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The revolutionary and prince of peace

Published: 
Sunday, December 15, 2013

The Xhosa Rolihlahla Mandela, born to Nonqaphi Nosekeni and Henry Mgadla Mandela in 1918 was not just another person who transformed ordinariness to colossal stateliness. He epitomised the best of humanity.

 

 

Research will not yield a greater leader in modern times whose life spanned a combination of princely status, the egalitarianism of a boxer, courageous freedom fighter and branded terrorist, revolutionary lawyer, and prisoner of conscience. He was a compassionate politician, president, negotiator, international mediator, philanthropist, world statesman and father figure, and now a legend for all times.

 

At age nine, he lost his father, who was village chief and counsellor to King Jongintaba. Rolihlahla became a ward of the Thembu royal house, and the Xhosa king groomed him to assume high office. The mission school he attended gave him the name Nelson.

 

It was in the king’s house the young dreamer listened to stories about the valour of African resisters as told by his elders, which fuelled his desire to contribute to the struggle of his people. Those valiant resisters were not only the men of his time, but dated back to 1652, when the first European settlers had arrived in South Africa.

 

Back then, the European invaders had derogated the earliest Khoisan peoples of South Africa “Bushmen” and “Hottentots.”  They deemed them an intellectually inferior people and “a dull, stupid, lazy, stinking nation who were also bold, thievish and not to be trusted.”  

 

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