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Much has been written and said about freedom fighter and the first black South African president Nelson Mandela. The skies both in South Africa and here at home seemed to drench the land in the sorrow of the angels for having to greet this man, whose influence stretched far beyond the boundaries of his own country.
Many commentators and former comrades in arms used the word “forgiveness” liberally when asked to expound on the defining characteristic of Nelson Mandela. I wonder if anyone (particularly our leaders) has a true appreciation for what this “forgiveness” actually means. After serving a jail term which would have diminished the spirit of any man, Mandela emerged from the barbaric clutches of his captors with a enduring message of peace and reconciliation. This was very difficult for many black South Africans to digest.
The apartheid system in the years approaching Mandela’s release from prison threatened to tear the country apart. The white minority South African government had come to the realisation that the regime of brutal oppression could no longer hold back the swelling tide of combustible dissidence.
More than anything else it was this inescapable fact that brought the government to the point of negotiation. Black freedom, the whites knew, was an already scripted future. The only question was how this freedom would be won. Given the haze of violence in the streets, the tea leaves pointed clearly to mass bloodshed and disintegration of the state.
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