bushy hair, plump cheeks, and a look of serious determination. But it was a black-and-white shot, so grainy it looked ancient — a visual documentation of an era and an individual whose time had long passed.

In the early 1960s, fed up with the systematic oppression and inhumane treatment of indigenous Africans, Mandela successfully proposed a plan of violent tactics and guerrilla warfare, essentially forming the military wing of the African National Congress. Within a few years, this martial division, aptly named Umkhonto we Sizwe or Spear of the Nation, was discovered and its leadership detained. In 1964 Mandela was found guilty of sabotage, and ordered to serve a life sentence.

During his trial, in lieu of testimony, he delivered a speech from the dock. “I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities,” he said. “It is an ideal which I hope to live for and to achieve. But if need be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die.”

I was 5 years old when Nelson Mandela became prisoner number 46664, and was banished to spend the remainder of his years on Robben Island, five square miles of land floating just north of Cape Town. Robben Island had been the site of a colony for lepers, a lunatic asylum and a series of prisons. It was a place of exile, punishment and isolation, a place where people were sent and then forgotten.

But the haunting image in that photograph did not let us forget. In the 1970s, I was a member of the African Youth Command, an activist group that protested against social and political injustices. We idolized Mandela. We hung posters of that photograph in our dormitory rooms; we printed it on pamphlets. We refused to let Mandela fade into irrelevance; we marched, held demonstrations, staged concerts and boycotts, signed petitions and issued press statements. We did everything we could to decry the evils of apartheid and keep his name on people’s tongues. We even burned effigies of John Vorster, Jimmy Kruger and other proponents of that government-sanctioned white supremacy.

Freedom on the African continent was a reality for which we were willing to fight. Nevertheless, I think we’d resigned ourselves to the likelihood that Mandela would remain a prisoner until his death, and South Africans would not experience equality until well after our lifetimes. Then on Feb. 11, 1990, the miraculous happened; Mandela was released.

The world was spellbound. We wondered what we would do if we were in his shoes. We all waited for an indescribable rage, a call for retribution that any reasonable mind would have understood. Twenty-seven years of his life, gone. Day after day of hard labor in a limestone quarry, chipping away at white rock under a bright and merciless sun — without benefit of protective eyewear — had virtually destroyed his tear ducts and, for years, robbed Mandela even of his ability to cry.

Yet, the man insisted on forgiveness. “To go to prison because of your convictions,” he said, “and be prepared to suffer for what you believe in, is something worthwhile. It is an achievement for a man to do his duty on earth irrespective of the consequences.”

By the time I finally came face to face with Nelson Mandela, he had already been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize and elected president of a land in which he and all other black people had previously been refused suffrage. He had become an icon, not only of hope, but also of the possibility for healing.

I was relatively new to politics then, a member of Parliament and minister of communications. It was my first time in Cape Town. I had stayed out late with friends and was waiting to take the lift up to my hotel room. When the doors opened, there was Mandela. I took a step back, and froze. As he exited, Mandela glanced in my direction and nodded. I could not return the gesture. I couldn’t move, not even to blink. I just stood there in awe, thinking: here was the man for whom we had marched, sung and wept; the man from the black-and-white photograph. Here was the man who had created a new moral compass for South Africa and, as a matter of course, the entire continent.

It is no coincidence that in the years since Mandela’s release so much of Africa has turned toward democracy and the rule of law. His utilization of peace as a vehicle of liberation showed Africa that if we were to move beyond the divisiveness caused by colonization, and the pain of our self-inflicted wounds, compassion and forgiveness must play a role in governance. Countries, like people, must acknowledge the trauma they have experienced, and they must find a way to reconcile, to make what was broken whole again.

That night, as I watched Mandela walk past me, I understood that his story, the long walk to freedom, was also Africa’s story. The indignation that once permeated our continent has been replaced by inspiration. The undercurrent of pessimism resulting from the onslaught of maladies — wars, coups, disease, poverty and oppression — has given way to a steadily increasing sense of possibility.

It wasn’t just Nelson Mandela who was transformed during those years of his imprisonment. We all were. And Africa is all the better because of that.

* Source NY Times .John Dramani Mahama is the president of Ghana and the author of the memoir “My First Coup d’État: And Other True Stories From the Lost Decades of Africa.”

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Nelson Mandela passes away — his struggle continues
December 6, 2013 | 0 Comments

By Jerome Roos*

The only appropriate way to honor the legacy of the iconic freedom fighter is not to beatify the man but to take his struggle to its logical conclusion.

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 will live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is an ideal which I hope to live for. But, my lord, if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die.

~ Nelson Mandela during his 1964 Rivonia Trial


A man of great moral fortitude has left the world. Many millions around the globe will mourn the loss of the legendary freedom fighter and South Africa’s first democratically elected and black president. After a protracted battle with lung illness, and a long and tumultuous life that led from tribal royalty to armed struggle and, after 27 years of political imprisonment, to an overwhelming victory in the country’s first racially inclusive democratic elections, Father Madiba — as the former President was affectionately known by his people — is finally at rest. He will now stand beside Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr. in the pantheon of iconic freedom fighters.

Sadly, though, Mandela’s country remains torn apart by grinding poverty, rampant inequality, murderous crime, a deadly AIDS epidemic, pervasive political corruption, and a resurgence of brutal state oppression. The story of post-apartheid South Africa, and the mixed legacy of Mandela’s heroic struggle for freedom, must certainly qualify as one of the most authentic tragedies in modern history. As I wrote in a lengthy essay during a visit to Johannesburg last month, a pernicious form of socio-economic apartheid continues to segregate the country into two polar extremes. The newfound vanities of the emerging interracial upper class are mirrored only by the nauseating proliferation of slums on the outskirts of the cities. Apart from the right to vote, not much has changed for the average black South African.

Today, 47% of South Africans live in poverty, more than in 1994 when Mandela came to power and made his “unbreakable promise” to eradicate poverty and secure “housing for all”. Two decades later, the amount of South Africans living in slums has doubled. Unemployment formally stands at 25 percent, but the rate goes up to 50 percent for young black men. The reproduction of socio-economic segregation and old-fashioned forms of state oppression continue unabated. Last year’s Marikana massacre saw 34 striking mineworkers murdered by police, with several unarmed men summarily executed at close range while lying face-down in the dust. Violent evictions surrounded the preparations for the 2010 World Cup, and townships around the country continue being razed to the ground to make way for shopping malls and industry, or simply to clear “illegal settlements” from the unused property of wealthy landowners.

Meanwhile, the ANC leadership has become a thoroughly corrupt super-elite extracting maximum privilege from the country’s effective one-party regime while displaying glaring disregard for the plight of the people. Mandela’s successor, Thabo Mbeki, chose to blatantly ignore the country’s HIV/AIDS epidemic (his Minister of Health infamously claimed that a diet of garlic and beetroot would help cure the disease). When current President Jacob Zuma was charged with the rape of an HIV infected woman, his only response was that there was no problem, since he took a shower afterwards to decrease the risk of infection. The ANC’s former firebrand youth leader, Julius Malema, who now leads his own populist party, built himself a R16 million palace and faces various charges of corruption, fraud and money laundering.

Back in his 1964 Rivonia trial, in which he was sentenced to life in jail, Mandela famously iterated that he fought not only against white domination, but equally strongly against black domination. Today, it is clear that Madiba’s long and arduous struggle is far from over. As a young shackdweller put it in the award-winning documentary Dear Mandela, “what he has been jailed for has never been achieved.” Now that the legend has passed away and his liberation movement has caved in to its own short-sighted desire for state power and material riches, new freedom fighters are emerging on the scene — in the form of autonomous movements like Abahlali baseMjondolo and the Mandela Park Backyarders — who, fighting to defend the livelihoods of poor South Africans, stress their independence from political parties and instead seek to enact directdemocracy in their everyday struggle for survival, dignity and liberation.

While Mandela’s symbolic leadership helped unite a country that teetered on the brink of racial violence or even civil war, a new form of political activism will be needed to help South Africa emerge from the deep-rooted socio-economic divisions and widespread political abuse that still persist. The Mandelas of the future will be faceless and plural; they will be nameless multitudes of disaffected poor people — those who grew up in the Rainbow Nation and have learned as much from Mandela’s unrivaled moral fortitude as from the many mistakes he made on his long march to freedom, not least his embrace of a neoliberal economic policy framework. Today’s liberation movements are here to remind us that the only appropriate way to honor Nelson Mandela’s legacy is not to beatify the man but to take his struggle to its logical conclusion.

Rest in peace, Madiba, your sacrifices were an inspiration to us all.

*Source ROAR Magazine

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The passing of a global icon
December 6, 2013 | 0 Comments

South Africa’s first black President Nelson Mandela dies after battling chronic lung infection for months.


A film about an icon, but is it an iconic film?

A film about an icon, but is it an iconic film?

Former South African President Nelson Mandela died peacefully at his Johannesburg home on Thursday after a prolonged lung infection. He was 95.

Mandela, the country’s first black president and anti-apartheid icon, emerged from 27 years in apartheid prisons to help guide South Africa out of bloodshed and turmoil to democracy.

“Our people have lost a father. Although we knew this day was going to 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, passion and humanity, earned him their love,” he added.

“Fellow South Africans, our beloved Nelson Rohlihlahla Mandela, the founding president of our democratic nation, has departed,” President Jacob Zuma said in a nationally televised address.

Mandela would receive a full state funeral, Zuma said, ordering flags to be flown at half mast.

Al Jazeera’s Tania Page, reporting from outside Mandela’s home in Johannesburg, said that there was a real sense of celebration in tribute to Mandela’s life there, while world leaders were also delivering theirtributes .

Speaking to Al Jazeera from outside the former leader’s Mandela’s house, where people of various races were singing songs dedicated to the former leader, local journalist Kenichi Serino said that there were around a thousand people gathered there.

“There is a total mix of people. There are Indian people, black people, guys with dreadlocks…  anyone with a car is here. It’s a cross-section of groups. There are lots of South African flags.”

He said that the atmosphere was a mixture of a sombre and festive mood.

“People are also taking pictures of themselves here, so as to capture the moment of them being here as well.”

Al Jazeera’s Haru Mutasa, reporting from Soweto, where Mandela once lived, said radio stations were telling people that “once you wake up go to Vilakazi street”, famous for its place in the struggle against apartheid.

“The mood is basically one of celebrations … I think people know that he achieved a lot for his country. Yes, he was not perfect. He was, afterall, human but he was the man of the people,” she said.

Speaking to Al Jazeera on Thursday night, local resident Mbuso Mwandla, said that about a hundred leading African National Congress party comrades in Vilakazi street were chanting and marching in the streets. He said that the rest of Soweto remained quiet with people still waking up to the news.

Respected figure

Mandela rose from rural obscurity to challenge the might of white minority apartheid government – a struggle that gave the twentieth century one of its most respected and loved figures.

He was among the first to advocate armed resistance to apartheid in 1960, but was quick to preach reconciliation and forgiveness when the country’s white minority began easing its grip on power 30 years later.

Mandela was elected president in landmark all-race elections in 1994 and retired in 1999.

He was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1993, an honour he shared with FW de Klerk, the white Afrikaner leader who released from jail arguably the world’s most famous political prisoner.

“A great light has gone out in the world. Nelson Mandela was a hero of our time,” de Klerk told CNN. “He was a great unifier and a very, very special man in this regard beyond everything else he did. This emphasis on reconciliation was his biggest legacy.”

As president, Mandela faced the monumental task of forging a new nation from the deep racial injustices left over from the apartheid era, making reconciliation the theme of his time in office.

Hallmark of mission

The hallmark of Mandela’s mission was the Truth and Reconciliation Commission which probed apartheid crimes on both sides of the struggle and tried to heal the country’s wounds.

It also provided a model for other countries torn by civil strife.

In 1999, Mandela handed over power to younger leaders better equipped to manage a modern economy – a rare voluntary departure from power cited as an example to African leaders.

In retirement, he shifted his energies to battling South Africa’s AIDS crisis and the struggle became personal when he lost his only surviving son to the disease in 2005.

images (1)Mandela’s last major appearance on the global stage came in 2010 when he attended the championship match of the soccer World Cup, where he received a thunderous ovation from the 90,000 at the stadium in Soweto, the neighbourhood in which he cut his teeth as a resistance leader.

Charged with capital offences in the infamous 1963 Rivonia Trial, his statement from the dock was his political testimony.

“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.”

Mandela’s passing comes ahead of the country’s fifth election, and at a time when the country is battling challenges, both political and economic.

Ayesha Kajee, political analyst, told Al Jazeera that as South Africa and the world grieves “we need to recognise that, in order to truly honour [Mandela’s] legacy, and that of the countless unnamed heroes who sacrificed so much for our freedoms, we must take great care to not trample on the rights of our fellows, nor to squander our own rights in pursuit of the ephemeral.”

Mandela is survived by three daughters, 18 grandchildren, nine great-grandchildren and three step-grandchildren. He had four step-children through his marriage to Machel.

His death has left his family divided over his wealth. Some of his children and grandchildren are locked in a legal feud with his close friends.

*Source Al Jazeera

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Mandela’s legacy: peace, but poverty for many blacks
December 6, 2013 | 0 Comments


Nelson Mandela waves from the stage with British Prime Minister Tony Blair (L) and South African High Commissioner Cheryl Carolus at Trafalgar Square during the South African democracy concert, in this April 29, 2001 file photo. CREDIT: REUTERS/FILES

Nelson Mandela waves from the stage with British Prime Minister Tony Blair (L) and South African High Commissioner Cheryl Carolus at Trafalgar Square during the South African democracy concert, in this April 29, 2001 file photo.

In the 10 years after he withdrew from public life, Nelson Mandela divided his time between a mansion in one of Johannesburg’s wealthiest suburbs and his ancestral home in Qunu, a village in South Africa’s impoverished eastern Cape.

The contrast could not have been starker.

In one, his neighbors were cast in the image of the white “Rand Lords”, the mining magnates and bankers who built the sprawling city – and Africa’s biggest economy – from the vast gold reserves in the rock beneath their feet.

In the other, they were black peasant farmers living in thatched “rondavel” huts and eking out a living on windswept hillsides in scenes that have hardly changed in centuries, let alone the two decades since the end of apartheid.

While few query Mandela’s achievement in dragging South Africa back from the brink of civil war in the early 1990s and brokering a peaceful end to three centuries of white dominance, tougher questions are being asked of the country he leaves behind.

Despite more than 10 years of affirmative action to redress the balance under the banner of “black economic empowerment”, South Africa remains one of the world’s most unequal societies and whites still control huge swathes of the economy.

In the words of leading trade unionist Zwelinzima Vavi, its structure is akin to an Irish coffee – black at the bottom, with some white froth and a sprinkling of chocolate on the top.

On average, a white household earns six times more than a black one, and nearly one in three blacks is unemployed, compared with one in 20 whites.

Such ratios are fodder for critics of the 1994 settlement that brought the curtain down on nearly half a century of institutionalized white-minority rule and saw Mandela anointed South Africa’s first black president.

The numbers also support the anecdotal evidence from wealthy urban neighborhoods – including Mandela’s Houghton – where, 19 years after the birth of his “Rainbow Nation”, most of the black people to be seen are housemaids, security guards or gardeners.

“Mandela has gone a bit too far in doing good to the non-black communities, really in some cases at the expense of (blacks),” Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe said in a documentary aired on South African television in May 2013.

“That’s being too saintly, too good.”


The defenders of Mandela’s settlement note that Mugabe’s violent seizure of white-owned farms in neighboring Zimbabwe from 2000 triggered an eight-year economic collapse and confirmed his fall in the eyes of outsiders from respected liberation hero to international pariah.

Yet his criticism of Mandela finds echoes in some corners of the African National Congress (ANC), the 101-year-old liberation movement that joined forces with the unions and the Communist Party to topple apartheid.

In a 2010 interview with the wife of British author V.S. Naipaul, the anti-apartheid firebrand and “Mother of the Nation” Winnie Madikizela-Mandela accused her former husband of selling out after being broken by his 27 years in apartheid prisons.

“Mandela did go to prison and he went in there as a burning young revolutionary. But look what came out,” she was quoted as saying.

“Mandela let us down. He agreed to a bad deal for the blacks. Economically, we are still on the outside. The economy is very much ‘white’. It has a few token blacks, but so many who gave their life in the struggle have died unrewarded.”

Even among academics, there is broad acceptance that in its sparring with then-president FW de Klerk in the early 1990s, the ANC under Mandela, a self-confessed economic novice, focused too much on the quest for political rather than economic power.

In less polite terms, the ANC’s stance translated into a quip popular at the dinner parties of wealthy whites: “We’ll give them the vote but keep the banks.”

William Gumede, a professor at Wits Business School in Johannesburg, said it was wrong to argue that Mandela sold out.

“However, the economic negotiations were not as robust as the political ones,” he said.

“There was a glib acceptance among most in the ANC that all they needed to do was capture political power, and then they could transform the economy. It was a simplistic argument, and it was also the Mandela argument.”

South Africa and the world watched in awe when, on February 11, 1990, Mandela left Cape Town’s Victor Verster prison and raised his fist in salute to the crowds as he stepped out on his and the nation’s “Long Walk to Freedom” – the title of his subsequent autobiography.

The start of a momentous political transition, it was also a key moment in the evolution of a cult of Mandela both at home and abroad.


In 1993, he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, jointly with de Klerk, and in 1995 he won over all but the most diehard right-wingers as he saluted the overwhelmingly white Springbok side that won the Rugby World Cup in Johannesburg.

He is immortalized in a stained glass window in Soweto’s giant Regina Mundi church; statues of him dancing, boxing or raising his fist are dotted across the country; and in 2012 the central bank issued a set of bank notes bearing his face.

The announcement about the notes came on February 11, the 22nd anniversary of his release from prison.

In such an atmosphere, it was perhaps inevitable that some episodes of his single five-year term as president are glossed over.

His close personal friendship with Libyan leader Colonel Muammar Gaddafi drew criticism – and a fierce rebuttal from Mandela, who said: “Those who feel irritated by our friendship with President Gaddafi can go jump in the pool.”

The 2010 “blood diamonds” testimony of British supermodel Naomi Campbell at a Hague war crimes tribunal also shone an uncomfortable light on a dinner Mandela hosted in 1997 for Liberian warlord Charles Taylor, whose presence at the table called into question South Africa’s ‘ethical’ foreign policy.

Then there is the infamous ‘Arms Deal’, a $5 billion defense equipment contract that erupted into a massive scandal for Mandela’s successor, Thabo Mbeki, and remains the defining episode in the ANC’s slide from post-apartheid grace.

Amid fierce criticism of Mbeki and the current president, Jacob Zuma, also embroiled in the furor, many South Africans have chosen to forget that the deal was first announced in 1998, when Mandela was still in office.

On the streets of the sprawling black township of Soweto, where police and disgruntled unemployed youngsters still face off in sporadic, violent protests over poor housing and public services, there are plenty who do not buy the Mandela myth.

“Mandela kept on saying: ‘I am here for the people, I am the servant of the nation.’ What did he do? He signed papers that allowed white people to keep the mines and the farms,” said 49-year-old Majozi Pilane, who runs a roadside stall selling sweets and cigarettes.

“He did absolutely nothing for all the poor people of this country.”

*Source Reuters

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President Mandela’s name is cast on the echelons of history
December 6, 2013 | 0 Comments

-Uhuru Kenyatta

It is with profound sorrow that I have learnt of the passing away of ‘Shujaa’ Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela, former President of the Republic of South Africa and an outstanding African statesman and icon.

On behalf of the Government and people of the Republic of Kenya and on my own behalf, I wish to express our deepest condolences to the family and friends of the late Mandela and to the people of the Republic of South Africa.

I have dispatched messages of my heartfelt sympathy to His Excellency President Jacob Zuma, and to Mama Graca Machel. We share the pain of this irreplaceable loss and mourn with our South African brothers and sisters. Our prayers are with them at this moment of national grief.

President Nelson Mandela was an exceptional transformational leader who was gifted with unique, admirable abilities and strong values. He believed in the noble principles of equity, justice, cohesiveness and inclusiveness in governance. He had faith and confidence in the ability of his people to realize the dream of a free, united and prosperous South Africa.

Mandela lived and worked for a world in which people should live together in peace and tranquility regardless of colour, race or religion. His strong belief in Africa and its people epitomized the best of the Pan-Africanism spirit. His courage to confront apartheid transcended across the world and propelled the fight against colonialism and discrimination. As a free man, President Mandela led the fight to free Africa not only from political bondage but equally important from the scourge of disease, poverty, poor governance and illiteracy — ills of modern life.

President Nelson Mandela embodied the power of hope; and believed in the power of forgiveness. He bequeathed us the understanding that we can and should unconditionally forgive those who wrong us. He was a firm believer that reconciliation is an imperative and is possible.

His life story teaches the great lesson of the power of will in turning adversity to victory. In his humility President Mandela did what was right, made tremendous sacrifices and did not seek any form of personal praise. In short, President Mandela’s name is cast on the echelons of history. His image and standing among all men will forever stand tall. Madiba’s story defined and reflected the history and struggles of our continent. In President Mandela, we learn never to backtrack in our journey to chart our destiny. We have the responsibility of living by the ideals that he stood for.

Only the truly exceptional people leave their mark in the world and Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela was one of those. Madiba was a child and traditional chief of the Transkei and a leader in this world.

We will miss this most cherished of Africa’s sons, a true African “shujaa”.

President Nelson Mandela lived an extraordinary life in an ordinary way. His legacy encrypts the story of humanity, now and tomorrow.

South Africa, Africa and the whole world is a witness of Madiba’s goodwill.

Fare thee well, Tata Madiba!

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“A Life At the service of his people and humanity”
December 6, 2013 | 0 Comments

-Ban Ki Moon

images (3)Nelson Mandela was a singular figure on the global stage — a man of quiet dignity and towering achievement, a giant for justice and a down-to-earth human inspiration.

I am profoundly saddened by his passing.  On behalf of the United Nations, I extend my deepest condolences to the people of South Africa and especially to Nelson Mandela’s family and loved ones.

Many around the world were greatly influenced by his selfless struggle for human dignity, equality and freedom.  He touched our lives in deeply personal ways.  At the same time, no one did more in our time to advance the values and aspirations of the United Nations.

Nelson Mandela devoted his life to the service of his people and humanity, and he did so at great personal sacrifice.  His principled stance and the moral force that underpinned it were decisive in dismantling the system of apartheid.

Remarkably, he emerged from 27 years of detention without rancor, determined to build a new South Africa based on dialogue and understanding. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission established under his leadership remains a model for achieving justice in societies confronting a legacy of human rights abuses.

In the decades-long fight against apartheid, the United Nations stood side-by-side with Nelson Mandela and all those in South Africa who faced unrelenting racism and discrimination. His 1994 address to the General Assembly as the first democratically elected President of a free South Africa was a defining moment. The Assembly has declared 18 July, his birthday, “Nelson Mandela International Day”, an annual observance on which we recognize and seek to build on his contributions to promoting a culture of peace and freedom around the world.

download (3)I was privileged to meet Nelson Mandela in 2009.  When I thanked him for his life’s work, he insisted the credit belonged to others.  I was very moved by his selflessness and deep sense of shared purpose.

Nelson Mandela showed what is possible for our world and within each one of us — if we believe, dream and work together.

Let us continue each day to be inspired by his lifelong example and his call to never cease working for a better and more just world.


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