Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela is no more. He died on 5th December, 2013, at the ripe old age of ninety-five. Another leader of world ranking, whom the world loved and admired is no more. Not merely a leader but a patron of sports, a statesman, and an individual who had achieved the aspirations of his people. The aspiration in this case was freedom from an oppressive rule by the formerly racist regime in South Africa (SA).
We saw an interview with the captain of the SA rugby team, a white man. He talks of how Mandela, also called Madiba – a Xhoso clan (his clan) name which mean “father” – was instrumental in promoting his sport and was also protective of the cultural diversity of the country. Without him white South Africans could have been the target of rampaging mobs as seen in his neighbouring country Zimbabwe. He was a pacifist and one who believed in human values and therefore eschewed any feelings of revenge. It paid off well, too, because SA gained from this policy of tolerance and democracy. Our cricket team which is in SA should pay homage to this leader who displayed a more than normal interest in the game.
Altogether he spent 27 years in jail fighting for his cause. His cell wasn’t very luxurious and he slept on the floor (we saw this on the BBC), sometimes wracked with fever. The long incarceration must have taken a big toll on his health but he remained cheerful till the very end. Yet, he suffered all this because he knew his dream would one day come true. Under him the African National Congress (ANC) became a multi-ethnic and tolerant organization. He also built up an impeccable hierarchy of leaders who are leading the country now.
Admittedly, Madiba was the father figure whose word was still held in high esteem. He could have remained President but preferred to pass the baton to younger men. After all, he didn’t believe – unlike Indian leaders – in dynastic rule. Now how the SA political narrative unfolds – in the post-Mandela scenario – no one knows. There is still poverty in the slums and ghettos and immense unrest. There is also violence. How the country will deal with these problems will unravel only in the coming months.
Meanwhile, here’s raising a hand to salute the father, the Madiba, who led a people to freedom from his jail cell.