Former President of South Africa, Nelson Mandela, is in hospital battling a lung infection. Government spokespeople ensure the South African public that he is responding well to the treatment.
Tip-toeing around the Nobel Peace Prize winner’s mortality and believing that his death will plunge the country into a civil war, is incredibly misinformed. Yes, this great leader is old, frail, and his death is inevitable – whether it happens next week, or in the next few years, South Africans will have to say goodbye at some point. South Africa holds together not because of the Nelson Mandela of today, but because of what he has done over his lifetime which is now sadly but inevitably winding down.
Dr. Wynoma Michaels, a business leadership consultant in South Africa, had the opportunity to meet Mandela twice. According to her, Mandela “has the ability to share stories rather than dictating to a person. Essentially, he allows you to figure it out yourself, and make sense of it yourself.”
She says the most remarkable thing about his leadership is his selflessness. His legacy is one of humility, that even though he was in the public sphere and praised as one of the greatest African leaders of all time, he never made his presidency about self-enrichment.
Dr. Michaels’ concern about the death of Mandela is that the conscience of the country would disappear. While he is alive, “people are always aware of him. And even though we deviated from the journey that he started us out on, he remains the conscience of this country.” His legacy of leadership is that which demonstrates reconciliation, rather than division. She feels that when Mandela is gone, the country might lose its progress of nation building and the values that Mandela stood for. She feels that if Mandela would hold on for a bit longer, it would comfort the people of SA amidst an unsure political climate.
Other South Africans have expressed their concerns about what Mandela’s death would mean to the country. A local businessman says that it would be like losing the father as the head of the family. Relationships would not be the same once Mandela is gone, “it’s often the patriarch that keeps the family together. Mandela, as he still lives, can’t be happy with what the ANC has become.”
Another young South African businesswoman has expressed her worries about her family that lives on a farm. She says, “there have been rumours that when [Mandela] passes, many radical ANC Youth League members, under the influence of Julius Malema, would go about killing white farmers. However, all one can do is just trust and hope that Mandela’s legacy would live on.”