Re­vis­it­ing what we stand for

The Star Early Edition - - OPINION & ANALYSIS - RAY MCCAULEY

Pas­tor Ray McCauley is the pres­i­dent of Rhema Fam­ily Churches and co-chair­man of the Na­tional Re­li­gious Lead­ers Coun­cil

TO­DAY, July 18, we cel­e­brate our beloved Nel­son Man­dela, his life, legacy and val­ues. Fondly known as “Madiba” to so many, Man­dela made an in­deli­ble mark on the world and we are cel­e­brat­ing his ac­tions, val­ues and in­domitable spirit. His lead­er­ship, his ex­tra­or­di­nary hu­man­i­tar­ian con­tri­bu­tions and the model of his life are un­par­al­leled. As South Africans, we should be proud that such a great man lived among us and was our leader.

How­ever, our pride and cel­e­bra­tion are tinged with a sense of sad­ness. Some of us are sad that the val­ues Madiba lived by and taught us are to­day tram­pled upon by some of the cur­rent crop of lead­ers. Madiba was no saint and was al­ways at pains to em­pha­sise his hu­man frailty and mor­tal­ity. But even so, he had val­ues and qual­i­ties wor­thy of em­u­lat­ing by all of us, politi­cians and cit­i­zens alike.

To­day of­fers an op­por­tu­nity to re­visit Madiba’s val­ues and qual­i­ties, as­sess our de­vi­a­tion from these and re­trace our steps to what the found­ing father of demo­cratic South Africa stood for. We have to make this re­flec­tion, es­pe­cially given the lead­er­ship chal­lenges we now face as a coun­try. There are three qual­i­ties in his life I want to fo­cus on: in­tegrity, com­pas­sion and uniting.

Madiba was a man of in­tegrity. The word in­tegrity is de­fined as “the ad­her­ence to moral and eth­i­cal prin­ci­ples; the sound­ness of moral char­ac­ter”. It is a syn­onym for hon­esty and upright­ness, and is a vi­tal char­ac­ter­is­tic for those in po­lit­i­cal lead­er­ship. Po­lit­i­cal lead­ers who pos­sess in­tegrity can be trusted be­cause they never veer from in­ner val­ues, even when it might ben­e­fit them to do so. This re­quires the high­est stan­dard of in­tegrity.

Po­lit­i­cal his­tory tells us that there was a time dur­ing Man­dela’s in­car­cer­a­tion when the apartheid govern­ment of­fered him con­di­tional free­dom. Though he would have per­son­ally ben­e­fited, Man­dela re­sponded by say­ing: “I can­not sell my birthright nor am I pre­pared to sell the birthright of the peo­ple to be free.”

Here was a man who had not seen his wife and chil­dren for nearly two decades but re­fused to suc­cumb to a kind of free­dom that would ben­e­fit him but ex­clude his peo­ple. To­day, it is greatly dis­ap­point­ing that we have lead­ers who are pre­pared to sac­ri­fice this coun­try and its sovereignty at the al­tar of du­bi­ous friend­ships.

The un­pu­ri­fied sludge com­ing out of the Gupta leaked emails bear tes­ti­mony to how far some of our po­lit­i­cal lead­ers have de­vi­ated from Madiba’s val­ues. South Africa to­day needs men and women in po­lit­i­cal of­fice who, when the crooked make them cor­rupt of­fers, will re­spond like Madiba and say: “I can­not sell my birthright nor am I pre­pared to sell the birthright of my peo­ple.” For in­deed, when lead­ers fa­cil­i­tate the loot­ing of pub­lic re­sources by their friends, they are, in ef­fect, sell­ing the birthright of South Africans.

Those who are friends with the Gup­tas and have helped them to un­duly en­rich them­selves from what are pub­lic re­sources, are guilty of the high­est be­trayal of Man­dela’s legacy. They con­firm the truth that you can walk with a man and learn noth­ing from him. Ju­das Is­car­iot in the Bible did.

The sec­ond value Madiba es­poused was com­pas­sion. Com­pas­sion is the hu­mane qual­ity of un­der­stand­ing the suf­fer­ing of oth­ers and want­ing to do some­thing to al­le­vi­ate that suf­fer­ing. While many see com­pas­sion as a weak­ness, true com­pas­sion is a char­ac­ter­is­tic that con­verts knowl­edge to wis­dom. Good po­lit­i­cal lead­ers use com­pas­sion to see the needs of those they lead and to de­ter­mine the course of ac­tion that would be of great­est ben­e­fit to all those in­volved.

The very fact that Madiba got in­volved in the Strug­gle for lib­er­a­tion was be­cause he had seen the suf­fer­ing of his peo­ple and wanted to do some­thing, even if it meant tak­ing up arms, to end it. It was the same com­pas­sion that saw him mo­bilise re­sources and sup­port from var­i­ous sec­tors of so­ci­ety to tackle the huge in­fra­struc­ture back­log fac­ing schools that serve South Africa’s poorer chil­dren. And we know he was do­ing it not for pub­lic re­la­tions pur­poses, or to con­ceal any ne­far­i­ous ac­tiv­i­ties, but be­cause he had gen­uine com­pas­sion for chil­dren from poor com­mu­ni­ties. He fol­lowed his com­pas­sion with ac­tion.

The last qual­ity is that of Madiba as a uni­fier.

I think it was Emer­i­tus Arch­bishop Des­mond Tutu who de­scribed him as a uni­fier from the mo­ment he walked out of prison. In­car­cer­ated for close to 27 years, Man­dela emerged from prison not a bit­ter man. He was the epit­ome of for­give­ness, com­pas­sion and rec­on­cil­i­a­tion. Whether at the level of his po­lit­i­cal or­gan­i­sa­tion or at the coun­try’s level, Madiba worked hard to unite peo­ple.

As a na­tion, let us walk in his racial rec­on­cil­i­a­tion legacy and refuse to be side­tracked by the shenani­gans of the Bell Pot­tingers of this world – the Bri­tish PR firm that sought to di­vide us along racial lines in pur­suit of their client’s nar­row in­ter­ests.

UNI­FIER: Nel­son Man­dela laughs while cel­e­brat­ing his birth­day with ben­e­fi­cia­ries of the Nel­son Man­dela Chil­dren’s Fund, in Joburg.

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