Nelson Mandela Tribute
By Clifford Hinds
The passing of the great Nelson Mandela evoked emotions worldwide and has provided many lessons for us to copy in our daily lives. He was a spiritual man but did not cling to any religion. He believed in compromise, civility and respect for others and their opinions. As one writer stated, he knew it was easier to catch flies with honey than with vinegar.
At the same time, he held on strongly to certain non negotiable principles. He would not sell out his constituents for his own personal gain. He could have been released from prison ten years earlier but he refused to give in to the unreasonable demands of his oppressors.
Mandela had strong Indian connections. Many Indians joined the African National Congress and helped him in his struggle for human rights and freedom. Fellow political prisoner, Sonny Venkatrathnam smuggled reading materials into the Robben Island prison disguising them in colorful Diwali cards which celebrated the Hindu festival of lights. Ahmed Kathrada spent 26 years in prison with Mandela and became his lifelong friend. Professor Mac Maharaj, Ismail Cachalia, Bill Nair and Laloo Chiba all served time with Mandela.
The protest movement in India strongly supported Mandela and the ANC. In 1946, Jawaharlal Nehru, who would be the future Prime Minister, promised that India would boycott South Africa until it abolished apartheid. India continued its support of the ANC in the United Nations and other international organizations.
When he was released from prison, his first trip abroad was to India where he was awarded the highest civilian honor, the Bharat Ratna only the second non-Indian to receive that award. In 2001, Mandela was awarded the Gandhi Peace prize. He also visited Cuba and Jamaica who were ardent supporters. When Mandela selected his first cabinet in 1994, he included six persons of Indian descent, including the Chief Justice, Minister of Justice and the Speaker of Parliament.
Mandela was a great admirer of Mahatma Gandhi who had spent time in South Africa fighting apartheid. Gandhi and Mandela were both humble men who did not seek the limelight nor did they believe that they had any special entitlement as leaders. Their national goals soared above ethnic and social divisions.
They did not use power for power sake and titles did not matter to them. Gandhi was not interested in political power for himself and Mandela only held the presidency for one term. At the same time, they worked very hard, made sacrifices and achieved their goals.
Words From Gandhi:
“You must be the change you want to see in the world” “
“A no uttered from the deepest conviction is better than a yes uttered to please or worse, to avoid trouble”
“An eye for an eye, only ends up making the whole world blind”
Words From Mandela:
“If you want peace with your enemy, you have to work with him, then he becomes your partner”
“A smart person can engage in a debate frankly and thoroughly, knowing that at the end of the discussion, both sides will be closer and thus emerge stronger”
“It always seems impossible until it is done.”
“I like friends who have independent minds, because they make you see problems from different angles”