Mandela and the failed vision of a united Africa - 5

Wednesday December 5 2018


In this part of the Mandela series, we look further at the intriguing legacy of Nelson Mandela as expressed by some of the world leaders and scholars.

His legacy as a great Father of Democracy and Pan-African leader is rooted in his ability to attain a peaceful transition from apartheid South Africa to a democracy. In 1993, he was rightly awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.

As a Pan-African, he viewed Africa as one continent, and at the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) summit in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, in 1998 he told his fellow leaders: “…Africa has a right and a duty to intervene in rooting out tyranny… We must all accept that we cannot abuse the concept of national sovereignty to deny the rest of the continent the right and duty to intervene when behind those sovereign boundaries, people are being slaughtered to protect tyranny…”

Treasures in democracy

Mandela’s treasures in democracy and international diplomacy gained him recognition among leaders of the world. He was trusted as a mediator in the Pan Am Flight 103 bombing trial and served as Secretary-General of the Non-Aligned Movement from 1998 to 1999. Mandela was succeeded by Thabo Mbeki after declining a second presidential term, and he stepped aside in 1999.

After his retirement, he became an elder statesman and focused his activities on combating poverty and HIV/Aids through the charitable organisations of Nelson Mandela Foundation and the Mandela Rhodes Foundation.

Mandela died at 95 years of age at his home in Johannesburg on the 5th of December 2013 and was buried on the 15th of December 2013 in Qunu in the Eastern Cape. He is today held in profound respect within South Africa, where he is often referred to by his Xhosa clan name, Madiba, and described as the ‘Father of the Nation’ – South Africa.

Mandela’s life is an inspiration to all who are oppressed and deprived; and to all who are opposed to oppression and deprivation. He managed to overcome the most terrible tyranny (apartheid) through reconciliation in which both the oppressed and the oppressors were liberated from the evils of injustice and prejudice. Mandela was widely celebrated during his lifetime as a political saint. His legacy lives on as recounted here-under.

Mapping Mandela’s legacy begin with Ali Mazrui, a Kenyan scholar who sees Mandela as the greatest leader of the human race. He narrates: “…If in the last half of the twentieth century there was one single statesman in the world who came closest to being morally number one among leaders of the human race, Nelson Mandela was probably such a person…”

Kofi Annan, the former United Nations (UN) Secretary-General admiring Mandela wrote: “…To this day, Madiba remains probably the single most admired, most respected international figure in the entire world…”

Democratic legacy

Cornel West, an African American scholar at Princeton University, described Mandela as: “…A grand democratic legacy stretching back to Socrates. Moving from the Universalist Greek philosopher, an heir of pan-African prophets like W.E.B. Du Bois, George Padmore, Martin Luther King, Malcolm X, and Patrice Lumumba...”

Cornel West continued to depict Mandela as: “…A secular prophet, an African Moses leading his people to the Promised Land from the oppression of white Pharaohs. Madiba urged his people to be set free, and then performed the “miracle” of the improbable democratic transition in South Africa’s own version of the parting of the Red Sea…”

In Soweto at the centenary of the birth of Nelson Mandela on the 18th July 2018, Obenewa Amponsah, the executive director of the Harvard Centre for African studies looked at Mandela’s pan-African character and cherished this leader as one of the great pan-Africans. He said: “…as much as Madiba was a global icon, he had his roots in Africa as a Pan-African leader…”

Dr Kafumu is the Member of Parliament for Igunga Constituency