Life & Legacy... Nelson Mandela
06 December 2013
On facing the death penalty, Nelson Mandela spoke from the dock at the culmination of the Rivonia Trial in April 1964
During my lifetime I have dedicated myself to this struggle of the African people. I have fought against white domination, and I have fought against black domination. I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony with equal opportunities. It is an ideal which I hope to live for and to see realised. But if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die.
On his release from 27 years in prison, addressing crowds from the balcony of Cape Town's City Hall on Sunday February 11, 1990
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.On racism, from his autobiography, Long Walk to Freedom, published 1994
No one is born hating another person because of the colour of his skin, or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.
On freedom, from his autobiography
For to be free is not merely to cast off one's chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others.
On courage, from his autobiography
I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. I felt fear myself more times than I can remember, but I hid it behind a mask of boldness. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.On South Africa's return to the world stage, at his inauguration in Pretoria, May 1994
Never, never and never again shall it be that this beautiful land will again experience the oppression of one by another and suffer the indignity of being the skunk of the world.On his trademark African shirts, August 1995
Archbishop Tutu and I discussed this matter. He said to me: 'Mr President, I think you are going well in everything except the way you dress.' 'Well,' I said to the Archbishop, whom I respect very much, I said, 'Well, let's not enter a discussion where there can be no solution'.On a democratic future, in an address to the United Nations General Assembly, New York, September 1998
As I sit in Qunu and grow as ancient as its hills, I will continue to entertain the hope that there has emerged a cadre of leaders in my own country and region, on my Continent and in the world, which will not allow that any should be denied their freedom as we were, that any should be turned into refugees as we were, that any should be condemned to grow hungry as we were, that any should be stripped of their human dignity as we were.On death, in an interview for the Academy award-nominated 1996 documentary Mandela
Death is something inevitable. When a man has done what he considers to be his duty to his people and his country, he can rest in peace. I believe I have made that effort and that is, therefore, why I will sleep for the eternity.President Barack Obama led the world in mourning the passing of Nelson Mandela, one of the most remarkable, inspirational and influential leaders of our time, calling the South African leader "a man who took history in his hands and bent the arc of the moral universe towards justice... Through his fierce dignity and unbending will to sacrifice his own freedom for the freedom of others, Madiba transformed South Africa and moved all of us," Mr Obama said. "His journey from a prisoner to a president embodied the promise that human beings and countries can change for the better."
A Tribute by Desmond Tutu archbishop emeritus and human rights activist
For 27 years, I knew Nelson Mandela by reputation only. I had seen him once, in the early 1950s, when he came to my teacher-training college to judge a debating contest. The next time I saw him was in 1990.
When he came out of prison, many people feared he would turn out to have feet of clay. The idea that he might live up to his reputation seemed too good to be true. A whisper went around that some in the ANC said he was a lot more useful in jail than outside.
When he did come out, the most extraordinary thing happened. Even though many in the white community in South Africa were still dismissing him as a terrorist, he tried to understand their position. His gestures communicated more eloquently than words. For example, he invited his white jailer as a VIP guest to his inauguration as president, and he invited the prosecutor in the Rivonia trial to lunch.
What incredible acts of magnanimity these were. His prosecutor had been quite zealous in pushing for the death penalty. Mandela also invited the widows of the Afrikaner political leaders to come to the president's residence. Betsie Verwoerd, whose husband, HF Verwoerd, was assassinated in 1966, was unable to come because she was unwell. She lived in Oranje, where Afrikaners congregated to live, exclusively. And Mandela dropped everything and went to have tea with her, there, in that place.
He had an incredible empathy. During the negotiations that led up to the first free elections, the concessions he was willing to make were amazing. Chief Buthelezi wanted this, that and the other, and at every single point Madiba would say: yes, that's OK. He was upset that many in the ANC said Inkatha was not a genuine liberation movement. He even said that he was ready to promise Buthelezi a senior cabinet position, which was not something he had discussed with his colleagues. He did this to ensure that the country did not descend into a bloodbath.
He said of the Afrikaners: you can very well understand how they must be feeling. He reached out to them using the symbol of the South African rugby team, the springbok, which was excoriated by many black people as a symbol of Afrikaner power.
Rugby was the white man's sport, especially for Afrikaners, and Mandela's master stroke at the World Cup final was when he strode on to the turf wearing his Springbok jersey. Almost any other political leader would have seemed gauche, but he carried it off with aplomb. The whole arena, which was probably 99% white, mostly Afrikaner, erupted into cries of "Nelson! Nelson!" It was extraordinary. And who would have believed that in the townships they would be celebrating a rugby victory?
Of course I saw him angry. After the Boipatong massacre, in 1992, in which 42 people died, the ANC pulled out of negotiations, and he was quite livid. He claimed the intelligence services had warned [the president] FW de Klerk something untoward was going to happen, that there was collusion between the security forces and Inkatha. I don't know whether De Klerk ignored that warning. Madiba said it was clear black lives meant nothing.
Another time, he told me that when he and De Klerk were at the Nobel peace prize ceremony in Oslo, something had upset him greatly. There was a group singing Nkosi Sikelel' iAfrika, regarded as the anthem of the liberation struggle, and De Klerk and his wife talked through the singing; they didn't show respect.
But his anger was never greater than his patience or forgiveness. People say, look at what he achieved in his years in government – what a waste those 27 years in prison were. I maintain his prison term was necessary because when he went to jail, he was angry. He was relatively young and had experienced a miscarriage of justice; he wasn't a statesperson, ready to be forgiving: he was commander-in-chief of the armed wing of the party, which was quite prepared to use violence.
The time in jail was quite crucial. Of course, suffering embitters some people, but it ennobles others. Prison became a crucible that burned away the dross. People could never say to him: "You talk glibly of forgiveness. You haven't suffered. What do you know?" Twenty-seven years gave him the authority to say, let us try to forgive.
One of the greatest traumas of his life is what happened between him and Winnie. He really loved Winnie. Soon after he came out of jail, I invited them for a Xhosa meal. And as they sat there, you can't imagine anyone more besotted. The hurt was deep. It's marvellous that he found Graça. But you feel a little sad, because Winnie went through so much, and it would have been a perfect ending to a fairytale had they lived happily ever after.
The most fitting memorial to Mandela is to make a success of what he helped to establish. He was clear that, ultimately, no one is indispensible. He was a great one for stressing that he was a loyal member of the ANC, and that no one was bigger than the movement. But, of course, we know better.
Anyone, anywhere in the world, who gets to be a leader knows that here is the benchmark. And they must ask themselves: how do I measure up?