By Rev Titus Shem Makuma
It is one thing to run and be a head of everybody and yet another to be focused on finishing well and win the prize. Nelson Mandela got a glimpse of what it means to live a life that is useful and glorifying to God.
This attitude is seen in one of his inspiring statements. “What counts in life is not the mere fact that we have lived. It is what difference we have made to the lives of others that will determine the significance of the life we lead.” Before serving 27 years in prison under the white dominated apartheid rule, all South Africans struggled in seeing a new day, accessing better health services, attaining good education, accessing good jobs and putting food on table for their hungry children. The people of South Africa were in essence prisoners and slaves in their own country, communities and homes. The people of South Africa had little or nothing to be proud of, nothing to call home for. They felt degraded and exploited in their own homeland.
Mandela arrived on the political scene at a time when South Africa and Africa were void of a leader who could courageously stand up to his true values and ideals designed to make Africa a better continent. South Africans of all races often referred to Nelson Mandela as simply “Madiba” or “Tata,” terms of endearment that promoted a sense of respect for a towering figure who was widely revered. It is hard to question their affection for the man who got them out of the shackles of oppression and death.
No doubt that Mandela in his life time touched many lives by his attitude of inclusion, cross cultural embrace, fatherly smile and humility. He always put other people first before his personal and family needs, demands and fleshly comfort. In so doing the world over admiringly rallied behind him even in his death. He is widely respected as a global icon! To many generations of emerging leaders, Mandela will remain a historical role model and mentor!
Following his historical significance, Madiba is the name of the clan that Mandela belonged to and is derived from the name of a chief who ruled in the Transkei region in the 18th century. The word Tata on the other hand, according to the language of Mandela’s Xhosa tribe, simply means “father.” We must say with great respect that the people of South Africa and Africa have lost a father figure who loved to see a big transformation in the political, social and economic structures of Africa. He advocated for a developed and trouble free Africa where all people live as one and enjoy equal opportunities. Something contrary to what his name ‘Rolihlahla’ (given at birth by his father, a tribal chief in Transkei) stands for. In Xhosa it literally translates as “pulling the branch from a tree” but colloquially it means “troublemaker”. A troublemaker who would turn out to be an architect of peace and reconciliation!
His universally known first name, Nelson wasn’t given to him until his first day of school by his teacher, according to his autobiography. Giving black South African children a Christian or more English-sounding name at the time was not unusual, a legacy of colonial days when rulers struggled to pronounce African names or viewed them as inferior. Mandela’s eventful personality and life style has a lot of attachment with his clan names, a clear demonstration that names carry a lot of meaning and attachment in typical African society. For Africa to be a better place parents should learn to give useful names to their children who are the Mandela’s of tomorrow. The future of Africa lies in the good decisions we endeavor to make today on our behalf and on behalf of our children.
Mandela joins a list of other African heroes who disregarded personal comfort in order to make Africa a better place for us to live and work in today. The likes of; Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana, Mwalimu Kambarage Julius Nyerere of Tanzania, Patrice Lumumba of Congo, Benjamin Nnamdi Azikiwe (Kwame Nkrumah’s mentor) of Nigeria, Jomo Kenyatta of Kenya and few others. These leaders nurtured ideals and values which have shielded and carried Africa into the 21st century with great anticipation and optimism. The sunshine of hope is dawning again on the African continent where all her peoples from all cultural dimensions will team up in the spirit of ‘Ubuntu’ to embrace Mandela’s well lived and designed legacy.
The writer is a Consultant, Mountains of the Moon University
School of Business and Management Studies (SBMS)