(18c) Mr Nelson Mandela
May you rest in peace as you were really a remarkable man who had to live an extraordinary life.
As a younger man, you came up for your own oppressed people, i.e. black people in a racist South-Africa, ruled by white people. However, you quickly understood you had to defend everyone who has fewer chances. As a result, you spent many years in prison, so that 27 years of what could have been your best years were wasted.
Still, after your release you embraced everyone: black people but even those white people who sentenced you to jail. You had one condition: they had to speak so errors could be acknowledge and then corrected. As a result, a society developed where black, white and other colours can live together in what is today known as the Rainbow Nation. Although, we should not forget President F.W. de Klerk who liberated you because another person holding the office may have resulted in another outcome.
Of course, it is still not perfect, and many black people suffer even today while also a number of white people lost much. Maybe you should have been a little harsher in the redistribution of resources because many kept their wealth while many more remained poor while only a small percentage really benefited. But then you may have angered more people because there will always be some who are not willing to share some of their wealth, and certainly not with black people (illustrating not all racism is gone).
But because of your willingness to forgive and your behaviour after your release from prison until your death, trying to unite people and trying to convince everyone that people of all colours can live together, you became an example to others and as a result people are still living peacefully together today. Although many fear inequality may still be too big to claim it is already a successful society as too many remain poor and protest voices are becoming louder.
You were successful not only concerning the unification of a mixed coloured society after a terrible division. For instance, after your son died from AIDS in 2005, you spoke about it and as a result many people understood the disease not only affects the poor but it can destroy everyone. And thus the emancipation of people with HIV/AIDS could start in your country. But it seems you also acknowledged later that you did too little to halt the HIV/AIDS epidemic during your presidency. However, when a country may be on the brink of civil war as was in those days, you had to decide your priorities, and those were to unite all people while later you could focus on subgroups. It also shows you had your personal problems as you lost some of your children and great-granddaughter; still you used it to show your fellow citizens to embrace everyone in society.
You were also a major figure for human rights, including those for gay and lesbians and as a consequence gay rights are even inscribed in South-Africa's constitution and same-sex marriage is legalised while gay rights in many other African (and non-African) countries are bad and worsening. Indeed, many gay people came up for the rights of black people against the apartheid regime because many understood what it means having your rights denied as the white government also prohibited people loving people of the same sex. You were a black man widely accepted by many as someone with high moral grounds; therefore, black people in whole Africa should think about their own behaviour towards other humans. But as we see throughout Africa, many black people prefer to listen to white evangelical preachers who are on the side of oppressors than to follow the example of their beloved Mr Mandela. Many countries claim that gay rights are something of the morally corrupt West that wants to enforce "wrong" behaviour on Africa while anti-human rights, including anti-gay laws, were imported during the colonisation by the West of these countries. And those (religious right) who preach today against gay rights in the name of defending African tradition, would also not mind denying black people their rights. Similarly with President Obama of the USA who calls for equality for all humans while the (white) right calls for everyone, including black people, not to listen to their president because they want to reduce human rights for many, including those from the poor and ill. And many people listen to them.
You also received criticism for some of your foreign policies such as meeting Colonel Gaddafi. But I think one should never be angry when someone tries to convince someone to change their behaviour, although of course one should not accept that bad behaviour doesn't change. Still, you were admired throughout the world, even when you sometimes said things some politicians didn't like to hear. This week during the goodbye ceremony in your honour, President Obama shook the hand of the Cuban President as he should but I think the White House should have defended the handshake much stronger because it may smoothen relations between both countries while those on the right are shouting he should not have done so; indeed they are called hawks for a reason.
It is a shame you, Mr Nelson Mandela, had to stay about 27 years of your life behind bars although we should also be grateful you were able to live another 23 years after your release. You became the first President of a free South-Africa and you were able to unite the country to a great extend after your release, although inequality remains high and many whites left (but does it matter that people who don't want to unite and share leave?). I think it is a pity you didn't run for a second presidency although maybe you felt you were not strong enough to change the stream from within as you were already ageing. Indeed, allowing someone stronger (without being a dictator) to try to stop the increase in corruption and violence in society while you remained above politics, allowed you to explain why certain actions were needed or call for politicians to change behaviour (e.g. to do more to stop the AIDS epidemic) and this may then release tensions. While if you did the action (e.g. stop poor people stealing), then it would be impossible to thrust any politician anymore. Indeed, being a great statesman sometimes means stepping back if one feels too little can be achieved by staying in office when someone else may be better.
I hope you rest in peace. But also that your family may follow your example of trying to live in peace and not becoming enemies. Because you married three women and had children with them while they have now already their own children. And thus, when the chief dies, fighting in the family may come because everyone may claim to defend your legacy (and your property). Let us hope your family will be an example of unity to other families.
But not only from within your family but also in the wider public unrest may come as there are still some people who are angry there was no punishment for their enemies, certainly because many are angry their chances in life didn't improve after the many sacrifices they made, i.e. trying to live in peace with their previous oppressors of which many don't want to share. While some may be angry because they were forced to share a little. Also within your party, the ANC, tensions may rise as it seems already one of your friends and defenders, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, is not invited to your funeral. Therefore, we should hope your example to unite remains strong even after your death. And this includes not wanting great wealth at the cost of others but being able to share with those who have little (i.e. provide well paid work).
Update 15/12/2013 - After the funeral:
The family was present at the funeral - showing unity. Archbishop Tutu was present and so many others. There is hope.