Friday, December 5, 2014

NELSON MANDELA ~ Africa’s Last Statesman

It has been a year since Nelson Mandela's passing. In Mandiba's absence the Rainbow Nation he so valiantly struggled to build has turned decidedly gray. The magnificent vision of Africa's last statesman has been lost by the lesser men that unfortunately succeeded him.

But rather than dwell on the bleak let us be hopeful that in remembering Mandela's death, the South African people will honor his life and legacy by electing future leaders, based on merit, not cronyism. (How about a woman? It would make a unique, and welcome change in the societal hierarchy.) In doing so the honor, the hope, and the desire for all equality that was Mandela's life's work would finally be achieved.

One year ago I was finishing the final chapter of my South African themed novel, “The Zebra Affaire”. When I heard the sad news of Mandela's death I felt compelled to add a tribute as a coda to my book; here is an excerpt:

As I sit in my study writing these words the television is on in the background, keeping me company. It is December 5, 2013, a Thursday, a day I will now always remember: a news alert, immediately distressing but inevitable, as the reporter has just announced the death, at age ninety-five, of Nelson Mandela.
We are fortunate to have lived at a time when a person of such extraordinary wisdom, mercy, and humanity walked among us. On reflection, the only disappointment in Mandela's ascendancy to power was that it was so late in his life—he grasped the reins of responsibility at an age most men retire. This allowed us only a single-term presidency. 
But former prisoner Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela had no desire to become a sovereign: he relinquished the power voluntarily—so refreshing on a continent where provincial tyrants strive to rule forever.
But here I remain fearful (though I dearly hope to be proven wrong). Mandela was the nation’s talisman—his very presence held the various peoples of South Africa on a rainbow path of dignity and equality, and by his noble example all tribal rivalries were set aside and all were welcomed at the table.
But now he’s gone, I fear the quiet vow of loyalty to his vision of a united South Africa will be abrogated. With Mandela no longer living, lesser mortals will not feel bound by any allegiance to the “Father of the Nation”; instead, in a lust for power, they will once again unleash the tribal tensions that have forever plagued the continent.
But a man is fragile, limited by the term of his life. His ideals, however, if merited deserve to remain in the consciousness of those left behind for all eternity. And Nelson Mandela’s ideals were supreme. So as Tata takes his well-deserved rest with the ancients, it is hoped those who succeed him learn from his enlightened example, and avoid the pitfalls found on the dark path of the tribal divide.
However, for now we remain both hopeful and grateful. Nelson Mandela gave the nation he so revered one final gift. After forty years in the wilderness as a pariah among nations, South Africans now hold their heads up high due to the shining beacon of Tata’s grace. We in turn are in his debt, and have a job to do to ensure his legacy lives on, by holding future leaders to the fine standards he set—to embrace all, and shun partisanship.

I would think the most fitting tribute to Nelson Mandela would be to ensure that he was not destined to remain Africa's last great statesman.

[Mark Fine is the author of “The Zebra Affaire” available in paperback and Kindle editions on Amazon.]