Nelson Mandela: Will and Goodwill

My remembrance post about Margaret Thatcher lionized her for something all too rare in political “leaders” – will. Thatcher knew what was right. That’s not unique. But she also had the political will to see it through, no matter how hard. And it was very hard, encountering a virulence of opposition few politicians can withstand. However, she stood firm, believing voters would ultimately support what was right – and if not, then so be it. We need politicians willing to lose.

UnknownNelson Mandela represented a very different but no less important leadership quality – goodwill. Now, if ever there was a man coming to power with a justifiable grievance against his foes, it was Mandela. They’d imprisoned him for 27 years! And of course had denied his people the most basic rights. So if he’d used power to do down those enemies, to settle scores, we should not have been surprised. But that was not Nelson Mandela. Instead, he did the opposite, and that was surprising – again, something all too rare in political life.

So instead of showing his opponents a fist, Mandela reached out the hand of goodwill. He had the vision to understand how that was best for all South Africans, black as well as white. A vindictive policy would have perpetuated the ugly and dysfunctional past conflict. Mandela inherited a “for whites only” country but did not seek to make it “for blacks only” (unlike, say, Zimbabwe’s vile Mugabe). Instead he sought a South Africa that would settle down, rise above its past, and join together to get on with improving quality of life rather than rubbing old wounds.images-2

That made Mandela unique. And what a shame that is; a shame that one who thus was genuinely a “uniter rather than a divider”* was in fact so unique. I am too often disappointed and frustrated that “leaders” so persistently lack that sort of vision. Ones like Mugabe. And, I hate to say it, Obama. And, alas, Mandela’s own successors in South Africa, gone from bad to worse. All relentlessly pursue partisan agendas. They imagine it serves their interests – but does it really? Is it better to be a Mugabe than a Mandela?

Mandela’s death occasions an outpouring of veneration. Mugabe, they’ll spit on his grave.

* As George W. Bush promised to be. (And Obama too.)

9 Responses to “Nelson Mandela: Will and Goodwill”

  1. frankzollo Says:

    “In 1984, Thatcher became the first British prime minister in 23 years to host an apartheid head of state. Three years later, she declared: “The ANC is a typical terrorist organisation.” Her stance fostered a toxic ethos within her party. Thatcher’s most loyal Cabinet colleague, Norman Tebbit, called Mandela a “terrorist”. South Africa hosted regular apartheid-sponsored visits from Tory MPs, and Young Conservative leaders wore “Hang Nelson Mandela” badges.”

  2. rationaloptimist Says:

    Let us not forget that during the time period referenced, such views in the West were not very unusual. During Mandela’s imprisonment, the outside world could hear nothing from him. Of course I do not approve of absolutely everything Margaret Thatcher said or did during her long career; but I do consider her heroic for the reasons expressed in the earlier blog post to which I linked.

  3. Pedro Dunn Says:

    Is it possible that placing the “vile Mugabe” in the same comparative sentence with our president is a bit extreme? I voted for Obama the first time, and now realize I made a mistake. Still, Mugabe learned everything and nothing from Rhodesia, creating a black replica of the old Ian Smith regime (it might even be argued he made a more hostile replica). I don’t think President Obama will get excellent ratings from 22nd Century historians, but I also don’t think they’ll put him in the same set as Mugabe.

  4. rationaloptimist Says:

    No; certainly not. I was merely citing President Obama for lack of vision, and surely would not suggest he shares other characteristics with Mugabe. Sorry if my comment could be read otherwise.

  5. Mauricio Torres Madrid Says:

    Certainly, Margaret Thatcher and Obama have something in common, they both win or lose choice of living, i believe Mandela had a win – win choice in life, I don’t win unless the other also wins. Mandela was constructing a better world and many of us are so near sighted that we believe that to make the world better we have to exclude somebody.

  6. Anonymous Says:

    The Muslim world surely need a Mandela and I still believe that Obama has a national and world vision (plus intelligence and open-mindedness) that is also much needed.

  7. Gregg Millett Says:

    The Muslim world surely need a Mandela and I still believe that Obama has a national and world vision (plus intelligence and open-mindedness) that is also much needed. I didn’t intend to be anonymous.

  8. M. Nazmen Monir Says:

    He was indeed A Man Himself

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