Another Year Gone!
As most years are won’t to be the year 2013 had its up’s and it’s down’s. The good times and the bad. Great news that caused us to hi-five brought massive smiles to our faces and for some an excuse to pop open the bubbly. A new birth in the family, a promotion, a new house, a new car, a friend gets married, a really great holiday.
And of course there were the sad times. The times when there was more month than money and you weren’t totally sure how to put the next meal on the table. Redundancies and failed interviews, accidents, sicknesses and homelessness. The death of a loved one.
The Death of an Icon
There was one particular death in 2013 that seemed to rock the whole world. The death of Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela. Mr Mandela, who is known affectionately by his clan name, Madiba is said to have died shortly before 21:00 local time on Thursday the 5th of December 2013. A very sad day for the people of his native South Africa.
The Free Mandela Movement was Worldwide
Growing up southwest of the Sahara desert in Africa (which of course is not news) I remember local musician after local musician releasing a ‘Free Mandela’ themed song. In fact as the likelihood of Nelson Mandela actually being freed edged towards reality a friend of mine commented, “I wonder what musicians will sing about once Mandela becomes a free man”.
That world changing day did indeed come on the 11th of February 1990 Nelson Mandela became a free man again after 27 years of incarceration for fighting for his human rights and the human rights of many of his fellow countrymen.
I say world changing day because Nelson Mandela was definitely an actor who played on the world stage. The struggle he embodied was a struggle each of us can identify with, a struggle for freedom, a struggle for equal rights, a struggle for the dignity of every human being regardless of colour, class or creed.
Nelson Mandela wasn’t perfect, apparently he was the first to admit it in his autobiography, but I haven’t read it so I can’t confirm. What Mandela did have though was a “super-human” ability to forgive.
What Could It Have Been Like For Mandela In Prison?
Come with me for a few short seconds to consider just some of the things the great Mandela went through. He was in prison, not some fancy western cell with three square meals and more TV channels than most get outside jail, he was in prison in every sense of the word. For nine years he was in a damp cell with a lone window a small stool and a straw mat to sleep on. Think about it… Have you ever slept on a mat in prison before, a mat that barely keeps out the cold of the concrete floor underneath? No, I didn’t think so. Now think of sleeping like that for nine years before a few more items of furniture are added. It makes me shudder, I don’t know about you.
Have you ever felt lonely and isolated before? For many years Nelson was allowed one visit and one item of mail every six months. Newspapers were a forbidden item, and he was locked in solitary confinement on several occasions for possessing smuggled news clippings.
Things did get slightly better during the later years of his confinement, but can you imagine undergoing those conditions for just a few years. I personally marvel that he survived those twenty-seven years and he was in his seventies before he was finally released. We didn’t even mention the harsh labour of breaking rocks into gravel on a daily basis.
I can only postulate that the Lord had need of him and therefore kept him alive and in good health until the appointed time.
It reminds one of when the Israelites were slaves in Egypt and endured bitter treatment until the time that the Father God had designated.
Freedom Finally Comes
The days of incarceration must have definitely seemed endless to Mandela and his fellow freedom fighter prisoners but somebody was ticking off the days. A God who knew he could trust Nelson to do the right think had everything worked out to the minutest detail just like He always does. I tend to believe that the Father God must have had many nocturnal chats with Mr Mandela, creating in him a new heart, a heart after the things of our Saviour.
And when it was time it was time and there was no going back. If a P. W. Botha refused to cooperate then he would be replaced by an F. W. de Klerk. The day of freedom must surely come and it did.
On the 11th of February 1990 Nelson Mandela left Victor Verster Prison, to which he had been moved in 1998, a free man. The event and his subsequent speech were televised worldwide. This was however the beginning of a long drawn out process to secure an election that would culminate in majority rule.
What Did He Do With His Freedom?
It is said that old habits die hard, some such habits don’t die at all and pockets of violence continued to rock South Africa, but Mandela was set on a peaceful resolution of processes. Many within the African National Congress (ANC) and other black parties/groups considered his approach weak, but Nelson was adamant that South Africa belonged to all South Africans regardless of colour or creed.
Despite what he had gone through in his life and times Nelson Mandela was on a mission of peace and reconciliation. When he eventually became the leader of the majority elected government he attempted to create the broadest possible coalition in his cabinet. He was about inclusion, notwithstanding the fact his people had been excluded for years.
Nelson Mandela oversaw the formation of a Truth and Reconciliation Commission to investigate crimes committed under apartheid by both the government and the ANC, appointing Desmond Tutu as its chair. To prevent the creation of martyrs, the Commission granted individual amnesties in exchange for testimony of crimes committed during the apartheid era. Dedicated in February 1996, it held two years of hearings detailing rapes, torture, bombings, and assassinations, before issuing its final report in October 1998. Mandela praised the Commission’s work, stating that it “had helped us move away from the past to concentrate on the present and the future”.
Forgiveness Seemed to be His Watchword!
Through all these difficult, harsh and very painful circumstances Nelson seemed to have just one word on his mind ‘forgiveness’.
Forgiveness it seems a simple harmless word but is often so hard to implement. It is often so hard to truly forgive and move on. To genuinely reconcile, not hold the dreadful past against your adversaries, instead to let it go and actually work together for the good of other people, for the good of communities, for the good of a nation.
Some will say Mandela had a large heart, I don’t doubt it, but to me it seems more of a heart after the Father God. I strongly believe that Mr Nelson Mandela must have drawn on and received strength from the forgiving power of Almighty God.
Some of us haven’t spoken to our neighbours in years, not since that altercation about the fence or some other matter. And of course we are too ‘big’ to be the first to break the ice. We make a point of actively avoiding one colleague or another rather than supposingly looking weak by being the first to say hi, after the words we had, sometime in the past, over what, we can’t really remember.
Forgiveness is not easy, I know that first hand and Mandela was probably among the limited few who could have proposed it in the Rainbow nation that had more or less had its heart ripped out.
Others would have had a flurry of sarcastic questions thrown at them:
Did your son die?
Was your livelihood ruined?
Did you almost die in prison?
Were some of the best years of your life spent behind bars?
Have you ever endured solitary confinement?
Was your marriage ruined?
To all of these questions and more Nelson Mandela would have answered in the affirmative.
I imagine that many South Africans would have longed to avoid the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and gone about their lives holding their hurts on their arms, flaring into flames at the slightest provocation.
Strong Men Forgive
However, when they looked up and saw ‘Madiba’s’ example (as he was often fondly called), they didn’t have much choice except to down weapons and take up the perfume of peace.
Mandela wasn’t perfect, many of us would have loved him to be, we would have really been able to go to town with our articles – a man so gentle that butter didn’t melt in his mouth – but that wasn’t him. He was like the rest of us a mere mortal, who took many a wrong turn in his time and said many a thing that made him blush, yes, a blush so strong that it showed through his dark skinned face.
He didn’t however dwell on the mistakes instead he plodded on trusting that he could and would make a worthwhile difference.
This is 2014 and sadly Nelson Mandela and many others didn’t get to see the sun rise on this glorious New Year. They’ve served their time, done what they could and are trusting for a nod of approval from their creator.
True we are not all Mandela’s; I for one wouldn’t want to be incarcerated for twenty-seven years I know I wouldn’t survive it. But we can all have the spirit of forgiveness.
If we can hold on to forgiveness throughout 2014 I’m sure we will be the better for it.
When insults, hurts, pains, lies, mud and mischief are thrown at us if we can retaliate with forgiveness I’m positive our lives will be the better for it.
Yes, the world lost an icon in 2013 in the person of Nelson Mandela, but our world will truly be a better place for his having visited if his spirit of forgiveness lives on in our hearts, our minds and our actions.
May your 2014 be all you wish it to be!
Ref. Nelson Mandela Wikipedia page