The World has seen Men and Leaders but Nelson Mandela is a type. It is indeed true that some of the worst leaders the World has known come from Africa and generally when the World wants to give examples of bad political leadership, they go quickly to Africa. From the Mobutus to the the Idi Amins; from the Muamar Ghadafis to the Abachas, Africa is replete with poor leadership, especially in the political arena.

But thank God that Africa, black Africa that is, has produced to my mind the greatest Leader of Modern History ( if you prefer one of the greatest, I hold no grudge). Nelson Mandela born 95 years ago on July 18, 1918, died this Thursday December 4, 2013 and the World lost a man, a leader in the truest sense. He was educated and comfortable, a lawyer, but chose to devote his life to fighting for freedom and went to jail for 27 years(1964-1990) to achieve his vision for his native South Africa. What was more, when he was released he decided to forgive his jailers, preached reconciliation and united his severely divided Country that had suffered the worst type of racial discrimination in human history. He was elected the first black President of a free South Africa in 1994.He opted to serve for only one term and retired to serve as a national icon, a symbol of unity and strength for South Africa, Africa and the free World. Mandela is a study in true leadership.


When Mandella was jailed on June 12 ( remember this date?), 1964, he made a remarkable statement which I paraphrase as follows " I have fought against White domination, I have fought against black domination. I am committed to achieving a South Africa where freedom for all in the country is assured. I will pursue this ideal and will do whatever it will take to achieve it and if it will require my life, I am prepared to die". Nelson Mandela espoused a vision of a free south Africa, where all men will be free and where each man's vote will carry the same weight as any other- white, black or coloured. He kept his focus on the vision despite all the physical deprivations and suffering. Indeed he prepared himself for that day .He achieved this vision in 1994 when he won a massive victory on the platform of ANC with the demise of the obnoxious apartheid regime.


To the best of my knowledge, MADIBA showed the World, that it was possible to imitate the ideals of Jesus Christ. That of self sacrifice. Extreme self sacrifice. He was prepared to die for the freedom of his fellow South Africans. Actually he was to die. His sentence was to be death sentence which was commuted to life imprisonment. When he regained his freedom and became the first black President of a free and democratic South Africa, he sought nothing for himself. He lived a simple life relating with and treating all South Africans as equals. He even gave up his right to do a second term as President.Relate that with the Mugabes,Musevenis and the Jerry Rawlings who believe that they have the right to rule their Nations for ever because they helped 'liberate' their countries from their fellow predator leaders.


This man was an epitome of courage. He was not afraid to speak the truth and to stand up against oppression and Man's inhumanity to Man. When the need arose, he burnt his pass card publicly and took up alms and when it was time to pay the penalty for resisting evil, he did not flinch. He went to jail defiantly and never cowed. His spirit was unbowed and unbroken for 27 years in jail. When the day came, he worked out tall. What a display of fearlessness and courage.


Except Jesus Christ, I had never seen a man show such magnanimity in victory as Nelson Mandela did. After suffering for many years in the hands of the white Afrikaner minority who had political and military power,27 of which were spent in jail in Roben Island,You would expect a bitter man emerge from that situation, but he freely forgave his tormentors and did nothing to extract revenge or seek restitution. He asked for freedom for all, including those who denied him freedom. His jailers sat with his family on the front seat on the day of his inauguration as the first Black President. Rather than institute Judicial commissions of Enquiry and charge many with murder and gross abuse of human rights, he set up a truth and reconciliation commission. It was like Jesus Christ asking God to forgive His tormentors and crucifers, just as Saint Stephen did later instead of calling for 'Holy Ghost Fire'. He refused to Lead the ANC and quickly relinquished political power. What magnanimity!


Nelson Mandela was an epitome of compassion and grace. He was compassionate to the poor and the voiceless. He felt the pain of his people and when the opportunity came, he was compassionate and gracious to all South Africans. He used his enormous global goodwill to garner help for the poor, the deprived and the disadvantaged. He spent most of his life after leaving office in 1999 setting up foundations and pursuing good causes and global peace.


MADIBA was a wonderful ORGANIZER and team leader. He organised a powerful resistance to apartheid and developed a most cohesive team that fought the battles. He went to jail with some of his team members like Walter Sisulu and Tokyo Sexwale. He retained their loyalty even in jail. His charisma was so magnetic that even those who were not in jail like Zuma and....( who eventually succeeded him as President)Kept the resistance and took orders from Mandela even from jail. He had a vision, recruited a team to whom he sold the vision and designed a strategy that they pursued for over 30 years to achieve their vision. When he came out from Prison, he quickly rallied the ANC to a momentous victory in the Democratic elections of 1994. When he left the political space in1999 he arranged a peaceful succession. What great organisational skills!


Mandela was exceptionally humble and came to serve rather than being served. All through his life he exhibited the best characters of a servant leader, gentle, caring, loyal to his team and led from the front. He never asked anybody to do what he would not do. He derived the greatest joy by seeing his people free and joyful even at his own peril and expense. He was a great motivator and mentor to his team. Here again Nelson Mandela modelled the leadership quality exhibited by Jesus Christ.


The greatest leadership deficit of most African Political leaders is not walking the talk. Many can preach, but most are hypocrites. Because they want power by all means, they are willing to cheat, lie and steal and even kill. Though Mandela said he was no saint but I believe he was or must have been closest to being one. We are told that by their fruits we shall know them. Mandela was noble in character, extraordinarily honest and displayed the highest level of integrity.He loved his people, fought for them, indeed literally sacrificed him self and brought freedom and honour to his Nation. Such a metaphor for true leadership!


How I wish that we can have many more leaders in Africa and indeed in the World who are like Mandela. They may not need to fight battles against apartheid or against colonial oppressors. They do not have to go to jails or be sent on exile. All we require are leaders who love their people and who are ready to work for them exclusively, not just for their friends, cliques, ethnic or tribal groups. We need leaders who are humble and honest, leaders who want nothing for themselves and who are self sacrificing, men and women who are visionary and can design strategies that can achieve their vision. We need leaders of Noble Character, who want nothing for themselves but who end up getting the best of all for themselves- the love and eternal gratitude of their people. Leaders who will leave behind monumental and immortal legacies - just like Nelson MADIBA "troublemaker" Mandela, whom I believe must be with the Lord now. God, please send us more Mandelas!

Mazi Sam Ohuabunwa OFR


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