The great Nelson Mandela, and lessons from South Africa.

By Andrew Symes

I want to pay my own tribute to Nelson Mandela. As a university student in the 1980’s like many others I saw him as a hero who had refused to compromise his principles, a David who had stood up to the might of the apartheid Goliath. It was partly due to the inspiration of Mandela that I spent 13 years of my ministry in South Africa. The church’s record there has been mixed but its role continues to be critical in the rebuilding of the new nation under Mandela’s Presidency and beyond.

After his release from prison and then in the build-up to the first democratic election, we heard of his wonderful vision for multi racial living in harmony – later symbolized by his wearing of the Springbok captain’s rugby shirt at the 1995 World Cup final. Under Mandela’s leadership many who were previously enemies because of racial differences became friends. For example Mkhuseli Jack, who had been a leader of successful non violent protest in Port Elizabeth, had been tortured by apartheid police, but in the new dispensation married Kari, who is white, and employed in his business a white former policeman who had confessed to atrocities under the terms of the Truth Commission. Mkhuseli was inspired by Mandela, who insisted that the new South Africa would be characterized not by revenge or radical redistribution, but reconciliation and restitution.

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