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Nelson Mandela: A leader extraordinary

Updated on July 9, 2016

Mandela Gold

Election Poster for ANC in first free elections in South Africa-1994
Election Poster for ANC in first free elections in South Africa-1994
Strelitzia blooming now-named Mandela Gold
Strelitzia blooming now-named Mandela Gold | Source

Nelson Mandela-a leader par excellence.

As we hear the news here in South Africa that former president Nelson Mandela passed away last night in his home in Houghton, Johannesburg we realize that what we and the world has expected for some time has become a reality. Should we mourn his passing away at the ripe old age of 95. Yes, for those who were close to him there must be the sadness of not being able to see him again. To most of us it is however rather a time to reflect on the impact that he has made on this country and on the world in general. At the end of a life I believe it a time to rather say thank you for what that person has done and meant rather than spend too much time on wasted emotion feeling sorry for ourselves.

It is his very humanness that makes Nelson Mandela the person that he was. He showed the world how we as humans can rise above the difficulties of life. His story tells us about how we need to love life, our families, our friends and even our enemies. This example I believe sets him apart as a leadership role model for all the world. Here was a person who believed strongly in freedom and fairness but only in his later life experienced some of it. At the same time he fought for those principles with resolve and determination his whole life.

As accolades pour in from far and wide some of us really for the first time understand the impact that he made where ever he went and on the lives of whomever he met. The “Madiba Magic” touched the lives of many and the list of persons who his smile,wisdom and encouragement touched is phenomenal.

As one person said during an interview this afternoon he was not only a great person but an intelligent and astute politician. Some of the statements that he made will be quoted in the future along some of the great statements of all time. One of my favorites is that he said, “children are not born to hate, but learn to do so.” Others that Zelda la Grange quotes in her book 'Good Morning, Mr. Mandel" is that bitterness is a wasted emotion an that It is good to assume that others are men of integrity until they prove otherwise.

Here was a man who on human terms had every reason to carry in his heart resentment, hate and revenge. Rather than following that path he chose to turn the other cheek and work towards reconciliation and peace.

Nelson Mandela was not afraid to stand up for what he believed was right. Often he would take a firm stand on an issue even in the face of stiff opposition because that was the kind of person he was. The film Invictus that chronicles his involvement in the Rugby World Cup in 1995 needs to be viewed again by everyone and shown to children in future generations.

It is fitting that the new film about his life made its appearance in the same week he passed on. The book about his life, “A long walk to freedom” and the film based on that book will be just one way that his memory will be carried into the future as a reminder that there exists in the human spirit the ability to overcome the odds that seem to be stacked against us. It is so easy to live a life of fear, hate, resentment and unhappiness as we battle with the lower negative emotions that paralyze our effectiveness. It is with pride that I as a South African salute this man whose smile will be remembered in time to come.

Somehow he managed to rise above the difficulties that so often drag us down into the valley of hate, aggression and despair. He seemed to stand above that, facing the challenges that tested him and rising above them to send a message of love into a world that needs it so much.

An incident that amazed me is recorded in the book 'Conversations with myself'. In his application to study for his law degree at the University of South Africa while still imprisoned, he applies for exemption from taking Latin as a subject because although he had passed Latin at Matric (Grade 12 Level) and also passed an introductory course at College, he now would have to start from scratch. Respectfully he asks if he can rather take a course called 'African Politics'.

In our garden the Strelitzia that has been named Mandela Gold is flowering this week. As I look out of my back window and see its beautiful color and interesting shape I cannot but think with fondness and pride about this man who in his extraordinary way has helped to shape our country and our world in a better way. Mandela comes from the Easter Cape, where I have been privileged to live for the most of my life. The local newspaper, The Daily Dispatch headlined on posters and the front page "Madiba is Dead" His example will however live on into the future for all to see.

As a South African I join tonight with many others from all over the world by saying “We salute you Madiba, and may you rest in peace!”

Recommended Reading:

Good Morning, Mr. Mandela by Zelda la Grange

Conversations with myself by Nelson Mandela

The Long walk to freedom by Nelson Mandela


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    • Johan Smulders profile imageAUTHOR

      Johan Smulders 

      5 years ago from East London, South Africa

      So true and thanks for the comments.

    • MG Singh profile image

      MG Singh 

      5 years ago from Singapore

      He was a great man and leader, greatly influenced by Gandhi and his actions when he was in South Africa. Well written post

    • word55 profile image

      Al Wordlaw 

      5 years ago from Chicago

      Very, very good article on Mandela. Thank you JS and Jackie, I look forward to seeing the movie.

    • Johan Smulders profile imageAUTHOR

      Johan Smulders 

      5 years ago from East London, South Africa

      Yes he was amazing.

    • aviannovice profile image

      Deb Hirt 

      5 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      Beautifully said, Johan. This was the greatest man that ever lived, and I say so from the bottom of my heart. One day I will meet him, when we can all walk in peace and contentment.

    • Johan Smulders profile imageAUTHOR

      Johan Smulders 

      5 years ago from East London, South Africa

      Great comment. So few people are prepared to sacrifice for what they believed in. Most of us just go with the flow.

    • J - R - Fr13m9n profile image

      Jane Ramona Rynkiewicz Frieman 

      5 years ago from Morris County, New Jersey

      An emptiness was felt in my heart when I heard that that Nelson Mandela had passed. Now he is amongst those he loved. I can imagine that he is conversing with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. about Mahatma Gandhi's teachings of passive resistance. Dr. King felt, according to "my dream" a compassion and understanding of fellow brother Mandela's use of militancy to further the goal of freedom for his people.

    • Johan Smulders profile imageAUTHOR

      Johan Smulders 

      5 years ago from East London, South Africa

      Thanks Gill!

    • Gill Harris profile image

      Gill Harris 

      5 years ago from South Africa

      Beautiful tribute!

    • Johan Smulders profile imageAUTHOR

      Johan Smulders 

      5 years ago from East London, South Africa

      Thanks Martie

    • MartieCoetser profile image

      Martie Coetser 

      5 years ago from South Africa

      Johan, you may find this hub very interesting, and especially Ixwa's reply on my comment - long hub, but worthy to read to the end -

    • Johan Smulders profile imageAUTHOR

      Johan Smulders 

      5 years ago from East London, South Africa

      We live around the corner from Donald Woods former house in East London. Read the book Biko while visiting the USA in the 80's as it was banned in SA. We lived in amazing times and continue to do so. Thanks for your interesting comments!

    • sallybea profile image

      Sally Gulbrandsen 

      5 years ago from Norfolk

      A fitting tribute to an extraordinary man.

      Interesting for me to see your comment about the Daily Dispatch after having spent many years in your neck of the woods.

      I recall seeing the very famous image of Steve Biko which took up the whole front page of the Daily Dispatch when he was tragically killed. The editor at the time was Donald Woods whose family I knew personally. These two people were both involved in the struggle. The Eastern Cape can certainly lay claim to some extraordinary people.


    • Johan Smulders profile imageAUTHOR

      Johan Smulders 

      5 years ago from East London, South Africa

      Thank you for your comments. We can only hope that all of us follow his example.

    • Faith Reaper profile image

      Faith Reaper 

      5 years ago from southern USA

      Truly a fine man. This world could use a few more thousand just like him! You have presented a beautiful tribute to a beautiful man, Johan.

      Peace and blessings,

      Faith Reaper

    • prasetio30 profile image


      5 years ago from malang-indonesia

      He is the real hero for the people who need justice. We always miss you..forever.

    • Ericdierker profile image

      Eric Dierker 

      5 years ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

      So a long time ago an old man told me to go in search of diamonds in South Africa. I went there once and found no diamonds. I returned home and heard a speech over the radio. In those words I found a diamond. It was the diamond of South Africa. I have treasured it in my heart ever since.

      Peace and love to all.

    • MartieCoetser profile image

      Martie Coetser 

      5 years ago from South Africa

      RIP, Madiba! He was truly an extraordinary human being - I saw more Christ in him than in many other so-called Christians.

      Beautiful hub, Johan ))

    • Jackie Lynnley profile image

      Jackie Lynnley 

      5 years ago from The Beautiful South

      Nelson Mandela certainly was one of the greatest men to live. I just wonder at the strength this man had and he was a godly man more importantly I believe and has moved on to his final reward.

    • suzettenaples profile image

      Suzette Walker 

      5 years ago from Taos, NM

      A beautiful tribute to Nelson Mandela. He was extraordinary and lived his life that way also. I don't think we will ever see a man of his strength, fortitude, or forgiving nature again. He is a rare human being. He has set a great example, but I don't know if anyone in the world is following that example today. That is what is so sad, not his death, as he did live a long life and now is at total peace.

    • Nadine May profile image

      Nadine May 

      5 years ago from Cape Town, Western Cape, South Africa

      Greetings from Cape Town. Thank you for your wonderful hub on Madiba


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