Nelson Mandela, The Leader I Never Met

Nelson Mandela RIP 1918-2013

Nelson Mandela RIP 1918-2013A long time ago, I missed an opportunity to meet our late, great leader, Nelson Mandela. This morning I woke up in China to find out he died 🙁 Nelson Mandela was a South African anti-apartheid revolutionary and politician who served as President of South Africa from 1994 to 1999, only one term! He was the first black South African to hold the office after the end of Apartheid.

This morning in China English news channel CCTV is totally focused on reporting on the death of Nelson Mandela. The Chinese coverage of this pivotal event in world history is a happy and sad moment. South African Anand Naidoo, is one of the news anchors for CCTV America. His personal stories adds a touch of humanity to the news coverage. Mandela first visited China in 1992 and also in in the first official state visit as president in 1999. He received an honorary Doctorate of Law from Peking University.

On that morning back in high school I was a typical teenager. I was lazy and and did not realise the huge impact this leader would continue to have on my country. His voice came over the loud speaker from a nearby school as he was on the campaign trail for our first democratic elections. The significance of this opportunity was lost on me at the time, and I repeat this story very often when sharing my own story as a South African. With my mother I later voted in the first democratic elections on 27 April 1994, the result of Nelson Mandela’s 27 year prison struggle in Robben Island near Cape Town.

As I’m writing on this blog, I’m at a loss for words. There are not many South Africa in Ningbo, and I’ve only met three others. However, several Chinese people and one friend from Yemen, all told me stories of their visit to my home country. These stories were all gentle reminders of the good-will I believe is derived from the post-Apartheid leadership of Nelson Mandela.

After I completed my BSc degree in Port Elizabeth, I moved to Johannesburg in 1997. One of the first books I read at this time was A Long Walk To Freedom, the autobiography of Nelson Mandela. This book was just recently turned into a movie starring Idris Elba I have yet to watch. Almost 20 years after “democracy” most South Africa are not only devastated by this loss, but also about the poor leadership we currently have in president Jacob Zuma, almost the opposite of Nelson Mandela.

Maybe the best book I ever read about Nelson Mandela is: Leading Like Madiba by Martin Kalunga-Banda. In 2009 I was very fortunate to meet the author of this book in Bloemfontein, South Africa at an ISASA National Conference.

Just before I left South Africa to China, Mandela was released from after about 3 months in hospital. I told many people I’ve met in Ningbo, Beijing and Shanghai, it was a sign, a good omen, for me to go ahead and leave South Africa. So I’m humble, grateful and very proud to remember the leader I never met.

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Author: RJ Thomas

RJ Thomas is an International Relationship Builder. He was born in South Africa, and moved to China in 2013.