The result: one president has resigned, another has taken his place – someone who was instrumental, in fact, in creating our Constitution – and South Africa is gripped by the kind of optimism which, if it doesn’t reach the high-water mark set by Nelson Mandela’s release from prison in 1990, at least makes for some sense of much-needed renewal. The intensified repression was aimed at countering heightened – and widespread – resistance, which was inspired in the main by the Mass Democratic Movement. One such poet was the German playwright Bertolt Brecht, whose oft-quoted ascription of unhappiness to countries in need of heroes was as much a caveat for his troubled country as it is for the rest of today’s troubled world. Across the globe, television sets beam contrasting images of a youngish Mandela in his jackal-skin kaross worn toga-like as he strides defiantly in slow motion during his 1962 trial for leaving the country without a passport and inciting a strike. The fear was not so much a reflexive shrinking away from the possibility of harm to oneself as a deliberate advocacy of measures to shield the more vulnerable from injury or destruction. As a student of great leaders and an admirer of Nelson Mandela’s leadership, I knew that this visit was a must. Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela is a renowned and influential leader who was born at Umtata in Transkei district of South Africa. There had been other notable examples of gross dereliction on the part of the state, such as the Coalbrook mine disaster in 1960 where 435 people, mainly black, suffocated or drowned under miles of rock. Perhaps, even more important, was what he didn’t do. Nelson Mandela’s story, therefore, is about how he set out to put out the blaze. There he was mandated to write to Prime Minister HF Verwoerd about establishing a convention on a non-racial constitution for South Africa and to follow this path rather than hauling South Africa out of the Commonwealth of Nations. The most enduring images, however, are of Mandela as a free man, a man who embodied freedom with such assuredness that it became synonymous with his name. Given the outpourings of international goodwill towards our emergent democracy at the time of negotiations – for instance, the developmental experts and thinkers that could be found in the solidarity movement – Mandela’s team passed up an opportunity to tap into resources which could have strengthened its negotiating strategies. Regarded within South Africa … He knew that the first step towards conquering a bleak place was to call it home. In 1999 Nelson Mandela handed power to Thabo Mbeki, who served as South Africa's second democratically elected president. Matters came to a head on 21 March 1960. “This performance is very special to me,” she said, preparing to sing for guests in the Rose Garden, “because in 1988 I sang in honour of Nelson Mandela the inmate and tonight I sing for elected president, Nelson Mandela.”, While the world – or, according the to the title of one of Kgositsile’s poetry collections, the present – might be a dangerous place blighted by cynicism and selfishness, it can also be stimulated into tapping its hidden reserves of virtuousness. Mandela couldn’t have been oblivious to his own predicament. The unintended consequence of the apartheid state’s attempt to render Mandela invisible was unprecedented curiosity – What is he like? The compromises reached in order to set up building blocks towards the emergent democracy had left the ANC with very little leverage in terms of economic clout. Aware that the goodwill that derived from the peaceful transition would not last unless leveraged upon – and cognisant of the dire consequences of an underserved public – Mandela knew that the biggest hurdle to overcome was the one of socio-economic transformation. They were scared of the white man. He said: Then he spoke of Jonker, who was “both a poet and a South African”, and who, in the dark days when all seemed hopeless, when many refused to hear her resonant voice, took her own life. Even though a member of the ANC, in fact, its leader, he knew he had to become a statesman operating above or beyond the constraints imposed by party political loyalties if he were to truly steer his fragmented country on an unswerving path to a non-racial and prosperous democracy. There are many more, a catalogue of the various incarnations he has had to pass through. Although unhappy at the collapse – or desecration – of most of Mandela’s ideals at the hands of an unprincipled leadership within the African National Congress, Kgositsile was comforted that the structures supporting democracy were still in place. Mandela gave an emphatic no, because, he said. In this period, a blip in the hundreds of years it took to manufacture modern-day South Africa, he must have appreciated that he would become weighed down by the burden of expectation from a populace in need of a quick miracle. Langa is a renowned author of both fiction and non-fiction, and in 2017 partnered with the Foundation on the book Dare Not Linger: The Presidential Years, an account of Madiba’s 1994-1999 presidency. It was on Robben Island that the warders could significantly lose their own freedom and sense of self. The rash of memoirs by some of the principal and minor players of the hideous time puts a gloss on their culpability, where even securocrats like Niël Barnard come up smelling of roses; even the biographies by some of the warders are reminiscent of people striving very hard to put the events of the past through a colander whereby the grainy truth is sifted out and all we are left with is empty sweetness. The recent transition of power that South Africa has seen, in which President Jacob Zuma – our latter-day Ozymandias – gave way to the democratic impulses entrenched in the ANC and embodied by Mandela’s close confidant, Cyril Ramaphosa, is testament to Mandela’s enduring personal triumph. Watching this helpless bundle balanced in the crook of her mother’s arm, I thought of the world, the country that Mandela and now Kgositsile had left and one in which Chloe was now demanding to be fed. As a lawyer, first, and full-time political activist subsequently, he had had a ringside seat at the bloody drama that played out in the cities, towns and countryside. Without verbalising it, he embodied what is credited to one-time president of the Philippines, Ferdinand Marcos, that leadership is the other side of the coin of loneliness and that, acting alone, the leader must accept everything alone. For us, to know Mandela we must delve back into the past, into the makings of him, which are ineluctably intertwined with the makings of the South Africa we know today. We later drove to the prison where we met our prison tour guide, Ntando Mbatha. But my big question was: How would the gentleness – which I think is the key to my character – how would it go over with young black people? Today, as South Africa and the world gear up to celebrate the centenary of his birth, the inevitable question comes up: What would our country be like if Mandela had not stepped into the breach to assume leadership at a most perilous period of our history? Dyed-in-the-wool beneficiaries of apartheid plunder, for instance, remember that past fondly; for the majority of black people – and a minority of relatively-committed whites – the return to the inglorious days of apartheid would be as unthinkable as would a return to life on a slave plantation be for African Americans. The Mandela Dialogues 2: observations on the process, Reflections from the 2016 Mandela Dialogues, Nelson Mandela International Dialogues 2013-2014, Human Rights Lecture and Roundtable Discussion 2007, Visit South Africa's official Covid-19 resource portal, Head and Heart: The Lessons of Leadership from Nelson Mandela. As we boarded the ferry to return to Cape Town, I watched Robben Island disappear from view. Common to these conversations, though, is the consensus that the world was a somewhat more tolerable place during the life and times of Nelson Mandela. The Freedom Charter “captured the hopes and dreams of the people and acted as a blueprint for the liberation struggle and the future of the nation”. Mandela’s captors were simply not worth saving; unleashing the force of the state, they had heaped indignity upon indignity on their charges; their regime was nothing more than an obscenity. He wrote, and said: With these words, and Jonker’s poetry, a restless society, split apart by violence and strife, was steadied by the hand of a man who had learnt to be alone with himself for almost three decades. We have his word and the testimony of his compatriots. There were the legendary Makana, “the commander of the Xhosa army” and Autshumayo, the Khoisan chief of the Goringhaicona who managed to escape from the island. 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