Nelson Mandela impacted the globe with his leadership approach that was centered on caring for the oppressed in society. He took the responsibility of a reconciler and emphasized forgiveness rather than retaliation. Mandela incorporated the whites in his government despite their oppression of the blacks to emphasize democracy. Nelson Mandela left a mark not only on South Africans but also the world at large by his achievements in transforming the social well-being of the marginalized populations, reconciling conflicting parties, and developing an inclusive government.
Fighting for the Marginalized Societies
Africa has had a long history of poor working conditions, and Nelson Mandela made an effort to make improvements in the workplace. Mandela described the work environment as a suffering-inducing situation and hoped to see the poor having a more conducive atmosphere at the workplace (Maanga 87). This outstanding leader influenced the ministers in his government to work tirelessly and bring change to the lives of South African workers. In effect, Mandela and his government established the 1995 Labor Relations Act. The milestone helped address the many labor grudges and conflicts at the workplace besides maximizing democracy (Maanga 88).
Mandela gave his maximum support to the ANC political party whose fundamental objective was to cultivate a society characterized by democracy, human dignity, as well as equality for all. He contributed significantly to improve the lives of students and young children and urged South Africans to participate in fights if they could change their social well-being (Maanga 89). Furthermore, Mandela acted as a genuine sympathizer of the marginalized and condemned population such as people living with HIV/AIDS (Maanga 91).
Mandela noted how nations such as South Africa mishandled the jailed persons and he insisted that the offenders deserve some decency too. According to the study of Maanga (93), together with his ANC members, Mandela went through a humiliating experience when the prison warders forced them to strip. The experience prompted Mandela to challenge South Africa to handle the convicts with dignity and he argued that the way a state treats its lowest citizens but not the high profile ones defines it (Maanga 93).
Through his diplomatic and reconciliatory skills, Nelson Mandela took over the responsibility of reconciling Rwanda’s Hutu and Tutsi communities from Julius Nyerere (Lyman 25).The two ethnic groups had triggered the Rwanda genocide, which left 650,000- 800,000 Tutsis dead. Mandela’s performance on the OAU assignment of reconciling Hutu and Tutsi communities was successful and a peace agreement between the ethnic communities was achieved in 2000-2003. On the same note, the world recognized Mandela’s sympathy to a Libyan national charged with planning an attack on Pan American Airliner by planting a bomb which blew out in Scotland in1988 (Maanga 86). Mandela volunteered to take responsibility for the effects of the incident yet did not demonstrate his justification for terrorism (Lyman 23). As a result, he earned the global recognition of a universal reconciler.
Mandela played other reconciliatory roles in 1995 when he counteracted Abacha’s decision to execute Olusegun Obasanjo and Shehu Yar’Adua. Abacha accused the two of staging a coup in their country (Nigeria), and Mandela made efforts to see Abacha did not carry out the execution. He involved Desmond Tutu in his campaigns in defense of Olusegun Obasanjo and Shehu Yar’Adua (Lyman 30). In response, Abacha appointed a military tribunal, which instead of execution made less severe punishment policies in Nigeria and; the offenders would face life imprisonment. The transition necessitated the rising of Obasanjo and later Yar’Adua to the position of Nigerian presidents (Maanga 95).
Mandela played a significant role in transforming South Africa into a model nation while previously the state remained an object of global ostracism. He earned recognition worldwide as a consensual figure following his actions in fighting for the rights of the oppressed and restoring their dignity without implying retaliation on the perpetrators. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission (1996 – 1998) was a platform that the government used to grant amnesty to people who confessed their guilt of violating human rights (Yadav 54). Many South Africans viewed the approach towards national reconciliation as unsatisfactory due to its leniency on perpetrators while the victims did not receive any justice for the sufferings subjected to them (Yadav 82). However, Mandela argued the platform would be a point of reference for other nations seeking transitions from political conflicts and dictatorial governments to an inclusive government.
Political Democracy and Inclusion
The world anticipated political chaos during South Africa’s first democratic elections in 1994 since the country had been in a state of emergency for a considerable period (1985-1990) during which the state experienced civil war-like tensions. The members of the ANC party suffered massacres from the police and white supremacists and secessionist Zulus. However, the elections did not breed violence, and the ANC won the presidency with 62 percent of the total vote cast. Nelson Mandela rose to the presidency after serving a jail term for twenty-seven years. Mandela incorporated his former political enemies Frederik de Klerk and Mangosuthu Buthelezi and appointed them to the offices of Vice President and the Interior Minister respectively (Yadav 67). The inclusion symbolized national unity that Mandela hoped to achieve during his tenure.
Nelson Mandela fought against apartheid and chose to remain in prison rather than being released on the condition that he would not pursue further justice. When he incorporated white people in his government despite the fact that they have been oppressing the blacks for long, Mandela argued that one of the traits of a courageous person is to demonstrate forgiveness for the sake of achieving peace (Yadav 56). When the South African Springboks won the 1995 Rugby World Cup, Mandela expressed national reconciliation by wearing the team’s jersey presenting the trophy to the team captain.
Nelson Mandela achieved significant milestones in improving the situations for the disadvantaged population, creating an inclusive and democratic government, and reconciling with enemies through forgiveness. The introduction of the Labor Relations Act in 1995 necessitated the improvement of workplace conditions besides advocating the fair treatment of convicts and those living with HIV/AIDS. Further, Mandela counteracted Abacha’s execution policies until Nigeria lessened the punishment from death to life imprisonment. Mandela’s reconciliation efforts made the contribution to the reestablishment of healthy relations between the Hutu and Tutsi communities in Rwanda. After being elected the first black president, Mandela incorporated the whites in his government to demonstrate his forgiveness for the oppression of the black people and worked for encouraging other nations to exercise democracy. Nelson Mandela’s legacy is evident in his efforts to improve the working and living conditions of the marginalized societies, reconciling the conflicting parties and building democratic and inclusive governments.
Lyman, Princeton N. “Mandela’s Legacy at Home and Abroad.” Journal of Democracy, 25.2 (2014): 21-34.
Maanga, Godson S. “The Relevance and Legacy of Nelson Mandela in the Twenty-First Century Africa: A Historical and Theological Perspective.” African Journal of History and Culture, 5.5 (2013): 87-95.
Yadav, Arvind Kumar. “Nelson Mandela and the Process of Reconciliation in South Africa.” India Quarterly, 63.4 (2007): 49-84.