Nelson Mandela: A Man and A Hero



The passing of the nation’s beloved, Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela brought with it a scamper of stories about who the man really was. Of course many of them were not surprising, for they were resounding tales of his greatness, his humanity and his all-round grandeur but humble nature, particularly towards children. And while his passing was an anticipated one, when the time came the world was left heart broken.

The former president of this county has been revered worldwide, receiving an astronomical number of great accolades. There are plants, bugs and even nuclear particles named after him; he’s certainly a man that became a legend before he even passed. There is no question that future generations will be told gallant stories about this legend. His is a legacy that will indeed live on for eternity.

But with the great things that have been written, enacted about nelson Mandela but what of the fact that he was human, who might not have been flawed and even viewed as someone other than a hero by people, and dare I say a terrorist.

Now even though the media has always portrayed Nelson Mandela as a hero, he certainly rejected the image that had been created of him by the media.  On various occasions insisted that he was “an ordinary man who had become leader because of extraordinary circumstances”.

As a former international relations student I have come to learn a great deal about the leaders of the world; one of which being Madiba. His nature and leadership style has largely been described as one which was humanitarian and pacifist. After he became the president of the republic of South Africa many of his policies were centered on human rights and the betterment of the quality of life all people of all race.

Well, here begins the point in piece where, you won’t have to read what you have read and heard a thousand times over about our former president; information that will make this article worth reading and perhaps provide an alternative perspective on the nature on the World’s beloved Nelson Mandela. Contrary to popular belief, he was not in fact a pacifist. While he was initially he opposed violence he eventually highlighted its necessity to achieve the cause for which he and many other fallen soldiers fought.


DIPLOMAT-ing: Nelson Mandela meeting with Cuban leader Fidel Castro. Image:

DIPLOMAT-ing: Nelson Mandela meeting with Cuban leader Fidel Castro.

He received guerrilla training in Morocco and Ethiopia. Some would therefore call him a former militant communist terrorist, like Margret Thatcher for instance. True to his feisty nature as a young man Mandela became was the leader of the ANC’s militant wing, Umkhonto we Sizwe (MK), which was reported behind numerous bombings, land mines, murders and tortures. MK was brutal and has hundreds of innocent lives on his conscience. The then socialist party was also behind several concentration camps where torture was daily life for many. You might be familiar with the term “concentration camps” from the Hitler era…

So, Violence in the name of peace? Would we be as understanding if this was a philosophy of another leader?

ROBBEN ISLAND: One of the only pictures taken of Mandela during his imprisonment on Robben Island. Image:

ROBBEN ISLAND: One of the only pictures taken of Mandela during his imprisonment on Robben Island.

Another piece of information which has rarely made the cut in one of the various blockbuster films that have been made about the life of Mandela is that he was friends with Gaddafi until his death. You do of course remember the dictator who was criticized by the world a thousand times over? Perhaps even by you at some point. yes, we was that that brought Libya to her knees, placing her at the forefront of as civil war and ignoring pleas to spare the people of Libya the poverty and bloodshed.  But truth be told, Gaddafi was one of the few leaders during the apartheid to support the ANC while the rest of the world was busy protecting their trade channels. Although one cannot help but question this loyalty and perhaps that it was indeed at the expense of the people of Libya which would contradict Mandela’s and of course the ANC’s stance on human rights. Mandela was also a long-time admirer of Fidel Castro who he met after his release from prison the communist leader whose ideals been criticized by world leaders.

An interesting article I read while doing research for this piece described how Mandela associated with some of the world‘s most brutal dictators. In 1995, the ANC, under the leadership of Mandela is reported to have received large donations from Indonesia’s brutal dictator, Suharto (an interesting leader to read up on), who has been responsible for the deaths of many people, hundreds of thousands, according to articles. A donation might be just that- a donation but are we not morally obliged to review the donor, and if he strives towards the movement for peace and stability.

Under the leadership of Nelson Mandela, South Africa has seen huge changes. One of the biggest and perhaps not entirely the smartest implementations was Black Economic Empowerment.

Black Economic Empowerment (BEE) is a program which was initiated by the ANC, which basically assumes that whites must transfer ownership of companies to the black population, to essentially compensate for inequalities that were caused by the Apartheid regime. While this initiative held with it the promise of a better life for previously disadvantaged black citizens in the country, many of the policies assisted in creating an economic gap between people, essentially contributing to the creation of black elites who whose benefit from BEE was somewhat exaggerated. BEE also led to huge corruption and nepotism and not surprisingly, many of the ANC’s top officials and friends are now extremely wealthy. This is but another piece of information that proved that Nelson Mandela was a flawed man, whose actions were not only of noble calibre but also of plain human nature and can, in many instances be compared to other leaders of the world for he was not a saint.

This article was not to spit on or tarnish the great legacy which has been left behind by Mandela. It was one wherein there was an attempt to strike a balance between the facets of the man and illustrate that indeed there was more than one facet to Nelson Mandela. While he was and forever will be one of the greatest men that ever lived it is important that the stories of whim which will be told to children of generations to come will be told in such a way that will not re-create the story of Jesus Christ but highlight the greatness that can be found in a human being, a greatness that can be found in ALL human beings. A story of encouragement, with the message that perseverance and hard work can mould even them into legendary prominence.

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