Sat Oct 22 21:53:00 CAT 2016

Let us celebrate Madiba's gift to humanity

By unknown | Jul 16, 2008 | COMMENTS [ 0 ]

Around this time last year, the staff of the 2010 World Cup Organising Committee were working frantically to prepare for the Nelson Mandela 89th Birthday international football event.

The great Pele was going to be there, as were the much adored Lucas Radebe and Doctor Khumalo, and African footballer of the year Samuel Et'to.

The day came and Cape Town was abuzz with excitement and of course we managed to fill the Newlands Stadium.

Madiba could not attend but did send a videotaped message.

At the end of it all, Ruud Gullit and company had provided us with great entertainment and we were all happy and high-fives were exchanged throughout our offices. The event was sanctioned by Fifa and jointly delivered by the Organising Committee and the Federation.

As the old man approaches yet another milestone in his remarkable life filled with so much life-changing drama and inspiring achievement the world is once again expressing its appreciation of this human being who miraculously touches the hearts of those who aspire for a better human condition.

Let me state the obvious, Madiba is a great man simply because he is a great human being, period.

I have been reflecting on the phenomenon of Nelson Mandela over the past couple of weeks and on how lucky I am to have met and somehow known this great icon.

What went through my mind were the several roles of his life that I got exposed to.

Firstly, like so many of us, I got to know about the mysterious Mandela when I was still a student and he was in prison.

Then I read a compilation of his speeches, No Easy Walk to Freedom, years before his release and I was gobsmacked at the predictions the man had made about the uprisings then sweeping the country.

Decades before Mandela had warned that the intransigence of the apartheid state would lead to serious violence that would rent the country apart, and it was happening.

He, together with his associates, was on the island. His other comrades were either in jail, exile or dead.

Providentially, he got released and ended up being the first democratically elected president of the country in 1994. Over the years I had the privilege of meeting Madiba in so many different capacities that sometimes I would become confused about this beautifully multi-layered personality.

One moment you would be in the presence of a man who strikes awe, next moment he will be talking to you like one of his own, next moment talking to you like a confidante, but throughout connected or connecting with you.

He does not countenance arrogant, unprincipled or rude behaviour, thus one of his favourite words is "discipline".

As much as I had numerous opportunities to interview Mandela, it was more in his personal context that I learnt to appreciate him more.

As a journalist and interviewer, I enjoyed a good rapport with him and he displayed a remarkable appreciation and respect for journalists who were knowledgeable and civil. Privately and personally I have had interactions with the old man that exposed me to particularly his emotional character side.

Whereas he is a principled, decisive and courageous leader that we all know he is, he could still find time to personally offer emotional support when appropriate and offer encouragement when he detected despair.

I could tell many more stories but he left yet another deep impression on me when I met him for a congratulatory tea session on my appointment to the Organising Committee and he shared his views on leadership.

To him, and I agree, humility is a key requirement if a leader is to create the resonance that will help make followers trust in the leadership.

His family and friends have been very generous in allowing us to benefit from his leadership and presence and for that we should be eternally grateful. As former US president Bill Clinton said about Madiba: "Nelson Mandela brings out the best in all of us, even on our worst days".

Ke nako, let us celebrate Madiba's contribution to humanity.


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