Our house is on fire.”. Nostalgia for the past – an impulse as prevalent in antiquity as in modern times – comes over people whenever they feel menaced, betrayed or disappointed. Mandela said: “I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. Our tour guide explained that the cave became a great place of learning and exchanging information. And Chloe, my grandniece, will not remember her hour of helplessness and hunger. Aware of the hostility to those talks, which were dismissed as enemy manoeuvres, OR Tambo had to steer a cautious course. While Mandela was in shackles, it would be Walter Sisulu, his mentor and one of the world’s most consistent political leaders, who would produce the first Radio Freedom broadcast from the ANC’s underground farm north of Johannesburg, in June 1963. 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. Acts of omission or commission by various people in power have occasioned a series of transgressions typified by corruption and a breach of public trust. An extreme show of force on the first day and a last-minute turn around by the English press, which had previously promised to support the strike, led to disappointing support and Mandela called it off on day two. Proud, authoritative and forthright – attributes that could be sourced to his upbringing as a scion of the royal house of abaThembu – Mandela would find Robben Island and successive prison environments conducive to acquiring leadership skills – skills that didn’t, and don’t, form part of the curricula in leadership academies. In a sense, then, Mandela saw himself as part of a heroic fellowship, identifying with kindred spirits and continuing the journey of resistance started by these illustrious ancestors. Nelson Mandela had a dream that his people would be free one day. 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. Or, put differently, if there was some residual inferiority to the white man roiling in the mind of leaders like Mandela. His journeys across Africa immediately before his final arrest, his last moments of operating as a free man – moments that told him how thoroughly unfree he had been in his native land – had prepared the ground for the ANC to establish its diplomatic missions abroad and spread the word of liberation. 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. He lauded the “universal respect and even admiration for those who are humble and simple by nature, and who have absolute confidence in all human beings irrespective of their social status. After a brief ferry ride, we boarded a bus to tour Robben Island. 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”. Delivering the Political Report of the NEC to the 49th National Conference, which was held in Bloemfontein in December 1994, a disappointed Mandela summarised the incipient disaffection among the majority who voted for the ANC. Speaking to the Austin Chronicle in January 1996, he said that he’d read the book a long time ago “and had always wanted to be in [its film version]. Growth and development, Mandela would note, were more than interdependent; they were mutually reinforcing. He was not a saint, as he has repeatedly reminded us with his immortal quip that “a saint is a sinner who keeps on trying”. Announcing the first actions of sabotage by Umkhonto weSizwe after its formation, Mandela said: “If the government reaction is to crush by naked force our non-violent struggle, we will have to reconsider our tactics. But all evidence points to a man who was single-mindedly steadfast in his quest to create a democratic and non-racial country of the future. Almost everyone you meet has a story about Mandela; sometimes not so much about what he did as about how he made them feel. “As I walked out the door toward the gate that would lead … In 1969, Mandela’s son died, three months after he had learnt of his wife Winnie Madikizela Mandela’s incarceration. Discover the transformational power of gratitude and how it can impact you in surprising ways. He was focused on goals and a mission beyond himself. A new cadre of leaders asks questions and challenges the answers given as being not enough. Was the Mandela project a massive sell-out? However, many analysts point out that great strides were made in delivering some of the Freedom Charter aspirations in the early years of the new South Africa. 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. On the 5th of December 2013, at around 20:50 South African time, the great Nelson Mandela slept for the last time. I wasn’t sure what I would feel, what I would see, or what I would learn. For instance, during the removals, the ANC had coined the slogan, “Over Our Dead Bodies”, which Mandela characterised as “dynamic”, but which “proved as much a hindrance as a help”. He received a terse telegram informing him of his son’s death in a “motor accident in Cape Town”. He is known for his track record of successfully repositioning companies and dramatically improving results while improving the corporate culture. It was on Robben Island that the warders could significantly lose their own freedom and sense of self. “Our present position on this aspect [of the economy] is the same as that of the Federal Republic of Germany, which contains in its constitution a clause on nationalisation as one of the options the government might employ in case of need. These were not mere words or the rehearsed platitudes that characterise speeches in summits; coming from a generation of hard idealists who had grown up in the principle of a united Africa, Mandela believed that the current crop of leadership could turn the tide against poverty and inequality in the region. 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. The ills of the unresolved past and its iniquities give a piquant flavouring to dinner conversations, where the past – a different country that was experienced differently by different people – is either commended or condemned. From their arrival in prison, he insisted on being addressed as Mr Mandela. Paradise, then, could not have been real without the existence of hell. 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. Ntando was a prisoner for seven years at Robben Island. The upshot of this two-day meeting, which was periodically menaced by the thuggish officiousness of Special Branch detectives brandishing sten guns, was the adoption of the Freedom Charter, a document characterised by Mandela as “a great beacon for the liberation struggle”. Here are some of the additional qualities and traits that Mandela exhibited during his time fighting against apartheid and later when he h… It was is this realisation, this understanding of one’s role as a force on the inside, that the prisoner slowly takes over – assumes – the moral high ground and wrests legitimacy from the regime and its representatives. 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. Nelson Mandela’s story, therefore, is about how he set out to put out the blaze. In fact, the ANC was not prepared to do that at all.”. “It sometimes pains me,” he wrote in his diary on 7 January 1998, “when dependable friends who have shared resources with us when we were alone in our fight against apartheid, but who are regarded by the staff as mere strangers bent on disturbing the President.”. 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. people asked – which led to a veritable explosion of his image. Notwithstanding his pleas, Mandela’s keepers refused him permission to attend his son’s funeral. He was a ready-made scapegoat and messiah all rolled into one; the tension between these two poles would have led many straight into a madhouse. That option has not been exercised in that country for decades. Fifteen years before his release, in a letter dated 1 February 1975, Mandela wrote to Winnie, who was in Kroonstad women’s prison in the Free State. It was small, roughly 7×9. “To her and others like her,” Mandela said, “we owe a debt to life itself. In his own notes on leadership, Mandela has written that “the leader’s first task is to create a vision. Although he knew that his initiative could have ended up in defeat, he could not stand aside, as is evidenced in a passionate letter he wrote to give encouragement to Winnie: Notwithstanding Mandela’s wariness about the apartheid authorities, he had studied them long enough to see glimpses of humanity in some of them. Mandela had a fair idea what the white nationalists in power were capable of wreaking. In a conversation with Richard Stengel, his interlocutor and collaborator towards the writing of Long Walk to Freedom, Mandela is asked if the people of his generation “still have a kind of deference towards the white man that will not exist in the younger generation?”. The youth, dreaming dreams and hoping hopes, strives to carve out a reality that will ensure their own survival. The presidency of the ANC is held in high esteem for the simple reason that it confers on the incumbent the stewardship of the National Executive Committee, a council that could, if need be, bring about a resignation of the state president. Seeing this all in person increased my admiration for Nelson Mandela. 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? For one, the isolation of prison, the enforced hibernation, became a refresher course in survival. We have his word and the testimony of his compatriots. In this, Mandela’s disposition is in alignment with an Aristotelian notion of courage. The most vulnerable were the farmworkers and prisoners forced to work on plantations, such as the potato plantations in Bethal, in present-day Mpumalanga. But this was a different kind of theatre, a theatre of life where, to borrow from James Baldwin again, “a current flowed back and forth between the audience and the actors: flesh and blood corroborating flesh and blood”. He had once been on stage, playing Creon, the tyrant in Sophocles’ Antigone, on Robben Island and had developed a liking for Greek tragedy and Shakespeare. The grand larceny also distracts us from the much larger debate about the structure of the economy. For Mandela, the decision to take up arms was predicated on the actions of the state. For, while it “caught the imagination of the people”, it “led them to believe that we would fight to the death to resist the removal. Finally, on the last weekend in March 1961, just days before the end of the marathon Treason Trial, Mandela popped up in Pietermaritzburg at the All-in Africa Conference. The expansion of the economy would raise state revenues by expanding the tax base, rather than by permanently raising taxes. Nelson Mandela, the name of a charismatic leader who spent 27 years in jail to bring down the injustice and oppression from South Africa. But the practicalities of the times – the ouster of the ANC from Mozambique, cross-border raids in neighbouring countries and the clamour of Umkhonto weSizwe fighters that they wanted to go home – coalesced into an acceptance of the reality of a negotiated settlement. In his introduction to the chapter on Mandela in South Africa’s Nobel Laureates, edited by Kader Asmal, David Chidester and Wilmot James, Prof. Ndebele observes that a leader, Mandela’s action drew muted criticism from some of his superannuated brethren on the continent and far afield, who saw it as an incitement for their domestic masses to start questioning their extended tenure. The veteran actor James Earl Jones, Hollywood’s most distinctive voice, was concerned about how the portrayal of a long-suffering character would go down with a more militant youth. Earlier this year, I was visiting Cape Town, South Africa and had the opportunity to visit Robben Island. Prison destroys the soul, giving power to warders, who are weighed down by their own impotence in the bigger world. Kunene writes: Doing the nation well was Mandela’s preoccupation from the very start. Calling his wife over, he said: “Honey, this is Mr Mandela.” Unimpressed, the wife answered, “Yes, I hear that … but what is he famous for?”. Brecht’s – or even Baldwin’s – prophetic truth is evidenced in the state of anxiety currently holding the entire global society in thrall. 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. The official announcement signalling the dismantling of apartheid with the release of Nelson Mandela in February 1990 is as etched in my mind as could be V-Day, the assassination of JFK or of Martin Luther King, Jr, or – much later – the day the planes crashed into the Twin Towers in New York for a succession of generations. Much later, alone, Mandela went into action. 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? Mandela’s face became the most immediate representation of that undefined energy called “the struggle” raging at home and lent strength to the worldwide anti-apartheid and solidarity movements, which called for sanctions and isolation of the regime. It is here, also, that his counter-intuitive stance towards leadership proved equal to the task: he defanged the right wing and brought it to be part of the negotiations towards a democratic future. It was this sense of discipline that contributed to the peculiar aura of gravitas surrounding Mandela. It was a theatre of life, real, where missteps could lead to bloodshed and the loss of innocent lives. Mandela, a realist, wrote from prison in July 1985: “In my current circumstances, thinking about the past can be far more exacting than contemplating the present and predicting the course of future events.”. They too will in time grow old and drag their increasingly disgruntled children into meetings and councils, to plan on how to change their lots. Isolated from his support network, watching the carnage against defenceless people being played out on the daily news bulletins, Mandela started tentative steps towards brokering a negotiated settlement. The media, print and broadcast, was awash with a face that had become as ubiquitous as spring air – and as revitalising. “One of the most difficult things is not to change society but to change yourself.” -Nelson Mandela. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.”. There was an unmistakable feeling I cannot quite explain throughout the entire cellblock. In South Africa, there were more demonstrations – called “civil unrest” in official euphemese – and resultant deaths and injuries. In truth, however, the complex question facing South Africa today – the economic quandary the country faces today, the runaway unemployment, the unacceptable levels of inequality – simply means that an anomaly in the negotiations became the recessive gene carried in the bloodstream of our democracy. Matters came to a head on 21 March 1960. It is always tempting, when dealing with a venerated figure like Mandela, for commentators who wish to ascribe to him an unassailable saintliness to urge detractors to remember what it was like back then, meaning that, given the overwhelming odds stacked against him, it would be understandable if Mandela capitulated and quailed before his captors. This because, as he put it, “our fortunes are so interdependent. He was positive, thinking about what could be. An overawed cyclist almost fell off his bike when he saw Mandela. To make matters worse, he was trying to build a socialist society through the nationalisation of industries in the face of unemployment, inflation and widespread malnutrition. Advising against the principle of retribution, Mandela famously said that “All of us South Africans, both black and white, must build a common sense of nationhood in which all ideas of vengeance and retribution are impermissible.” For him, the moorings of the future were in the present, the now. Addressing inequalities, he maintained, would expand markets at home, open markets abroad and create opportunities to promote representative ownership of the economy. Analysing Mandela’s economic legacy, Matthew Davies, business reporter for BBC News, writes: So, it was to prove a difficult task to create a silk purse of an economy from the pig’s ear that apartheid had left behind. To use a crass metaphor, a father builds a house but cannot be blamed for the incapacity of his children to improve on the dwelling. We do know, however, that it was a grim period, which none of us, certainly not the children of the dispossessed, would wish to revisit. Old black-and-white pictures flickered across screens: Mandela in a group photo as a 20-year-old student at Healdtown Comprehensive School; in a portrait wearing traditional attire; in 1951, standing next to Ruth First at an ANC conference in Bloemfontein; in 1956, singing among 150 fellow accused at the marathon Treason Trial in Pretoria; a bearded Mandela bulked up by army fatigues, standing with Algerian Army commanders in 1962. The philosopher argued that the courageous person doesn’t fear death if he or she is committed to a noble cause. “If there’s one lesson we can learn from the struggle against racism, in our country as well as yours,” Nelson Mandela said about the United States while on a visit there, “it is that racism must be consciously combatted and not discreetly tolerated.”. “Never has the country, and our people, needed leadership as they do now, in this hour of crisis. “Where the oppressor uses peaceful methods,” he said, “the oppressed will also use peaceful methods, but if the oppressor uses force, the oppressed will also retaliate in force.”. It leads to silence about the unconscionable levels of inequality here, plus the fact that while the poor – invariably the black majority – are trapped in poverty, the well-resourced – the majority of whom, inescapably, are white – become vocal in decrying corruption, proof positive, so goes the logic, that blacks are incapable of running a modern economy. In his early years on Robben Island, he found himself imprisoned with a cross-section of South African society. The act of recreating the past is always subverted by the gaps lying between what has been experienced by the flesh-and-blood actors – the gruelling trial that informs their decisions – and our collective grasp of their actions long after the noise of battle has died down. Nelson Mandela, as President of South Africa, at World Trade Organization talks in Geneva in May 1998. Indeed, an overwhelmingly huge percentage of South Africans derive comfort from the knowledge that Mandela’s bequest – however imperfect – is a far cry from the state of tyranny under apartheid. The majority of the casualties – men, women and children – had sustained gunshot wounds to the back while fleeing. It brings to mind Ralph Ellison’s unnamed hero in Invisible Man, who discovers that being invisible can be a source of strength, where covert action becomes a springboard “for more overt action”. His followers and the people of South Africa called him “Madiba,” which means father. “It is not where you start but how high you aim that matters for success.” –Nelson Mandela. It was, however, the young entrants into the prison population, the adherents of the Black Consciousness movement – firebrands who imagined they would shake Robben Island from its slumber – that further opened Mandela’s eyes to the country’s unique shape. It would, of course, be accompanied by an intensification of armed actions inside the country. By the time these words filtered through the townships and hostels, farms and plantations, factories and schools – words replayed in clandestine radio broadcasts and from the capitals of countries, some of which have now been erased from world maps – the Soviet Union, the Democratic German Republic, Czechoslovakia, Madagascar, Ethiopia, Zambia – Mandela and much of the top leadership of the liberation movement were in prison. “A good head and a good heart,” Nelson Mandela wrote, “are always a formidable combination.” There are “few misfortunes in this world,” he said on another occasion, “that you cannot turn into a personal triumph if you have the iron will and the necessary skill”. Paradoxically, giving up power was Mandela’s most powerful moment. Mandela’s father, Gadla Henry Mphakanyiswa was a chief 1 . “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. I followed him to the cell of Nelson Mandela. President Allende, as Mandela would 20 years’ thence, restored diplomatic relations with China, Cuba and various countries deemed undesirable by the Western powers. The stigma usually associated with imprisonment had been removed.”, But the assault by the state continued unabated, with banning orders served on Mandela and other leaders of the ANC, such as Chief Albert Luthuli, its president. 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. He had many transgressions, some of which would convert into virtues, in the scheme of things. Above anything else, persistence is the key to unlocking the benefits which come with Mandela’s leadership style. Subscribe today and receive a free e-book. There were of course the grand old men of the struggle, like Walter Sisulu and Govan Mbeki, to name a few. Perhaps, even more important, was what he didn’t do. He was scathing of leaders, even “erstwhile revolutionaries [who] have easily succumbed to greed, and the tendency to divert public resources for personal enrichment”. Dawie Roodt, chief economist at the Efficient Group, says: The ANC had once been greatly enamoured of the social democratic model it had seen in various countries, especially Sweden; here, they saw a seamless relationship between government, labour and the private sector, to the extent that the boards of large corporations had trade union representatives. I had discussed the implications of a July celebration of the centenary of Mandela’s birth with him: he had dedicated a poem to Mandela, which exhorted the listener to “defy the devils who traded in the human Spirit”. Join thousands of subscribers in the Leadership Insights community for a regular diet of ideas to fuel your success. As a student of great leaders and an admirer of Nelson Mandela’s leadership, I knew that this visit was a must. The work damaged Nelson Mandela’s lungs and also his eyes. Having decided that the time had come for talks to start – an impulse no different from the moment he decided on armed action – Mandela knew he would have to go against the advice of the prison collective. 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. when you sign up to receive blog updates via email. That day, I learned more about the many heroes who fought against apartheid. Subscribe today and receive a free e-book. Get The Power of Gratitude: How Thankfulness Changes Everything free when you sign up to receive blog updates via email. Visible in the background is a cave. Even armies, who stared at each other from a great gulf, allowed enemies a brief respite to bury their dead. Graffiti commemorating the Rivonia Trial, which ran from October 1963 to June 1964. In the year of celebrating Mandela’s centenary, South Africa is still grappling with the process of getting “there”, the idealised destination no different from the Promised Land for the fabled biblical wanderers. 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. With liberation movements banned and any peaceful avenue to resolution of the country’s intractable problems effectively closed, there was no alternative but to rethink the strategy of passive resistance. One of his last attempts to get the government’s attention through non-violent methods came with the convening of the Congress of the People, which took place in Kliptown, Johannesburg on 25 and 26 June 1955. To her and others like her, we owe a commitment to the poor, the oppressed, the wretched and the despised.”. Mandela advised the conference to “admit that, in the process we did also falter”, and lamented that “the reality is that democratic forces in our country have captured only elements of political power”. 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. As we boarded the ferry to return to Cape Town, I watched Robben Island disappear from view. In a sense, this country of wilful amnesia and selective nostalgia heaved a sigh of uneasy relief with Mandela’s acclaimed ascendancy to power. 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. He not only controlled his fear but his temperament. The unintended consequence of the apartheid state’s attempt to render Mandela invisible was unprecedented curiosity – What is he like? He was meticulous in ensuring that an archive of his life would be made as accessible and as comprehensively as possible. Even 27 years in prison didn’t stop him from continuing down the path which he felt was meant for him to walk. I remember the ecstasy among the South African exile and expatriate community, members of the anti-apartheid and solidarity movement and, of course, the thousands of mainly young people in the audience. This, it must be remembered, was just four years after the National Party came into power, a period of great repression. 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. He left a huge inspirational vacuum. Mandela gave an emphatic no, because, he said. It is a journey marked by Mandela’s adoption of his own advice for his son: Mandela’s code of discipline, which was underpinned by sacrifice, has also been recorded and published in numerous biographies, and in The Long Walk to Freedom – an autobiography written, in part, to show how his own life experience could serve as an example for others to follow. Aspiring leaders everywhere should take the time to study this man, his accomplishments, and the characteristics that helped mold a country and the world. He decried the “tendency for ruling parties is to claim success for each and every step they have taken in government. It was partly this status in prison – for he must have understood the effect of his own personality on his captors – that empowered Mandela to set out on a mission that would entail his release and culminate in his ascendancy to the presidency of the country. In 1969, Mandela’s son died, three months after he had learnt of his wife Winnie Madikizela Mandela’s incarceration. I felt fear myself more times that I can remember, but I hid it behind a mask of boldness. He would later tell Patti Waldmeir in an interview that one thing he had discovered was that “men are not the same, even when dealing with a community that has a tradition of insensitivity towards human rights”. The success of this approach would entail the government getting into “active partnerships with civil society, and with business and labour … [to] jointly pursue the broader challenges of extending opportunities to the millions of adult South Africans who can currently find no place in the formal economy … Our people elected us because they wanted change.” He further remarked that while “people have high expectations which are legitimate … [and while] the government cannot meet all these needs overnight, we must put firmly into place the concrete goals, time frame and strategies to achieve this change”.

nelson mandela leadership

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