Civil rights giant Nelson Mandela died today at the age of 95. He leaves an astonishing legacy of hope, community, and forgiveness. During his lifetime he saw prison as well as the Presidency of post apartheid South Africa. Nelson Mandela leaves this world as a champion of peaceful conflict resolution and for the elimination of poverty. He leaves us a legacy of miracles.
“Mandela was one of the great leaders and teachers of the twentieth century. He conceived a model for mortal enemies to overcome their hatred and find a way through compassion to rebuild a nation based on truth, justice and the power of forgiveness. His passing should reignite a worldwide effort for peace.”
Paul Simon on Nelson Mandela’s passing, December 5, 2013
Nelson Mandela leaves a legacy of miracles
Mandela was criticized for being for being a revolutionary and shadow Marxist. He was seen by white Afrikanners as the devil. However, having had the opportunity and honor to meet several Southern African leaders, I have been able to learn more about the impact of Mandela on his countrymen and our times.
For instance, I once attended a conference in Iowa (of all places) where I met KwaZulu chieftain and subsequently Home Advisor in the new Republic of South Africa, Mangosuthu (Gatsha) Buthelezi. He was 6’5″ at least, and even overlooking the cornfields of Sioux Center IA, he dressed in traditional garb and carried a pretty impressive looking scepter of office. A staunch Christian and anti-communist, Buthelezi, was branded an apartheid collaborator by leftwing Marxist radicals that drove the Black Consciousness Movement in South Africa during the 1970s, even though he had opposed apartheid designs on the Zulu territories and Swaziland. Even so, Buthelezi insisted that Mandela be released from prison prior to any binding post-apartheid negotiations.
These were tough times in South Africa with tough talk with heated words verging on revolution and serious bloodshed and civil war of which most Americans cannot fathom. There were razor sharp ideological lines pressed by leftist radicals that tried to manage Mandela’s image in their attempt to remake the transition to an equal and democratic South Africa some Marxist inspired revolution. Even so, Buthelezi’s involvement in the transition plainly speaks to Mandela’s foresight and ability to engage leaders from across the spectrum to the cause of peaceful transition.
I’ve also had the chance to hear Bishop Desmond Tutu preach several times. A little man, Tutu is a firestorm of faith and hope. It was Tutu that opened my heart to think differently about the Mandela legacy of miracles. For one thing is certain, insisted Tutu, (paraphrasing)
That the transition of South Africa to a post-apartheid democracy without widespread bloodshed and recrimination was nothing short of a miracle from God, with Mandela holding the rod of Moses. That the new found Repbulic’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission helped air grievances, expose crimes, and provide forgiveness and reparations where it could, instead of fomenting bloody reprisals across the Southern continent, is a testament to Mandela’s wisdom, courage, and faith in the peaceful resolution of bitter, bitter hurts, atrocities, and human betrayal.