Sonntag, 5. Januar 2014

Mandela's example lives on

Dear friends,
while the world was mourning Nelson Mandela I was longing to be together with my South African friends. I wanted to share the intense moments of commemoration with them, the feelings od grief and of gratefulness. It was not possible to make the journey. So I watched the mourning ceremony on TV and I took encouragement from commemorative messages that reached me through the internet.

I would like to mention two of the messages here. They are a beautiful testimony of how Mandela's example is living on in our minds and our hearts.

Facing the truth of our mutual dependency
Njabulo Ndebele, vice-chancelor of the University of Cape Town, in an essay on the significance of Mandela's leadership, explains how his wisdom showed a way to transform the power struggle and to reach a higher level of cooperation. He recalls a meeting between Mandela and the military commanders of the Apartheid regime led by General Constant Viljoen.

"This meeting took place  at a particularly dangerous phase of the negotiated transition. At that time elements of the South African Defence Force seemed dangerously poised to begin an armed intervention. Mandela, with his characteristic candour when the stakes are high, is reported to have given the generals his frank appraisal of the situation everyone faced:

'if you go to war', he told the generals, 'I must be honest and admit that we cannot stand up to you on the battlefield. We don't have the resources. It will be a long and bitter struggle, many people will die and the country may be reduced to ashes. But you must remember two things. You cannot win because of our numbers; you cannot kill us all. And you cannot win because of the international community. They will rally to our support and they will stand with us'. General Viljoen was forced to agree. The two men looked at each other ... and faced the truth of their mutual dependency. (quoted from Allister Sparks, Tomorrow is Another Country: The Inside Story of South Africa's Negotiated Revolution)

"Mandela's technique", Ndebele goes on to explain, "is to concede to the relative strength of an adversary, a concession that buttresses the latter's self-confidence. But the implications that follow the logic of the battlefield are devastating. They promise a low-value outcome too stark to disregard. They guarantee a pyrrhic victory of little worth to both sides. It is at that point that mutual interest emerges and is further affirmed by an agreement to explore a different path". (...)
"Mandela's clarity of thinking, strong sense of purpose, his moral and visionary authority, are all definitive of an ascendant value system. General Viljoen and his colleagues submitted to this authority because it convincingly included them in its articulations. They recognised the leadership of someone they had oppressed to have the wisdom and integrity not only to seek a future that preserves their lives, but one which also promises new kinds of fulfillment".

From Apartheid to Greenpeace
The other message is from Kumi Naidoo, the CEO of Greenpeace International. Kumi grew up in Durban where he got involved in the struggle against Apartheid as a young activist. Now he is a leader of the worldwide movement to protect life on our planet. In the current campaign to save the arctic sea from the risks of oil drilling (see my last post "arrest me too") he wrote an open letter to the Russian President Putin. The letter is an appeal to face the truth of our mutual dependency around the globe. Mandela's wisdom is present once again.

Here is the link to Kumi's message:

yours in mediation
on the long walk to freedom, justice and peace

geri baobab

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