My Brother-in-Law, the Rev Dr Solomon Jacob met Nelson Mandela at a meeting of the World Council of Churches in Geneva, Switzerland in 1991.
The above photo was taken by the WCC (World Council of Churches) in 1991 at the welcome reception IN GENEVA by WCC for Mandela after his release from prison. The Rev Dr Solomon Jacob shaking hands with Mandela (Madiba) and chatting to him.
NELSON MANDELA -1918-2013 SOUTH AFRICA
THE BLACK MESSIAH
Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela was born on 18 July 1918 in the small village of Mvezo, on the Mbashe River, district of Umtata in Transkei, South Africa. His father named him Rolihlahla, which means “pulling the branch of the tree”, or more colloquially “troublemaker.” The name Nelson was not given until his first day at school.
The family moved from Mvezo to Qunu, a small village north of Mvezo. The village was nestled in a narrow grassy valley. There were no roads, only foot paths that linked the pastures where livestock grazed. The Mandela family lived in huts and ate a local harvest of maize, sorghum, pumpkin, and beans, which was all the family could afford. Water came from springs and streams and cooking was done outdoors. Nelson Mandela’s father died of lung disease when Nelson was nine years old.
Mandela grew up with two sisters in his mother’s kraal in the village of Qunu, where he tended herds as a cattle-boy, spending much time outside with other boys. Both his parents were illiterate, but being a devout Christian, his mother sent him to a local Methodist school when he was about seven. Baptised a Methodist, Mandela was given the English forename of Mandela by his teacher.
Throughout his life, Nelson Mandela has had many connections to Methodism. A graduate of a Healdtown Methodist boarding school (Eastern Cape) where many future African leaders were educated, the anti-apartheid champions was mentored by Methodist preachers and educators As president of South Africa, he worked with church leaders in shaping a new nation and eventually married Graça Machel, a United Methodist, widow of the former president of Mozambique and an advocate for women’s and children’s rights.
Mandela served 27 years in prison, first on Robben Island, and later in Pollsmoor Prison and Victor Verster Prison. An international campaign lobbied for his release, which was granted in 1990 amid escalating civil strife.
Mandela is a South African anti-apartheid revolutionary and politician who served as President of South Africa from 1994 to 1999. He was the first black South African to hold the office, and the first elected in a fully representative, multiracial election. His government focused on dismantling the legacy of apartheid through tackling institutionalized racism, poverty and inequality, and fostering racial reconciliation. Politically an African nationalist and democratic socialist, he served as the President of the African National Congress (ANC) from 1991 to 1997.
Mandela was an African nationalist, an ideological position he held since joining the ANC, also being “a democrat, and a socialist”. Although he presented himself in an autocratic manner in several speeches, Mandela was a devout believer in democracy and would abide by majority decisions even when deeply disagreeing with them. He held a conviction that “inclusivity, accountability and freedom of speech” were the fundamentals of democracy, and was driven by a belief in natural and human rights.
Mandela’s administration inherited a country with a huge disparity in wealth and services between white and black communities. Of a population of 40 million, around 23 million lacked electricity or adequate sanitation, 12 million lacked clean water supplies, with 2 million children not in school and a third of the population illiterate.
As President, he established a new constitution and initiated the Truth and Reconciliation Commission to investigate crimes committed under apartheid by both the government and the ANC, appointing Desmond Tutu as its chair. To prevent the creation of martyrs, the Commission granted individual amnesties in exchange for testimony of crimes committed during the apartheid era. Mandela praised the Commission’s work, stating that it “had helped us move away from the past to concentrate on the present and the future”. Continuing the former government’s liberal economic policy, his administration introduced measures to encourage land reform, combat poverty and expand healthcare services. He declined to run for a second term, and was succeeded by his deputy Thabo Mbeki, subsequently becoming an elder statesman, focusing on charitable work in combating poverty and HIV/AIDS through the Nelson Mandela Foundation.
Presiding over the transition from apartheid minority rule to a multicultural democracy, Mandela saw national reconciliation as the primary task of his presidency. Having seen other post-colonial African economies damaged by the departure of white elites, Mandela worked to reassure South Africa’s white population that they were protected and represented in “the Rainbow Nation”. Mandela attempted to create the broadest possible coalition in his cabinet, with de Klerk as first Deputy President while other National Party officials became ministers for Agriculture, Energy, Environment, and Minerals and Energy, and Buthelezi was named Minister for Home Affairs
Controversial for much of his life, right-wing critics denounced Mandela as a terrorist and communist sympathizer. He has nevertheless received international acclaim for his anti-colonial and anti-apartheid stance, having received over 250 awards, including the 1993 Nobel Peace Prize, the US Presidential Medal of Freedom and the Soviet Order of Lenin. He is held in deep respect within South Africa, where he is often referred to by his Xhosa clan name of Madiba or as tata; he is often described as “the father of the nation”.
In South Africa, Mandela is considered to be “the father of the nation and “the founding father of democracy being seen as “the national liberator, and the saviour.
He has received international acclaim. In 1993, he received the joint Nobel Peace Prize with de Klerk i November 2009, the United Nations General Assembly proclaimed Mandela’s birthday, 18 July, as “Mandela Day”, marking his contribution to the anti-apartheid struggle.
Mandela influenced a unifying South African national anthem. The national anthem consisted of two songs. One is “Nkosi Sikelel’ iAfrika,” or “God Bless Africa,” sung at black protest rallies during the forty-six years between the rise and fall of apartheid. The other is “Die Stem,” (“The Call”), the old white anthem, a celebration of the European settlers’ conquest of Africa’s southern tip. It was Mandela’s idea to juxtapose the two, his purpose being to forge from the rival tunes a powerfully symbolic message. Mandela saw this national anthem as reconciling generosity with pragmatism, finding common ground between humanity’s higher values and the politician’s aspiration to power. Mandela said: the short term satisfaction of banning the despised old song might come at a dangerously high price, whereas the magnanimous act of retaining it could yield mightily valuable returns.
His task was to cement the foundations of Mandela saw the main threat to the hard-won new democracy, peace and stability from right-wing terrorism. The way to deprive the extremists of popular support, and therefore to disarm them, was by convincing the white population as a whole that they belonged fully in ‘the new South Africa,’ that a black-led government would not treat them the way previous white rulers had treated blacks.
Mandela’s wisdom in reaching out to the old enemy, repressing any vengeful impulses he might have accumulated during his twenty-seven years in prison, is the principal reason why South Africa has consolidated its transition from tyranny to democracy, and done so not through repression, but by persuasion.
The triumphant expression of Mandela’s life’s work is seen in a political system that, 20 years after he took power, remains as stable as it is authentically democratic. The rule of law, freedom of speech, free and fair elections: these are the gifts Mandela has bequeathed his nation.
The big truth is that Mandela succeeded in uniting a fiercely divided country. The feat is rare because what ordinary politicians have always done is seek power by highlighting difference and fueling antagonism. Mandela sought it by appealing to people’s common humanity.
Mandela’s 27 years in prison shaped him. He went in angry, convinced that the only way of achieving his people’s freedom was by force of arms. In 1962 this was understandable given every attempt to negotiate with successive white governments over the previous half century had been contemptuously rebutted; and that apartheid led to eighty-five percent of the population who were not white had been subjected since the arrival of the first European mariners in 1652.
What the experience of prison did was that Mandela learnt that succumbing to the vengeful passions would not bring lasting benefits; he learnt, through studying his jailers closely, that black and white people had far more in common. He learnt that forgiveness and generosity and, above all, respect were weapons of political persuasion as powerful as any gun.
During Mandela’s last four years in prison, he held secret talks about talks with the minister of justice of South Africa and with President Botha himself. The outcome of these meetings was that he was released from prison and the process of negotiations began that led to his people’s freedom and his rise to the highest political office in the land.
Mandela convinced his enemies by treating them individually with respect, by showing them trust, and by making it clear that he had a core set of values from which he would never be persuaded to depart. He set about rationally persuading them that violent confrontation and that the only hope for all parties lay in negotiation.
Mandela called off the planned “armed struggle” and, to the amazement of the South African political world, he agreed to take part in the all-race elections of April 1994, thereby giving his blessing to the political transformation and to the peaceful hand over of power from the white minority to the totality of the population.
Mandela was the quintessential political animal: he did everything he did with a clear political purpose. Not to understand this—to insist only on his admirable ‘lack of bitterness’ and his spirit of forgiveness—is to miss the bigger point that Mandela’s widely applauded saintliness was the instrument he judged to be most effective in the achievement of his political goals.
Mandela believed that in South Africa there could be no democracy without reconciliation, no justice without peace. Mandela acted wholeheartedly on this understanding, and his farsightedness in achieving his life’s goal by following the only strategy he knew could realistically work. Mandela’s legacy, the imperishable lesson he holds for the ages, and the reason why he stands head and shoulders above every world leader is that he showed it is possible to be a great human being and a great politician at the same time; that showing respect to friends and enemies alike can get can achieve great things for humanity. Mandela showed leadership by combining openness to humanity and power of the people.
Flaws, nevertheless, abound today, stemming from corruption in all its creeping manifestations. These could in time destroy the edifice Mandela built. But they will not undermine Mandela’s place in history, which is more durable than any political construct. Mandela’s deeper legacy lies in the example he has left for succeeding generations.
In June 2004, aged 85 and amid failing health, Mandela announced that he was “retiring from retirement” and retreating from public life, remarking “Don’t call me, I will call you.”
In February 2011, he was briefly hospitalized with a respiratory infection, attracting international attention, before being re-hospitalized for a lung infection and gallstone removal in in December 2012. After a successful medical procedure in early March 2013, his lung infection reoccurred, and he was briefly hospitalized in Pretoria.
On 8 June 2013, his lung infection worsened, and he was re-hospitalized in Pretoria in a serious condition. After four days, it was reported that he had stabilized and remained in a “serious, but stable condition”. En route to the hospital, his ambulance broke down and was stranded on the roadside for 40 minutes; the South African government was criticized for the incident when it confirmed the report several weeks later, but President Jacob Zuma countered that “There were seven doctors in the convoy who were in full control of the situation throughout the period. He had expert medical care.”
By 22 June 2013 he had not opened his eyes in days and was unresponsive, and the family was discussing just how much medical intervention should be given.
On 23 June 2013, President Jacob Zuma issued a statement saying that Mandela’s condition had become “critical”. Zuma, accompanied by the Deputy President of the ANC, Cyril Ramaphosa, met Mandela’s wife Graça Machel at the hospital in Pretoria and discussed his condition. On 25 June Cape Town Archbishop Thabo Makgoba visited Mandela at the hospital and prayed with Graça Machel Mandela “at this hard time of watching and waiting”. The next day, Zuma visited Mandela in the hospital and cancelled a visit scheduled for the next day to Mozambique. A relative of Mandela told The Daily Telegraph newspaper he is on life support.
On the 26 June his family met in Qunu, Eastern Cape for a family meeting. The chose a burial site for Mandela’s last resting place. They discussed ways to appease the “ancestors” for there are many customs and traditions that need to be done to correct many things that have been wrong.
At the end of June he was moved from the hospital to his official home in Houghton, Johannesburg which was equipped with an intensive care unit supported by 24/7 medical specialists and nursing care.
Mandela remained in intensive care until is death on 05 December at 8.50pm.
The national and the world mourns aone of the greatest the world as ever known and will never forget…………..his lasting values and his memory.
Rev Dr Sol Jacob
Former Director South African Council of Churches
Under Desmond Tutu