|Children with placards bearing the face of Nelson Mandela and his clan name “Madiba”, march to celebrate his life, in the street outside his old house in Soweto, Johannesburg, South Africa, Friday. [PHOTO: AP]|
By DANIEL WESANGULA AND AGENCIES
NAIROBI, KENYA: As the world continues to mourn his departure, Nelson Mandela has left behind a legacy that will be hard to match by any current or future leader.
After his 27-year prison stint, he walked out a free man devoid of hate and vengeance to those who had caused him, his family and his beliefs unimaginable pain and suffering.
Addressing hundreds of thousands after his release, he reminded his followers of the importance of an all inclusive South Africa in which anyone, regardless of colour, could not only dream of prosperity, but also prosper. As he wound up the speech, he reminded the crowd of his own words at his sentencing in 1964:
“I have fought against white domination and I have fought against black domination. I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. 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.”
With these words he began the long road to reconciliation that created the Rainbow Nation that the world knows of today. Of this selflessness, his friend and confidant Bishop Desmond Tutu said on Friday:
“He taught us extraordinary practical lessons on forgiveness. Who will ever forget how Ellis park erupted on the day of the finals as Madiba walked out wearing the springbok jersey with no 6 on the back, the captain’s number,” Tutu said.
At the time rugby was, almost to the man, considered to be a white man’s sport. There were even calls to rename the South African national team, to get rid of the Springbok name. The captain, whose jersey Mandela wore was white.
His release coincided with an increase in infection rates of HIV/AIDS throughout the continent. However despite what science showed, many African leaders were reluctant to tackle this issue as it touched on the rather taboo subject of sex. In spite of this, Mandela spoke out on HIV/AIDS and publicly acknowledged it as a problem within his young republic.
After his retirement in 1999 he campaigned for more research into HIV/AIDS, for education about safe sex and for better treatment for those affected. However, most South Africans still did not mention the disease in public.
On World Aids Day in 2000, he sent out a hard-hitting message, saying:
“Our country is facing a disaster of immeasurable proportions from HIV/AIDS. We are facing a silent and invisible enemy that is threatening the very fabric of our society.
“Be faithful to one partner and use a condom... Give a child love, laughter and peace, not Aids.”
His son, Mokgatho was to later on, in 2005, die from HIV/AIDS related complications.
Madiba will also be remembered for belonging to the ever-dwindling number of African leaders who willingly stepped down from his powerful position of president to let a younger man take over the reigns. This he did in spite of the fact he was still hugely popular at the time.