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Leadership 3 - Semester 2 Newsletter

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Mandela's Strength and Weakness


Mandela’s negotiations for the end of apartheid with his jailers leave a legacy of principled leadership and racial reconciliation. Mandela was the man for the people, for the media, for the black South Africans and for the Africans in general Mandela's relationship with the media is probably unique for a world leader. Over years he visited every newspaper editors in South Africa and made newsroom walk-about shaking hands with hundreds of people. At one time he even broke away from his planned schedule on his first visit to the US in 1990 and, while in Boston, visited the headquarters of The Christian Science Monitor to see some one he new who was a reporter. (Christian Science Monitor)

It had become conventional wisdom in some political circles that image-making work was Mandela's chief role as president - raising ANC funds and promoting trade and investment. But the power of Mandela was in his extraordinary living example as a leader who, after sacrificing 27 years of his life for the ideal of a racially integrated democracy, talked to his enemies and then negotiated them out of power.

His commitment to justice, reconciliation, and moral integrity was vital to the success of an often-fraught transition. Mandela has an extraordinary personality of very rare human qualities. Other people could not have survived 27 years of prison life under any conditions, least of all those he experienced. He came out unchanged and has never been attracted to any sense of vengeance or hatred. His personal beliefs also remain unchanged. Just like Toussaint L'Ouverture of Haiti, Mandela symbolises black resistance against white domination. His image is likely to live longer than he is. (Christian Science Monitor)

He stood strong and unshakeable all those years in prison, a man who rewarded his enemies with love and for that commands great respect all over the world By forgiving his tormentors and oppressors, Mandela has proved to the world that Africans are the most civilised people on earth (Dennis Marope, Zimbabwe).


The question that has always fascinated people is: Who is Nelson Mandela? "I once was alone with him on his private jet to Durban. After gazing out the window for a time, he began to speak about himself with a sense of detachment". It was as though he, too, wanted to know whom this Nelson Mandela was, and what would happen to him when he relinquished his post as president of the country and the ANC"(Christian Science Monitor). Mandela is weak like any other human on earth. He is not a "superman".

Anthony Sampson, who produced the official biography of Mandela, describes a striking personality change between the impulsive and impatient 40year old revolutionary leader in the late 1950s, and the measured and dignified 70 year old who stepped out of prison in 1990.

Clearly, the Mandela we know today was forged in part by the way he dealt with the emotional deprivation, hardship, and separation from his loved ones while in prison. It was a wiser, more compassionate, strategic, and self-disciplined leader who emerged from jail. Without being imprisoned Mandela would have not reached that image he has today. Therefore his imprisonment contributed to him being a great person probably due to being exposed to a lot of suffering and difficulties at the hands of his oppressors. Without this Mandela might not have been what he is today. Mandela is not a pure person even though he is one of the figures on the world stage today, which appears to be an unambiguous moral giant. He is a hero precisely because he always admitted his errors and then tried to rise above them. And he has never stopped learning. He had to catch up on almost three decades of social change, and one of the things he had to learn was about AIDS. At first, this 70-year-old man did not have the most enlightened view. But within a yearlong before other, younger South African leaders-he understood that AIDS was an enormous tragedy for his country and his continent, and he saw it as another moral challenge in a life effacing up to them.