Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela

“No one is born hating another person because of the colour of his skin, his background or his religion. People must be taught to hate and if they can be taught to hate, they can learn to love, for love comes more natural to the human heart than its opposite.”

These words, which Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela posted on Facebook on November 4th, 2014, characterised the man. His life proved that for him these were not empty words. Similar were his his famous words at his 1964 trial, that his ideal was a democratic, free society, which he hoped to achieve, “but if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die.”

“… a group of children clustered near the entrance and he wished to make eye contact. Mandela loved children, he must have missed his own bitterly.”

The Court sentenced the eight accused to life imprisonment. The ANC’s ‘Free Mandela’ campaign later caught the world’s imagination. He was the surrogate for all political prisoners, but actually much more than that. Mandela never lost his dignity, sense of purpose or awareness of his leadership role. He set an example to fellow prisoners and so contributed to the inevitable end of white dominance and democracy.

Anyone who has met him, speaks rightly of his aura, which attracted one. I remember one incident after his release when he came to Zimbabwe, unannounced. He was awarded an honourary doctorate by the University of Zimbabwe.

While listening to one of the laudations, I noticed Mandela’s attention was directed elsewhere, even moving the ceremonial chair a little. A glance over my shoulder told me  why: a group of children clustered near the entrance and he wished to make eye contact. Mandela loved children, he must have missed his own bitterly. Such sentiments, that gesture showed what he was, apart from a leader: a caring and compassionate human being.