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Mandela is an icon who encapsulated true leadership

By Ido Lekota - Political Notebook | 2011-01-06 08:17:00.0 | COMMENTS [ 12 ]

WHEN Nelson Mandela retired from public life about six years ago, he jokingly said: "Don't call me, I will call you," and his wishes were respected.

Though we did not call him, his larger-than-life persona continues to loom large over our democracy and the country's political landscape.

Delivering his first public speech as a free man at a rally in Cape Town on February 11 1990, Mandela said: "I greet you all in the name of peace, democracy and freedom for all. I stand here before you not as a prophet but as a humble servant of you the people. Your tireless and heroic sacrifices have made it possible for me to be here today. I therefore place the remaining years of my life in your hands."

You might wonder what has given rise to these reflections.

This week I was interviewed by journalists from French television station 1Tele. They asked me what Mandela meant to South Africa.

What came to my mind was the humility and selflessness carried in the message he delivered to those who came out in droves to listen to his maiden public speech.

Mandela, I explained, was a leader with an innate ability to make the right estimate of himself.

Despite being held in high esteem for his commitment to the freedom of his people, he did not have any sense of self-importance.

I also reminded the journalists of Mandela's commitment to reconciliation. This he showed without undermining the experiences of those who bore the brunt of racism in apartheid South Africa.

It was, after all, Mandela who said: "True reconciliation does not consist merely in forgetting the past."

His understanding of reconciliation was that those who were seen as either perpetrators or beneficiaries of apartheid should also come to the party and help build a new united nation.

What also came to my mind was that Mandela also endeared himself to South Africa by deciding to step down after serving only one presidential term.

In doing so he lived up to the dictum: "Great leaders gain authority by giving it away."

These, I explained, were the things that made South Africans see Mandela as an icon who encapsulated what it meant to be a true leader.

The next question I was asked was how I, as a South African, felt about the future of South Africa after Mandela. My response was that I am proud of what South Africa has achieved in the past 15 years of democracy.

I pointed out that under Mandela South Africa was put on the route to democracy, but what the country has since achieved was to put in place institutions that would make it possible for democracy to thrive.

These were created in the spirit of our Constitution that enshrines the basic tenets of democracy including a culture of human rights, political freedom and freedom of expression.

Also enshrined in the Constitution is a separation of powers in government as well as the independence of the judiciary.

It is the creation of institutions like the South African Human Rights Commission, the Equality Court, the Gender Commission and the Public Protector that make me feel optimistic about our democracy.

Having said so, I pointed out that what remains our national duty as South Africans was to ensure that those with political clout - by virtue of their office - should not be allowed to undermine these institutions.

It was also incumbent on the government to ensure that those who try to use their political power or office to undermine these institutions should face the full wrath of the law.

It was in that spirit that the media had raised concerns about, for example, the defiance displayed by ANC Youth leader Julius Malema against the Equality Court's ruling that he should pay a R50000 fine for the sexist utterances he made against the woman who lodged rape charges against President Jacob Zuma.

In the same way, the media had condemned the recent unlawful arrest of Sowetan journalists.

What the interview with the French journalists did was to make me realise the reality that South Africa has made major strides towards becoming a truly democratic society.

It also made me realise that the ability to abort this noble achievement by leaders such as Mandela lies in our hands.


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He was a real leader indeed. When a court of law found against him in the case that involved Louis Luydt, he did not accuse the court of having a conspiracy against him and he did not attend the court proceedigs with busloads of rude supporters to ridicule the judges, he accepted the court's decision. In my opinion, all the South African presidents after Mr. Mandela have fallen way below the standard he set for good governance, honesty, transparency, commitment to the fight against corruption etc. I have not lost my hope though, Mr. Motlhanthe might bring back the glory days of our politics should he become the President of the ANC and the country.

2011-01-06 11:27:01.0 | 0 replies

@Eric: Not worth commenting on.
@jamangile: You really lack the ability to reason and debate; thanks God that you were never chosen to lead South Africans to real freedom it would have been a total fu@kup. Travel east brother and don't look back.

2011-07-05 04:57:16.0 | 0 replies

"What a load of unadulterated bullsh!t!!" To this end I agree with Eric above. Mandela BETRAYED a nobel cause for Freedom and Justice for the dispossed majority of Black People in this country.

I also cannot agree more with Eric when he states that: "The guilt-ridden, self-loathing liberal white retards of the West turned him into "a world icon". Except, I would add that Mandela was turned into a "world icon" with the assistance of our local white liberals and and white capital - the latter in particular ensured that Mandela and the ANC will safeguard its interests - it is as simple as that. The vast majority of Black people will wallow in squalor, misery, ignorance, want and disease until "Jesus comes" for as long as journalists like Ido Lekota are hell-bent in perpetuating a myth of Mandela the saviour instead of "speaking truth to power".

2011-01-21 07:35:11.0 | 0 replies

A true leader of all an icon of all a legend of all times.

@eric u r a terorrist your mind is terrorised by your terorrist thinking like the americans after a decade Tata was released from prison but they only removed his name from their terorrist list in 2009 ( i stand to be corrected) because they classified him as a terorrist so ERIC should go to USA we dont need his terorrised mind here

2011-01-13 12:46:33.0 | 0 replies

Just imagine what could happen more of us could lift ourselves to the level of thinking of Madiba. One of Einstein’s sayings “You can’t solve problems on the same level of thinking that it has been created” is so true for this remarkable man. Eric the only thing I can say to you – you are part of a group of people that are quickly becoming extinct. Change your racist thinking and become part of the solution for SA!

2011-01-11 09:19:21.0 | 0 replies

That old man really gave his life to this country, The least we should do to repay him for his sacrifices is to continue building this democracy and peace.

@Eric You are either very ignorant, very stupid, a joke or all of the above.

2011-01-10 12:13:03.0 | 0 replies

I bet Eric is Tereblancj's ( do care abt spelling it correctly ) grandson - u r a hater hater bro whether u like it or not he is an Icon

2011-01-10 08:43:45.0 | 0 replies

@ Eric,

Food for thought your mind can nibble on........If Mandela were a terrorist, why did he choose the path of reconciliation and peace when he took over power after spending most of his fruitful adult life detained like a dog in a kennel at Robben Island? Dont you think he may have taken a vengeful path and displayed terrorist tendencies in the mould of Mugabe, Osama and the rest?

Lets not try and re-write history........The man is an icon, an inspiration, a living legend. He served for one term and set off into the sun-set...albeit being an 'African President'. Look further North in Africa and you will see the he Mugabe's, Gbagbo's etc and which path RSA would have taken and he been a ''terrorist''..............

Methinks you should google and re-boot your mind with what and who Madiba actually was, is and always will be............

2011-01-07 08:30:50.0 | 0 replies


2011-01-06 16:40:54.0 | 0 replies

Eric - you are not even fit to kiss the dust off his shoes

2011-01-06 12:34:49.0 | 0 replies

What a load of unadulterated bullsh!t!! Mandela was a TERRORIST in every sense of the word. Finish en klaar.

The guilt-ridden, self-loathing liberal white retards of the West turned him into "a world icon".

2011-01-06 12:05:25.0 | 0 replies