By Heidi Trautmann
A great man who has gone a long way for his people, a true leader, loved and respected by the whole world has turned 94 years. I have lived in his country for some years and know about the troubles due to the Apartheid politics and I was so happy to hear that a sensible man, Mr. de Klerk who sat on the Presidential chair before him, had released him from prison and thus helped prepare the road to freedom. I recite from his curriculum vitae:
Nelson Mandela had served as president from 1994 to 1999, the first ever to be elected in a fully representative democratic election. Before being elected President, Mandela was a militant anti-apartheid activist, and the leader and co-founder of Umkhonto we Sizwe, the armed wing of the African National Congress (ANC). In 1962 he was arrested and convicted of sabotage and other charges, and sentenced to life imprisonment. Mandela went on to serve 27 years in prison, spending many of these years on Robben Island. Following his release from prison on 11 February 1990, Mandela led his party in the negotiations that led to the establishment of democracy in 1994. As President, he frequently gave priority to reconciliation, while introducing policies aimed at combating poverty and inequality in South Africa.
I cannot paint a better profile of him than by letting him talk himself through his quotes and his ideas he had about mankind and about leadership:
-I have never cared very much for personal prizes. A man does not become a freedom fighter in the hope of winning awards, but when I was notified that I had won the 1993 Nobel Peace Prize jointly with Mr de Klerk, I was deeply moved. The Nobel Peace Prize had a special meaning to me because of its involvement with South African history.... The award was a tribute to all South Africans and especially to those who fought in the struggle; I would accept it on their behalf.
-Education is the great engine of personal development. It is through education that the daughter of a peasant can become a doctor, that a son of a mineworker can become the head of the mine, that a child of farm workers can become the president of a great nation. It is what we make out of what we have, not what we are given, that separates one person from another.
-When I think about the past, the types of things ‘they’ did, I feel angry, but then again that is my feeling. The brain always dominates, says, as I have pointed out, you have a limited time to stay on Earth. You must try and use that period to transform your country into what you desire it to be.
-I have walked that long road to freedom. I have tried not to falter; I have made missteps along the way. But I have discovered the secret that after climbing a great hill, one only finds that there are many more hills to climb. I have taken a moment here to rest, to steal a view of the glorious vista that surrounds me, to look back on the distance I have come. But I can only rest for a moment, for with freedom comes responsibilities, and I dare not linger, for my long walk is not ended.
-As a leader...I have always endeavored to listen to what each and every person in a discussion had to say before venturing my own opinion. Oftentimes, my own opinion will simply represent a consensus of what I heard in the discussion. I always remember the axiom: a leader...is like a shepherd. He stays behind the flock, letting the most nimble go out ahead, whereupon the others follow, not realizing that all along they are being directed from behind.
I want to join the congratulants and wish him health. I want to pay my respects and would like to say that we would need more leaders like him to bring us out of the many troubles we are in. Perhaps I put an ad in the papers: Statesman like Mandela wanted.