January 2014 by Life Positive Mandela: World leader in the perfect sense When Nelson Mandela passed away on December 5, 2013, it marked the last of the towering freedom fighters who stood for universal brotherhood, cutting across nations, races and boundaries. Called the Mahatma of modern times, Mandela kept the legacy of Gandhi alive and relevant at a time when Indians themselves failed to abide by it. No wonder that after his release from prison in 1990, he came to visit India, the land of his inspiration. He was also the first foreigner to be awarded the Bharat Ratna by the Government of India. A visionary, a statesman, a politician, and one of the world’s most inspiring figures, he won the world’s love and respect in overwhelming measure. Like the Mahatma, Nelson (lovingly called Madiba by his people), too strove for the freedom of his country, through loving and not hating his oppressors. Opposing the most brutal regime of Apartheid, that discriminated on the basis of skin colour, and dehumanised the natives of South Africa, his journey to greatness encountered the harshest of trials and challenges. A struggle which was first led on the lofty ideals of non-violence, civil disobedience and non-cooperation for 20 years, was forced to resort to militancy through the ANC’s military wing to counter the brutal suppression of the racist government. In 1962, he was sentenced to five years with hard labour in a lime quarry. In 1963, he was sentenced to life imprisonment with seven others for plotting to overthrow the government. But Mandela’s call for self-rule, right to life and dignity, equality and freedom for the blacks, burgeoned from within the four walls of the prison, and shook the outside world. India championed the cause of South Africa on the international forum of the United Nations. But the story of Mandela had yet to reach the crest of its unparalleled glory. He was released from prison after 27 years by South African President F W De Klerk, when he replaced President P W Botha in 1989. Apartheid was dismantled, Mandela was awarded the Nobel Prize for peace in 1993, and he voluntarily shared it with De Klarke. In 1994, in the first free democratic elections held in South Africa, Nelson Mandela was elected the first Black President of a free South Africa at the age of 77. And Mandela, unlike his white predecessors, went on to integrate the white population with the black; mitigating anger, vengeance and mistrust in favour of unity and harmony. “Hating clouds the mind. It gets in the way of strategy. Leaders cannot afford to hate,” he said. Great souls like him uplift the rest of humanity, and keep the flame of the human spirit burning. We can only be grateful that he walked the Earth. Fare thee well, Madiba. pleased.
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