Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela, the first President of a free South Africa, is my hero. I admire him with my soul and spirit.
Here is a man who had all the excuses and ammunition in the world to be selfish and to destroy South Africa while the majority were basking in the euphoria of independence.
If Mandela was selfish, he would have built a national heroes’ acre where a few of his chosen colleagues (including Mandela himself) would be buried amid speechifying, pomp and fanfare under the pretense that they were the only ones who had liberated South Africa from the apartheid system. After all, Mandela had spent 27 years in prison, a feat he would always have dangled before his sceptics. But Mandela recognised every South African as a hero or heroine in his/her own right in the fight against apartheid.
In the process, Mandela could have made himself some form of a deity, awarding himself a plethora of titles to demonstrate his power and hiring some starving South Africans from the ghetto to pen jingles that glorified his “divinity”.
He could have crafted laws that could send people to filthy cells at supersonic speed for “denigrating the name of the divine president”. In more plain terms, he would have ordered that anyone who breathed a critical word against him be incarcerated.
He would have denied that like a natural human being, he was ageing. He would have publicly claimed that he was still strong enough to knock down a horse with a single punch (after all, he is a former boxer).
But age to him came with increased wisdom.
Seeing the way South Africans loved him, Mandela could have changed the constitution to make himself Life President. Or he could have embarked on violent political campaigns to stay in power, openly telling the South Africans that he was a professor of violence.
He could have structured the electoral body in such a way that rigging would be child’s play to him. He could have distorted the line between the army, police and his party to ensure that these institutions would brutalise dissenting voices.
He would have grouped the police, army, prison and intelligence chiefs into “generals” who would protect him on the throne through coercive methods and unconstitutional means.
He could have run a one-man election and announced himself as the winner, effectively staying on the throne “through the will of the people”.
If Mandela was selfish, he would have plucked some hungry and unprincipled professors and doctors from the obscurity of lecture rooms to lead his propaganda campaign.
He would have turned a public broadcaster into a personal fiefdom, where his exaggerated feats would have been aired day in day out until the South Africans turned literally deaf and blind.
IF Mandela was selfish, he would have been paranoid, seeing the hand of the West in every move he made to destroy the nation. He would have appropriated wealth to himself and a few of his fawning colleagues under some dubious indigenisation laws.
Worse still, he could have brutally grabbed wealth from whites, particularly land, under the guise of correcting colonial imbalances. After all, apartheid was structured along racial lines.
Mandela could have set South Africans violently against each other ostensibly to protect South Africa’s hard-won independence and sovereignty in order to keep his throne.
He would have muzzled the independent media, crafting laws that made life difficult for them to operate and closing down some of them.
Mandela could have turned his party into a cult with him at the helm, demonising whoever went against his doctrine, creating an “us-versus-them attitude”.
This is a man who could have sounded like a broken record, living in the past, recounting how he, and a few chosen colleagues, had fought for the independence of South Africa as if everyone else had been passive. He would still be fighting apartheid in his mind to this day.
Opposition party members, independent media practitioners and civil society members would have been arrested on trumped-up charges and brutalised.
The law would have been selectively applied against them while he pretended to preach peace. He would have owned up to nothing, blaming all his shortcomings on others.
But thank God Mandela was not selfish and he will leave behind the iconic legacy of a democratic president who put country before him and who put reconciliation before revenge. His life and work are a living testimony of a president sent from heaven.
Why shouldn’t I admire him with my soul and spirit?
l Feedback: firstname.lastname@example.org