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Wednesday 16th of April 2014 01:16:43 PM
 

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Lessons from Mandela’s leadership

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It’s possible to risk one’s political career and compromise without being compromised

The younger Mandela was a militant who believed that apartheid could only be defeated through armed struggle. As he grew older, Mandela re- alised that this would be a long and costly route. He felt it was possible to end apart- heid through negotiations.

But changing one’s stance can be misunderstood in politics and many politicians fear to do so lest they are accused of selling out. Yet when he was transferred from Robben Island, the hotbed of militant politics, to Pollsmoor Prison in Cape Town, Mandela on his own decided to secretly contact the apartheid rulers suggesting talks.

"I had concluded that the time had come when the struggle could best be pushed forward through negotiations," he wrote in Long Walk to Freedom, "If we did not start a dialogue soon, both sides would be plunged into a dark night of oppression, violence and war."

This was a risky undertaking since the official position of his political party, the African National Congress (ANC), was not to have any discussions with the regime. In a 1962 interview, Mandela had argued that it was futile to try to talk to a regime, which responded to peaceful protest with savage attacks against unarmed and defenseless people.

Thus, when the ANC heard that Man- dela had secretly initiated these talks, some of the more militant members accused him of being a traitor. This accu- sation was also written in a semi official circular distributed among its top leader- ship discouraging members from dealing with him.

These accusations became even more entrenched because Mandela had now been placed in a nice house inside the prison. In the house he had a sofa set, a television set, refrigerator, cooker, a microwave, a personal chef, a swimming pool, and he would wear tailored suits and was allowed visitors. Which prisoner lives like that?

Talk spread within ANC that these comforts were bribes the apartheid system had thrown at Mandela; he had sold out. But Mandela understood that it was possible to compromise without being compromised; his confidence was derived from his integrity. As he said, you make peace with your enemies, not your friends.

In Long Walk to Freedom, Mandela says that the apartheid regime was afraid to begin talks because it would be seen as weak while the ANC leadership shied away from talking because it feared its base would see them as being soft on the enemy or compromised by him.

This is the trap leaders find themselves in – how to reach out to the other side without alienating their base. One can see it with many political leaders in Uganda, Africa and even western democracies. Fearful to alienate their base, politicians shy away from compromise. Mandela act- ed differently partly because he enjoyed significant political credibility but also because he was willing to risk his political career in pursuit of what he believed.

What made it possible for Mandela to talk to individuals who tormented and humiliated him? It is because he appreci- ated that his struggle was not against

the individuals managing and enforc- ing the apartheid system but the system itself. Like Martin Luther King, he saw his oppressors as victims of an oppres- sive system as well. This made Mandela appreciate that the leaders of apartheid could be strategic allies in the search for a solution for South Africa.

Thus, rather than fight the leaders of apartheid, he chose to seduce them to accept surrender. This also changed Man- dela; he realised that rather than attack whatever evil he saw in his opponents, he needed to appeal to the goodness in them. To achieve this, Mandela realised that he must put his struggle above his personal suffering.

He was being humiliated and mistreat- ed in jail by white superintendents. This had the potential to make him a bitter and angry man. But Mandela realised that if he succumbed to bitterness, it would con- sume him with hatred.

This would divert him from the struggle for liberation to a personal search for revenge, the pitfall Robert Mugabe has fallen into. He chose to ignore the indignities inflicted on him by the jailers. By embracing his jailers and treating them as normal human beings, Mandela won them over as well.

Prison gave Mandela a prolonged period of time to think and reflect. He wanted to learn more and more about his enemy. Therefore, he learnt to read, write and speak Afrikaans, the language of the

Boers. He read their history, their politics and developed interest in their main sport – rugby. He began to write letters to his white tormentors in their own language, Afrikaans.

The first time he met Botha, he began the conversation by talking about the Boer struggle for liberation from the British, their trials and tribulations. Botha was completely amazed and dazzled at Man- dela’s command of Boer history and at this point, Mandela chipped in: don’t you think our struggle mirrors your own peo- ple’s struggles? Botha had been floored!

By learning about his enemies, Man- dela came to appreciate their fears and anxieties. This made him see that his enemies also had interests, which must be addressed and attended to by those who fought them.

In his first press interview upon his release, he argued that the chal- lenge was how to reconcile black aspira- tions with white fears. That for there to be a transition to democracy, black people needed to put in place structural guaran- tees to give white people confidence in a future democratic south Africa.

Mandela understood that you can disagree with someone without being disagreeable. That it is important to try and understand the point of view of your enemies, to listen to their concerns, rec- ognise their interests, understand their motivations and where possible ascertain their needs. This makes it possible to com- promise with your enemies without giv- ing away your principles.

However, we also learn that every act of compromise means that you give and take. For example, Mandela clearly under- stood that for blacks to get what they wanted politically, they needed to com- promise on what whites had accumulated economically.

Thus, although the political institutions of apartheid were dismantled, the economic structure and its racial imbalances that it had created were left intact. Mandela understood that political change was primary and that economic change would come – not through a revo- lutionary reordering of property rights – but through evolutionary means.

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Comments (30)Add Comment
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written by price lionel , December 10, 2013
One thing with SA that I never understand is, how can people have freedom and yet the black people still live in sticking poverty, slums and even there seems to be no hope, while the white people live in posh neighborhoods , posh houses. is it that exactly what Mandela fought for? or should we think that its a habit of black people in the US, SA and other parts of the world
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written by David-Mayen, December 10, 2013
There is one very clear concept in Nelson Mandela struggle for South Africa freedom ,forgiveness and call for inclusive polices, however, paradoxically no present leader in the world emulate Madiba's system of leadership and advocacy.
Mandela is a caliber of Martin Luther King of US, Mahatma Gandhi of India, Malcolm X, among others
It will take the world another centuries to get person like Nelson Mandela, if i were president or national leader in that case I would refuse to mourn Nelson Mandela but fulfill his vision and wishes to keep the candle burning, however, the current crops of leaders are not disciples of Mandela and will openly violent what he had suffered for, twenty-seven years in prison, because of human values and equality. Who are the followers of Madiba?
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written by Ivan Mwase, December 11, 2013
And as we all know, evolution favors those who already have an advantage. So in compromising economically, the Blacks are left in poverty for another century.
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written by derek, December 12, 2013
David-Mayen Museveni of uganda practises,emulates and takes to the next level mandela's compromising with opponents, forming in 1986 a coalition govt of various opposing groups even when not necessary, today bribing opponents with job offers or outright cash bribes incorporating armed rebel groups into UPDF or offering them amnesty.
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written by STEVEN NSUBUGA, December 12, 2013
Derek, you are as gullible as many Ugandans. If after 30 years of M7's despotic rule you still haven't understood the man, then you never will. For you to defame Mr. Mandela by stipulating that M7 emulates his ideals if not defamatory is abominable to the fullest in face of Mandela's legacy. I will respect Mandela by not saying more for now.
However, I enjoyed seeing all African despots confined in "Ki-Russia" at Mandela's funeral. That was so befitting for M7, Mugabe and their fellow village tyrants.
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written by Ocheto, December 12, 2013
But South African's have and are still paying a heavy price for their new found political freedom to have through elections their own government: the majority of them still wallow in abject poverty. This was for two plausible strategic reasons. Grabbing property as Uganda's case under Amin and Zimbabwe's under Mugabe have shown leads to capital flight and with it economic collapse. Also a favorable economic compromise encouraged whites to stay put and provide a credibly viable opposition saving South Africa's multiparty democracy from degenerating into a one-party sham that most post-colonial African democracies like Uganda's and elsewhere in Africa are.
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written by kandole, December 13, 2013
The lesson learnt here is that the NRM's unjust system cannot last forever and that since the opposition in Uganda is a prisoner of its conscience they cannot negotiate with their jailer who unleashes force to any form of dissent.
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written by kandole, December 13, 2013
Is our leader committed to democracy and rule of law and is he willing to step down from power? Are people still persecuted and imprisoned for their political beliefs?Does the system passionately resist modest reforms for orderly transfer of power?
Does the system challenge disease, chronic poverty and growing inequality passionately?Is the system tolerant of political dissent and admit to its imperfections?Does the system allow men and women to stand-up for their dignity?Is the system aware that a powerful interests cabal is dishing out high price injustice?Is Uganda a free society with equal opportunity, allowing reason and argument to prevail?Is Lukwago’s trial an indictment of an unjust system?Is the system comfortable and complacent with dictatorial tendencies?
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written by autocoverage, December 13, 2013
Currently reading the book Invictus1. The book decribes the clever use of game Rugby by Mandela to achieve his political goals in South Africa.

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written by derek, December 13, 2013
Nsubuga I think its u who is gullible mandela having achieved saintly status doesn't mean his politics were far from m7's. If m7 didn't compromise and coopt so many people some with whom he disagreed fundamentally with we wouldnt be speaking of m7's 27 years of " despotic rule" The difference being m7's compromises and coopting serve mostly m7 personal ambition and mandela's were for possibly more noble ideals.
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written by Marvin ya Kuku, December 16, 2013
Derek what is M7s personal ambition then? Mandela's personal ambition was in line with noble causes for his people. M7 can do the same and be revered just as Madiba even if he has a strong personal ambition. He himself told Ugandans sweet words in 1986 so he knows what the people want (and apparently was one of the reasons he fought). Unfortunately, I do not understand his actions most of the time. In fact, I would think that most of his actions these days put him far away from the likes of Mandela.
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written by William Mukisa, December 17, 2013
These are great lessons from Mandela! This confirms the fact that people are generally good, its the systems under which they work that remodel them into monsters.
Attack the systems, not symptoms. Through this we can eventually overcome all the complex issues we face every day.
Thanks Andrew for the wonderful work!
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written by General. Adam Kifaliso, December 18, 2013
The problem with Andrew's stories is that he narrates them addressing m7 while looking at Kagame , its kind of Gonzo journalism new to African continent and very well established in Northern American and parts of Europe
In most cases Andrew's forensic lacks credibility due to fiddling with facts
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written by Musinguzi, December 18, 2013
Mandela was great, granted! But allow me also to say that he missed an opportunity to bring about some economic rebalancing, which he and only he had the moral authority to bring about. His actions fell short of bringing about that justice. In my mind I think the white people have made him an angel because he simply let them run away with their loot. A loot that many black people paid for with their blood.The argument that economic transformation will is "evolutionary" is weak. In every generation, the haves devise means of oppressing the have-nots.
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written by Musinguzi, December 18, 2013
Where has economic evolution taken place to bring about a just society on this face of our planet? in the US? Kenya? S Affrica? where? It simply doesn't happen. So, for me, Tata mandela should have carefully gone a step further. He had the know how and the moral authority. That said, may he rest in eternal peace. he for sure is Africa's greatest son. After all that, to step down after one term!
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written by General. Adam Kifaliso, December 18, 2013
m7 is offering anything profitable to foreigners in Uganda ....with no apartheid system ....m7 killed fishing , coffee , and other cash crops and he is fumbling with NAADs , m7 gave much time of how to stay in power he forgot about service delivery and opted to tell lies about ...its Ugandans to blame ,m7 was meant to rule more than 4 yrs. he has bribed , killed and tortured his through up to now . M7 has ruled mainly as a gangmaster with no manifesto , plan and program , his ambitions did not match with those of the Ugandans that is why keeps on crashing with opposition ,history will tell the truth about m7 and his Uganda
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written by Rajab Kakyama, December 19, 2013
MANDELA AND SOCIAL DARWINISM (THE SCIENTIFIC SIDE OF THE STRUGGLE)
Mandela was a guinea pig in a political laboratory. He was the perfect specimen meant for "impossible" outcomes. However, the tale was to have a 'twist', as the events were to unfold. In 1851, Francis Galton (Charles Darwin's cousin) had visited South-West Africa under the aegis of the Royal Geographical Society. On returning to London, Galton reported that he had seen 'enough of savage races to give me material to think about for the rest of my entire life.' Galton's observations of the Herero and Nama people would later inform the thinking about human evolution.
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written by Rajab Kakyama, December 19, 2013
It was Galton's anthropometric work on human heredity that laid the foundation for the discipline he christened 'eugenics'- the use of selective breeding to improve the human gene pool. Galton was at the cutting edge of science and racism was not some backward-looking reactionary ideology. A century ago hardly anyone in the West (specifically white), doubted that white men were superior to black. As such, racial theory justified flagrant inequalities that would later be institutionalized in south America as segregation and South Africa as 'apartheid'- apartness. For instance, in South Africa blacks were forbidden to ride horses, blacks had to salute whites, blacks could not walk on footpaths, could not own bicycles or visit libraries.
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written by Rajab Kakyama, December 19, 2013
In the courts of law, the word of a white was worth that of seven Africans. Settlers got fined for crimes like murder and rape for the same crimes Africans were summarily hanged. In 1906, the racial biological research was completed with as many as 778 autopsies performed on black prisoners on Shark Island. After which, sample skulls were incredulously handed over to female prisoners to scrape clean with glass shards. In 1913, five years to Mandela's birthday, Dr Eugen Fischer a Germany scientist published his findings, trumpeting them as the first ever attempt to apply to humans the principles of genetic inheritance developed by the Austrian Gregor Mendel.
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written by Rajab Kakyama, December 19, 2013
'The Bastards' as he called them, were inferior to pure whites. He was to further state that: There might therefore be useful role for people of mixed race as colonial policemen or lower officials. But that any further racial mixing should be avoided. The first World war was the grand finale to showcase this "scientific ingenuity." From Fischer's research notes, Africans had an under developed nervous system indicating that they were less prone to pain and resistant to hardships. On the first day of the battle, the French lost in all 40,000 men. All in all the allies lost more than 100,000 troops of these 33,000 were from West Africa.
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written by Rajab Kakyama, December 19, 2013
Not every white subscribed to such views. Yet the disturbing question remained. Was it, as Conrad suggested in his novel, "Heart of Darkness", a case of Africa turning Europeans into savages, rather than Europeans civilizing Africa? Where was the real heart of Darkness? In Africa? Or within the Europeans who treated it as a laboratory for a racial pseudo-science? The political traps of apartheid South Africa had netted Mandela, ironically as a caged specie, Mandela would be the answer to these very questions. The Rivonia trial was 'faint accompli' for Mandela and his ten other co-accused.
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written by Rajab Kakyama, December 19, 2013
They therefore regarded the trial as the first and last opportunity to explain to the nation why they felt compelled to do what they did for the sake of South Africa's oppressed. When court convened on April 23, 1964, Bram Fischer finished his address by announcing that the defense case would "commence with a statement from the dock by Nelson Mandela." Mandela chose to give a statement from the dock, even though forgoing cross-examination meant his testimony would be given little weight, because, in his words "I did not want to be limited" Mandela began speaking in a quiet, even voice. He would conclude his speech in the famous quote:
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written by Rajab Kakyama, December 19, 2013
"During my lifetime I have dedicated myself to this struggle of the African people. I have fought against white domination, and I have fought against black domination. I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is an ideal which I hope to live for and to achieve. But if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die." After asking the defendants to rise, Justice de Wet pronounced the sentence. "I have decided not to impose the supreme penalty," the judge said, even though it would normally be "the proper penalty for the crime." He concluded his brief statement:
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written by Rajab Kakyama, December 19, 2013
"The sentence in the case of all of the accused will be one of life imprisonment."
Nelson Mandela and the other defendants, who had all decided that they would not appeal if sentenced to death, broke into smiles. They would live! Like his predecessors the Nama and Herero people who perished in a 'death camp' on Shark Island, Nelson Mandela would spend the next eighteen years in a prison on Robben Island. In 1982, authorities transferred Mandela and four other Rivonia defendants (Sisulu, Mlangeni, Mhlaba, and Kathrada) to Pollsmoor Prison in suburban Cape Town.
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written by Rajab Kakyama, December 19, 2013
President P. W. Botha offered Mandela a deal to renounce violence and be freed. Mandela refused the offer: "Only free men can negotiate--a prisoner cannot enter into contracts." He worked in a lime quarry and was allowed one letter and one visitor every six months. Remarkably, in all these years of incarceration, Mandela had taught himself in the language of Afrikaans. In so doing, he had "cracked the code" of the captors. He would now share idiosyncrasies with his oppressors. He had by far permeated into the "Darkest souls of apartheid" and created an "equal relationship" with the jailers.
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written by Rajab Kakyama, December 19, 2013
Like a nestling, he had taught himself how to fly. He had defied the dictates of Darwinism that the black race was inferior to the' Aryan man.' He had created a "gangplank" where it had all seemed impossible. In February 1990, President F. W. de Klerk announced the release of Nelson Mandela unconditionally. After 27 years of Mandela's resilience, the President had to run the gauntlet. Mandela had duly served his sentence. In April 1994, South Africans of all races went to the polls. The ANC won 62% of the vote and on May 10, Nelson Mandela took the oath of office as the first black President of South Africa. He was 75 years old.
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written by Rajab Kakyama, December 19, 2013
20 years later- December 5, 2013, Nelson Madiba Mandela retired from what was to be his final retirement- he was pronounced dead. Four days later, the world would celebrate a life of a man whose only indictment was the colour of his skin. And among the congregates was a one Barrack Obama- a latter-day Mandela who in his speech summarized the findings of the 'Mandela experiment.' That Mandela had not only freed the prisoners but that he had also freed the jailers. At 95 years of age, Mandela had climbed the tallest hill of the century. He, however, left many more to be climbed. How many are you willing to climb? That is the question.
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written by winnie, December 19, 2013
Mandela was a living example of a tolerant ,kind and forgiving, leader like Andrew can you imagine he even forgave the Judge who sentenced him to life imprisonment..for me i believe in seeing so i had to physically be in S.Africa just like am always physically present at the Movement celebrations there were so many leaders and celebrities like M7,Natasha,Obama,Oprah,Bush,Clinton,Cameron Diaz,Brandson(of Virgin Airlines) and the rest of the other leaders.
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written by winnie, December 19, 2013
Still on Lukwago how does he attend Xmas parties if he can not sign Xmas carols? i am going to let my hair down this season so i expect Omeros,Rajab,Adam,Macerni,Ocheto,Nambi and the rest to stand warned and behave when i come back from my xmas holidays i will start from where i stopped.you dont deserve Xmas greetings after all during the time of Amin you used to abuse the xmas tree by decorating it with cotton wool to represent snow.
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written by winnie, December 19, 2013
Sorry i forgot Merry Xmas to Andrew, Musinguzi,William Mukisa any way you are a few reasonable people on this page you are like mandela

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