Today becomes the first day Africa, particularly, South Africa move on without Nelson Mandela. That brings to mind an important question every African should ask themselves; what have we learned from Mandela? How do we move on and continue the legacy he left behind? Mandela story or legacy, if you will, is not just South African story, it is African story. With all the negativity Africa has endured from Western media for many years, Mandela’s death has somehow brought lights to darkness we have seen through bad leadership, corruption, war, famine, and many more. Everyone around the world celebrated his death, which to me, is something I did not imagine will happen in my lifetime — to celebrate the death of an African leader is such a glamorous manner. If there is one thing Mandela’s death taught us, it is that we Africans, as a race, are capable of anything, only if we could make sacrifice to do them.
Mandela’s greatest legacy will be known for the peace he campaigned for immediately after his release from prison after 27 years. He did not only make sure peace reigned during his regime as president, he vehemently opposed retaliation against the white minority in the country. He urged Black South Africans to move on with reconciliation and live peaceably with their neighbor. Although, for me to say there was no uproar against the white community by the time he became president would be a denial, remember, it could have been worse. Moreover, some may argue that much has not changed for the Black South Africans since the end of apartheid, that is a different issue. If not for Mandela, South Africa would have been the next Somalia or Central African Republic today, where civil war would have shattered a hopeful economy. That alone is enough to give him credit for a great accomplishment. Without any doubt, South Africa’s economy is ahead of countries like Nigeria, Egypt, or Kenya. And to balance the argument, South Africa, as a country, still has a long way to go to make sure Mandela’s effort for the Black majority was never in vain.
Mandela has some very controversial history, but let’s be fair; no one is perfect. What you do as a leader during your enemy’s weakness is sometimes what defines you and shapes the memory you leave behind. Remember, Mandela fought for the Blacks and against the white oppression. But when he became president, he was the president for all, including Whites, Indians, Blacks, Jews, and every race you could mention who reside in South Africa.
Meanwhile, many African leaders who through their egos and need for power have oppressed their people by denying their citizens basic human rights seized the moment to showcase their love for Mandela’s legacy. I’m very sure if Mandela were to be alive to witness his burial, he would be ashamed and would not approved their praise. No African presidents alive today, believe it or not, measure up to a fraction of what Mandela has done for Africa. And for that, we will forever be grateful. Mandela is not just South Africa’s icon, he is an African icon. His story coupled with the legacy he left behind will be remembered for generations to come.