Middle-east Arab News Opinion | Asharq Al-awsat

Mandela: The Living Legend | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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The world yesterday celebrated the 92nd birthday of a great man; a man that many people consider to be the greatest figure of our era. I am talking, of course, about the great African leader Nelson Mandela.

This man has charmed and captivated the world with his judgment and tolerance, and the way he was able to overcome his own personal ordeals and suffering, and the tragedy within his own country to emerge with a message of forgiveness and tolerance, paving the way for national [political] participation.

Nelson Mandela spent 29 years in jail in a solitary cell facing out onto the ocean. He spent his time thinking and reflecting on his situation, and hoping and dreaming of tomorrow. Nelson Mandela’s status grew during the time that he spent in prison, and he left his prison cell not just as a free man, but also as a hero and leader. The people of South Africa, African leaders, and global figures rushed to meet with him, and Mandela soon found himself President of South Africa. He led his country in a calm and refined manner, without shedding a single drop of blood.

Mandela came up with the brilliant idea of confronting South Africa’s ugly past which was filled with racial tension and social and political grievances and injustice by introducing a commission [South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission] which encouraged those who had committed crimes [under apartheid] to recognize their mistakes and show remorse, which would result in them being pardoned and not being prosecuted. Perpetrators and victims alike were both satisfied with this brilliant solution which brought unprecedented peace and social equality to a country that was previously ready to explode and teetering on the verge of a devastating civil war.

Nelson Mandela’s reign was one of stability and confidence-building, both at a domestic level and a regional level, as South Africa has the largest and most important and influential economy in Africa. The same applies to the international level, with Mandela not adopting any retaliatory or vindictive governmental policies, such as nationalizing privately-owned firms or utilities, confiscating properties, expelling individuals, or severing relations [with foreign powers] or any other emotional or irresponsible steps. Mandela was able to boost confidence in his country, increase investments, and bring in huge sums of money from international financiers who were not used to dealing directly with South Africa, due to the sanctions that had been imposed upon this country under apartheid. .

Mandela managed to wisely transfer power to his successor in a democratic manner, without problems, thus laying the foundation for responsible political parties, free media and an independent judiciary [in South Africa].

Whilst taking all of these great strides, Mandela was also highly critical of leaders of other African countries that were known for their corruption, oppression and civil wars. Mandela began to speak about good governance and the importance of adopting and encouraging this, which is something that began to materialise more in other African countries. This all was made possible thanks to what later became called the “Mandela Effect.”

Nelson Mandela is a fascinating character with a compelling presence and a charming personality. I was lucky enough to meet him on one occasion, and I recall his personable manner that was free of affectations, as well as his depth and wisdom.

He was influenced by another great leader; namely India’s Mahatma Ghandi, who was raised in South Africa and who opposed the idea and implementation of apartheid. Ghandi later moved to India, where he confronted and resisted the British Empire in a magnificent manner.

Nelson Mandela is an icon of peace, and a wise man that everybody turns to for advice on how to solve their countries’ problems and promote good ideas. He was not afraid to criticize the policies of President George W. Bush, and Israel, or the campaign against Islam. He also directly contributed to South Africa’s success in winning the right to host to the 2010 FIFA World Cup, in what represents a historic “masterstroke,” The world has the right to be proud of Nelson Mandela, for he is a true legend that is living amongst us.