Mandela, The Sensitive Leader

Lycanthrope

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He dedicated his life to a political crusade and became South Africa's first black president, but Nelson Mandela never lost the personal touch - as those who know him explain.

Nelson Mandela's release from jail after 27 years in 1990 brought hope of sweeping political change after the turbulent days of apartheid.

But negotiating the change was fraught with difficulty - and for key African National Congress strategist Cheryl Carolus this once presented an agonising personal dilemma.

A crisis flared up just before she and her husband Graham, also an activist, were due to go away for a very rare and precious break.

Graham took the news that she felt they should postpone the break badly, plucked up courage and called Nelson Mandela.

He was, though, in a cold sweat as he began to explain that they had not seen one another in a long time.

Nelson Mandela stopped him and simply said: "You don't have to explain. Go away and I will explain to the others."

Carolus - later to become South Africa's high commissioner to Britain - says: "One thing that matters to Nelson Mandela so much is families.

"That's what apartheid took away from us with the migrant labour system, imprisonment and smashed up family structures."

Private man

There is, of course, another reason the man who was once the world's most famous prisoner is sensitive to protecting families - his marriage to his second wife Winnie was unravelling at this time.

Carolus says those who worked with him closely understood how deeply hurtful this was for him.

She also says he tried not to allow the divorce to embarrass the ANC, and tried to ensure that his colleagues did not have to choose between him and Winnie because they were both leaders of the ANC.

Talking to people who have worked with Nelson Mandela before and since his long imprisonment and been close friends of his, I have heard time and again how one of the most recognisable figures in the world is also one of the most private.

"It is as if he has built a wall around himself," Amina Cachalia told me.

She comes from a family whose political involvement began with Mahatma Gandhi's passive resistance movement in South Africa.

She says Winnie Mandela once told her that if her husband had not gone to prison or had come out earlier it is likely they would have separated anyway.

"I look at her very surprised," says Amina Cachalia.

"I think she felt they had grown so much apart after her becoming politically active in her own way and being a leader in her own right they would probably have parted for some reason or other if he had been around."

Nelson Mandela's sadness over the parting of the ways with Winnie was to give way to the flourishing of his relationship with and marriage to Graca Machel, widow of the former Mozambican president, Samora Machel.

I met Rory Steyn, who led one of Nelson Mandela's protection teams during the five years he was president.

"When courting Mrs Machel," he told me, "he would buy her chocolates, flowers and jewellery himself.

Can you imagine what happens when Mandela goes to Sandton City (a shopping complex in the northern suburbs of Johannesburg) to go to the local chocolatier?

We had all kinds of schemes to say we will buy them and he would say: 'No, I want to choose them myself '."

Rory Steyn says he realised that the seemingly little gestures are really important to Nelson Mandela.

A big hug

Steyn says his upbringing and his training in the apartheid South African police force had made him suspicious of Mandela and everything he espoused but there was a moment during the day he was inaugurated as president in 1994 that made him realise how genuine he is.

After the inauguration ceremony in Pretoria the new president travelled to Johannesburg's Ellis Park stadium to lend his support to the South African football team who were playing Zambia.

He was running late and had to return to Pretoria quickly. But, without saying anything and mystifying his protection team, Nelson Mandela got out of his official car and walked across to an old police colonel.

"The colonel's eyes were getting bigger and bigger as the president walked towards him.

"He put out his hand and said: 'Colonel, I just want to tell you that today you have become our police. The ANC won the election and I became president. I want you to know there is no more us and you and you are our police.'

"The old guy started crying," says Steyn. "Tears ran down his lined face and dripped on to the polished parquet flooring."

Cheryl Carolus has another personal story of Nelson Mandela's sense of priorities.

In 1995, she announced at a meeting that she would need to spend some time with her father over the coming weeks because he was seriously ill with cancer.

She says Mandela gave her a big hug and held her for about five minutes.

Later she heard from her father - "a poor ordinary working class man from a township on the Cape Flats" - that the president went to visit him without telling the hospital staff in advance and without the media knowing anything about it.

Among other things, Mandela spoke about Cheryl Carolus's contribution to the new South Africa.

"For my father," she says, "it was a dream come true."

Age of innocence

Today Nelson Mandela's memory and energy levels are good in the mornings though as the day goes by he gets "a bit tired".

At least that's the experience of Ahmed Kathrada. He shared Nelson Mandela's prison years with him and still spends time sharing views with him on current and past events.

But Kathrada says Mandela devours all the morning newspapers. "Retirement and Mandela are a contradiction in terms," he says.

Yet, even if he is hardly retired in the conventional sense, there is one way in which Nelson Mandela's active influence is already being missed, according to Professor Barney Pityana.

Today the principal of the University of South Africa, he's been a prominent figure in the Black Consciousness Movement, human rights activist and theologian.

"Mandela belongs to what I like to call our age of innocence," he says.

"In the first flush of democratisation he was the amazing symbol of our hopes. But 15 years on or so, with experience, quite a lot of where we are today is not where we were."

Pityana maintains that the ANC is adrift in terms of its connectedness to its history and embodying the hearts and minds of South Africans.

He believes Nelson Mandela has made his wisdom available to the ANC as it wishes - but he does not want to become embroiled in any infighting or seen as a force for division in the movement.

I spoke to a group of young men walking along Vilakazi Street in Soweto, the township where Nelson Mandela once lived.

Their biggest challenge today is getting jobs. But one of them paid tribute to him in a way that I suspect he would appreciate: "He brought us the opportunities and the possibility for change."

Mike Wooldridge, former BBC South Africa Correspondent, presents "Knowing Mandela" on Radio 4, at 2000 BST on 17 June.

Source: BBC News

I thought I'd share this article since it made me smile. I think that Mandela is one of the greatest men that ever lived. I can't help but feel as though the current government is making a mockery of what he fought for... *shrug*
 

Toffee

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I listened to some stories on Cape Talk this morning and there is no doubt he is one of the greatest statesman the world has ever seen. I have nothing but respect for the great man. His only failings were marrying Winny and not producing someone to follow in his shoes.
 

aEsOp

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The man is a living legend and should be an example for future leaders of this country.
 

devnull

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personally i dont think he is anything more than a media personality. the fact that he came out of jail and didnt declare war on the whites is nothing fantastic, its just not what we've come to expect from african leaders. and really it would have been quite difficult considering the army and police were still white. he was a terrorist leader in "the struggle" something the apartheid museum makes a big noise about, but they mention nothing about the referendum which was the real reason apartheid ended.
 

aEsOp

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personally i dont think he is anything more than a media personality. the fact that he came out of jail and didnt declare war on the whites is nothing fantastic, its just not what we've come to expect from african leaders. and really it would have been quite difficult considering the army and police were still white. he was a terrorist leader in "the struggle" something the apartheid museum makes a big noise about, but they mention nothing about the referendum which was the real reason apartheid ended.

Labelled a terrorist by whom ? A Terrorist Apharteid state ?!
I think the word you looking for is freedom fighter.
 

Toffee

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personally i dont think he is anything more than a media personality. the fact that he came out of jail and didnt declare war on the whites is nothing fantastic, its just not what we've come to expect from african leaders. and really it would have been quite difficult considering the army and police were still white. he was a terrorist leader in "the struggle" something the apartheid museum makes a big noise about, but they mention nothing about the referendum which was the real reason apartheid ended.

You are obviously entitled to your own opinion. I think a leader from anywhere in the world, not just Africa, would not have been as forgiving. It is more than that. He convinced others not to go the violence route. He has shown his humanity on many occasions. I remember stories of him taking cake to his new neighbours. This morning a (white) lady phoned in to say that he was a guest at a degree awards ceremony. When the womens daughter came on stage her and her husband got very excited. Afterwards he made an effort to walk over and congratulate them. He has volunteered hundreds of hours of his personal time to assist with charities. I remember Tony Leon recently telling a story of how Nelson came to visit him in hospital(out of the view of the cameras) and greeted him with real affection, despite all the disputes in parliament etc. That my friend are just a few of the hundreds of stories regarding this great mans humility and humanity.
 

IanC

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I like Nelson, but let's not start a religion around the man.

I agree completely but I do have a high regard for him that I don't for other world leaders. As far as I am concerned Mandela's moment of truth came in 1993 when Chris Hani was murdered ... he, not FW, called for calm and that's the point that I knew Mandela was a statesman of note.
 

boramk

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I listened to some stories on Cape Talk this morning and there is no doubt he is one of the greatest statesman the world has ever seen. I have nothing but respect for the great man. His only failings were marrying Winny and not producing someone to follow in his shoes.

+1
 

Pixie22

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He is overrated and underrated.. why? Because so much of the international world apparently adore him, even though they know nothing about him, can't understand a word he is saying, and probably wouldn't know him if they passed him on the street. They adore him because they have heard its the right thing to do. How fake. And for that exact reason, he is also underrated. Because 95% of the support he recieves is false. I think the same thing can be said about many great men. More so for men who are not white. Because noone wants to criticise them, everyone just wants to jump on the "Im not a racist so I support you" band wagon. Its sad cause I think he and others deserve a little more respect than a sympathy vote. I also think he and others deserve the criticisms.

I think its the same reason why you can't say anything good about bad men, even if they did good. Noone wants to hear it. They are men. They are all good and bad.

Im not looking to get flamed, those are just my thoughts. Correct me if you think I need correction.
 
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ironrod

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What was wrong with marrying Winnie? Was he supposed to elect somebody for presidency, and dictate to the party, who their next leader is supposed to be?

Stop trying so hard to find wrong in the old man. You should consider yourself blessed to have had a leader like him.
 

ironrod

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He is overrated and underrated.. why? Because so much of the international world apparently adore him, even though they know nothing about him, can't understand a word he is saying, and probably wouldn't know him if they passed him on the street. They adore him because they have heard its the right thing to do. How fake. And for that exact reason, he is also underrated. Because 95% of the support he recieves is false. I think the same thing can be said about many great men. More so for men who are not white. Because noone wants to criticise them, everyone just wants to jump on the "Im not a racist so I support you" band wagon. Its sad cause I think he and others deserve a little more respect than a sympathy vote. I also think he and others deserve the criticisms.

I think its the same reason why you can't say anything good about bad men, even if they did good. Noone wants to hear it. They are men. They are all good and bad.

Im not looking to get flamed, those are just my thoughts. Correct me if you think I need correction.

Stop trying so hard to find wrong in him, that is the first grand step in appreciating the greatness he has done for this country.
 

nauseous_monkey

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I tend to agree that Nelson has been turned into a Jesus-figure.

Why is he above criticism?

We all know that he should have been implicated in the Arms Deal.
 

ironrod

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I tend to agree that Nelson has been turned into a Jesus-figure.

Why is he above criticism?

We all know that he should have been implicated in the Arms Deal.

Please post some proof of your allegations, I am eager to see it.
 

Pixie22

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Stop trying so hard to find wrong in him, that is the first grand step in appreciating the greatness he has done for this country.

I find what I find.. Good and bad.. in everyone..
I think he did what he could. I think he did his best.
Do you find good in bad men?
 

ironrod

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I find what I find.. Good and bad.. in everyone..
I think he did what he could. I think he did his best.
Do you find good in bad men?

Yes, I find good in bad men. Let us try not to spoil his Birthday.
 

Pixie22

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Yes, I find good in bad men. Let us try not to spoil his Birthday.

That was not my intention.

I just believe respect is worth more if its based on truth. That is all ^_~
So many hollywood types throwing his name around to sound intelligent you know? lol

As far as comparrisons go, he was awesome for this country, thats obvious, cause we all lived it.
 

Turtle

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Labelled a terrorist by whom ? A Terrorist Apharteid state ?!
I think the word you looking for is freedom fighter.

Lol, you know the famous quote, "one man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter".

He was a freedom fighter, yes, but he was also a terrorist by definition because he (via Umkhonto weSizwe) employed terrorist strategies, such as attacking and bombing civilian targets. Terrorism is a particular strategy, and they employed it. You can't escape this I'm afraid, they committed terrorist acts and admit to them, it is pure undeniable fact, regardless of how justified the techniques may or may not have been under the circumstances - that is a separate debate - but what is NOT up for any debate was that he was a terrorist. Denying that is like saying the sky is pink and only liable to make a mockery of your own argument, you might perhaps be better off arguing that his terrorism was justified because he was good and whites were evil, something to that effect. (I think you are confusing "terrorist" with "enemy of modern enlightened principles of liberty" ... two different things.)

(Just as a complete side point, not to back up my argument but purely to answer your question since you seem to be in ignorance over "labelled by whom", he was also officially labelled a terrorist by the US until - get this - only last week or thereabouts. So no, not just the apartheid state. I'm not saying that means anything (possibly the opposite actually, since the US were fighting their own proxy wars against communist Russia - it gets complex), I'm purely just correcting your ignorance of history.)

I think Mandela was a decent enough leader and did some good work, but I think all this Mandela-worshiping is silly, it's taking on grotesque cult-like qualities now, and the amount of media fawning is strange and out of proportion when they don't seem to be reporting on real news.
 
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boramk

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What was wrong with marrying Winnie? Was he supposed to elect somebody for presidency, and dictate to the party, who their next leader is supposed to be?

Stop trying so hard to find wrong in the old man. You should consider yourself blessed to have had a leader like him.

Relax? I agreed with all his positives
 

ironrod

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Lol, you know the famous quote, "one man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter".

He was a freedom fighter, yes, but he was also a terrorist by definition because he (via Umkhonto weSizwe) employed terrorist strategies, such as attacking and bombing civilian targets. Terrorism is a particular strategy, and they employed it. You can't escape this I'm afraid, they committed terrorist acts and admit to them, it is pure undeniable fact, regardless of how justified the techniques may or may not have been under the circumstances - that is a separate debate - but what is NOT up for any debate was that he was a terrorist. Denying that is like saying the sky is pink and only liable to make a mockery of your own argument, you might perhaps be better off arguing that his terrorism was justified because he was good and whites were evil, something to that effect. (I think you are confusing "terrorist" with "enemy of modern enlightened principles of liberty" ... two different things.)

(Just as a complete side point, not to back up my argument but purely to answer your question since you seem to be in ignorance over "labelled by whom", he was also officially labelled a terrorist by the US until - get this - only last week or thereabouts. So no, not just the apartheid state. I'm not saying that means anything (possibly the opposite actually, since the US were fighting their own proxy wars against communist Russia - it gets complex), I'm purely just correcting your ignorance of history.)

I think Mandela was a decent enough leader and did some good work, but I think all this Mandela-worshiping is silly, it's taking on grotesque cult-like qualities now, and the amount of media fawning is strange and out of proportion when they don't seem to be reporting on real news.

A terrorist in whose country? You came from Europe, subjected me to Apartheid, then call me a TERRORIST, when I fight back for my right. What he did was just based on the inhumane environment he was subjected to in his MOTHERLAND. Please do not scratch that wound and pour a teaspoonful of salt in it.

Do not try to hide behind the Americans ignorance of the situation in Africa. Most of the American do not know that South Africa is in Africa.
 
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