CityPress - - Voices & Careers - Sello Mokoena [email protected]­

As the world re­mem­bers for­mer pres­i­dent Nel­son Man­dela as the fore­most political moral com­pass glob­ally and cel­e­brates his cen­te­nary, it is cru­cial to re­flect on the sig­nif­i­cance of his con­tri­bu­tion to hu­man­ity and to demon­strate how his vi­sion can be used as an ap­pro­pri­ate lead­er­ship tem­plate to cre­ate an in­clu­sive world.

With the un­prece­dented up­surge in ul­tra-right wing sen­ti­ments world­wide, epit­o­mised by the elec­tions of strong men such as Don­ald Trump and Brazil’s Jair Bol­sonaro, in­sid­i­ously un­der­min­ing the val­ues up­held by pro­gres­sive lead­ers and tan­gi­ble and pal­pa­ble progress to cre­ate an in­clu­sive world, it be­comes even more com­pelling to re­flect on Madiba’s val­ues, as he was the great­est uni­fier. Renowned US scholar and philoso­pher Cor­nel West, in a ground-break­ing lec­ture ti­tled the Mean­ing of Man­dela – His Legacy, am­pli­fied Madiba’s prow­ess as a great uni­fier and vi­sion­ary: “With­out the grand uni­fier of Nel­son Man­dela it is likely that there would have been a blood­bath in this coun­try. We should never for­get that. Lead­er­ship makes a dif­fer­ence. These are in­di­vid­u­als who muster courage to shape their sense of char­ac­ter and make a dif­fer­ence.”

Al­though Madiba was part of a mul­ti­fac­eted lead­er­ship, his dis­tinc­tive lead­er­ship qual­i­ties made him tower over peers. He was able to graft a grand vi­sion for the bet­ter­ment of our so­ci­ety and pur­sued it to the end against all odds.

De­spite rig­or­ous ef­forts by the apartheid regime to con­vince the world of the le­git­i­macy of its poli­cies, Man­dela was able to lead and con­vince oth­ers at home and abroad why change was needed and how our com­mon hu­man­ity could ben­e­fit from the de­sired out­comes and why the ef­fort was worth the in­vest­ment of sac­ri­fices, ded­i­ca­tion and re­sources. Be­cause of his in­spi­ra­tional lead­er­ship qual­i­ties and wis­dom, he was able to mo­bilise en­thu­si­asm for the re­quired fun­da­men­tal political changes in our life­time.

He kept the rest of the world de­ter­mined to fight apartheid, even when it did not ap­pear to be worth its at­ten­tion and sup­port, amid a flurry of ef­forts to counter the pro­mo­tion of the broader so­ci­etal goals of jus­tice, equal­ity and peace.

Be­cause of his dis­tinc­tive lead­er­ship, he en­sured that the ne­go­ti­ated political set­tle­ment ad­hered to pro­ce­dures as agreed by the ne­go­tia­tors, so that it could not be re­jected or un­der­mined by the mi­nor­ity groups, in­clud­ing vested ex­ter­nal in­ter­est groups, such as in­vestors, for lack of ad­her­ence to an in­clu­sive process.

As a sea­soned ne­go­tia­tor Madiba was in­stru­men­tal in en­sur­ing that the process was in­clu­sive and con­sen­sus­build­ing. He was able to guide the ne­go­ti­a­tions to achieve clo­sure at the proper his­tor­i­cal mo­ment oth­er­wise any progress made could have been de­railed by un­nec­es­sary di­a­logue and dis­pute.

Through his out­stand­ing lead­er­ship qual­i­ties and hard work Madiba taught us not to be in­dif­fer­ent to the plight of the most vul­ner­a­ble groups in so­ci­ety, be they the poor­est of the poor, chil­dren, women, the el­derly and peo­ple liv­ing with dis­abil­i­ties. He also taught us to up­hold the con­sti­tu­tional rights of many poor com­mu­ni­ties and the rule of law and to con­fer the fun­da­men­tal hu­man rights with re­gard to se­cu­rity and peace as set out in the Con­sti­tu­tion; to cre­ate op­por­tu­ni­ties for them so that they could live by the sweat of their brow.

As Madiba said at the African Re­nais­sance Fes­ti­val, in Durban on March 27 1999: “None of us can enjoy last­ing peace and se­cu­rity while mil­lions of our com­pa­tri­ots live in poverty. No coun­try can enjoy sus­tain­able growth and devel­op­ment while any of its neigh­bours are trou­bled by con­flict and in­sta­bil­ity.”

This be­comes more com­pelling as the world is in­creas­ingly ex­pe­ri­enc­ing high lev­els of pop­ulism and pro­tec­tion­ism which makes it more un­sta­ble, re­sult­ing in less-de­vel­oped na­tions’ so­cioe­co­nomic needs treated as mat­ters of pe­riph­eral in­ter­est. The world is grap­pling with in­creas­ing lev­els of in­equal­i­ties as well as widen­ing wealth gaps.

We have to work harder as we cher­ish Madiba’s legacy to pro­mote and strengthen our col­lec­tive self­im­age as a na­tion and, to a large ex­tent, a part of hu­man­ity.

The force of my ar­gu­ment is that his ex­tra­or­di­nary lead­er­ship taught us that, with­out the ideal, in­spi­ra­tional process and de­ci­sive political lead­er­ship, it is of­ten dif­fi­cult, if not im­pos­si­ble, to achieve ap­proval for the de­sired change and to main­tain it in a sus­tain­able man­ner.

His high-qual­ity lead­er­ship and states­man­ship as well as per­sonal au­thor­ity made a dif­fer­ence. This is what de­fined the phe­nom­e­non called Madiba. We are not ar­ro­gant when we say Madiba’s legacy of­fers a con­flu­ence of in­spi­ra­tional val­ues that can serve a greater purpose of unit­ing hu­man­ity.

Mokoena is a pub­lic ser­vant in the Gaut­eng gov­ern­ment

He was able to graft a grand vi­sion for the bet­ter­ment of our so­ci­ety and pur­sued it to the end against all odds

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