Author: Nelson Mandela
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Just after Nelson Mandela passed on, I remember reading a newspaper article that claimed that if you were born after the late 80s, you probably never grasped why his life was celebrated by the whole world. I admit, I was guilty as charged. It is an unacceptable state of ignorance not to know the story behind one of the few African leaders, yet claim to proudly be an African. I decided to get rid of my ignorance as soon as I came across his autobiography, A Long Walk to Freedom. I took the opportunity to understand why he was considered a remarkable leader.
At first as I approached the book I was skeptic that it would lack objectivity given that he, himself, wrote it. (Honestly speaking, how many of us would actually write a book about ourselves that not only highlights our victories, but also our failures, misjudgments and errors?) My doubts were however ridden from me because the fact remains that the book is a remarkable story about one of the greatest leaders this world has seen.
The story tells of how he transformed from a frightened young man in a world full of unfathomable injustices, to a bold man willing to begin a journey of self-sacrifice, for the sake of a people oppressed by the ruthless Apartheid system. I have never had to face the horror that accompanies racist systems such as that of Apartheid. Mandela however paints a picture of the extent to which the Nationalist government went to ensure racial segregation from the highest levels of the the land to the dreary prison systems.
As we walked towards the prison, the guards shouted ‘Two-two! Two-two!’ – meaning we should walk in pairs, two in front, two behind. I linked up with Tefu. The guards started screaming ‘Haas! Haas!‘ The word haas means ‘move’ in Afrikaans, but it is customarily reserved for cattle. – (Nelson Mandela when describing the first time he arrived in the Robben Island prison.)
Nelson Mandela narrates his life journey and experiences from his childhood to the moment he became the first African President of South Africa. I ran along with him in the plains of Qunu, I sensed his frustration while his efforts against Apartheid were undermined, I gripped his doubt when he questioned the path he’d chosen, I grasped his compassion when he’d look past the dark hearts of the antagonizers and I felt his joy when he was free at last.
As you read on you will feel and understand the circumstances that prompted the thoughts and actions that not only made him a renowned and inspirational leader, but also an outstanding human being. In him, the world saw a virtue that would be considered rare; the courage to forgive your tormentors and love them just as much as the tormented.
I always knew that deep down in every human heart, there was mercy and generosity. No one is born hating another person because of the colour of his skin, or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite. – Nelson Mandela
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