Editor's Note

Madiba is the icon of our times

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Nelson Mandela is, without a doubt, South Africa’s icon of hope and transformation from the last 100 years, owing to his courage under fire and his ability to see the bigger picture and to forgive.

He was instrumental in the peaceful transfer of power in the 1990s from the Apartheid regime to political freedom. A master negotiator, he was able to sit down with his fiercest enemies and still broker a deal. Perhaps it was his background in law that helped shape his polished style of negotiating.

In an African context, especially in the 90s, there were very few examples of peaceful transfers of power from outgoing presidents to newly-elected leaders. Many leaders decided to ignore election results and stay in power long past their sell-by date, with a negative effect on their economies and civil liberties.

Take Zimbabwe, for example. It took many years for Robert Mugabe to finally be relieved of his duties. Mandela never wanted to overstay his welcome in office and was happy to pave the way for his successor, Thabo Mbeki, to take over the reins.

His legacy lives on not only through his words and actions but also through his charities and outreach programmes, which have used his high-profile name to better the lives of others. And as we reach a crossroads in our political landscape, with pressure coming from all sides in the run-up to the elections, it is important that we remember the peaceful message of Madiba.

What might Madiba think of the South Africa of today? Only he could tell you, but with his original first choice to succeed him in office now, Cyril Ramaphosa, he’d certainly be happy with the new leadership and the astute way in which he is trying to reverse some of the damage done by the previous president.

In 2004, Mandela announced that he was bowing out of public life to lead a quieter life, issuing the now famous statement, “Don’t call me, I’ll call You”, to those who would require his presence at their functions. Though retired from public life, Mandela carried the Olympic torch on Robben Island later that year, on its first journey on African soil since the inception of the Olympic Games.

Mandela was the recipient of numerous awards and honours, both within South Africa and abroad. In line with his desire to recede from the political limelight, the unending invitations to receive more awards and honours prompted him to publicly urge that other leaders in the struggle to liberate and democratise South Africa should be recognised and honoured as he had been.

So as we celebrate 100 years of South Africa’s favourite father, let’s continue to build on what Madiba has taught us about living in harmony.

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