Nelson Mandela’s vision for South Africa, Africa, and the world remains relevant 10 years after his passing

People mourn Nelson Mandela at the FNB Stadium in Johannesburg, South Africa on 10 December 2013. Photo: Government of South Africa.

Nelson Mandela lifted the first Rugby World Cup Webb Ellis trophy held in South Africa in 1995, a year after the country’s first democratic elections in 1994. As the country looks forward to celebrating three decades of transition from a country that witnessed some of the worst crimes against humanity, its record fourth Rugby World Cup triumph is a definitive sign of how far it has come. The vision of Mandela and the founding icons of freedom in South Africa is gaining new significance as people grapple with the challenges of building a united and powerful nation as envisaged by those visionaries. 

Mandela passed away on 5 December 2013. His negotiated release from prison after an unjust imprisonment of 27 years set in motion an extraordinary transformation journey for South Africa, with his election as the first democratic president of the country in 1994.  

The South African Communist Party (SACP) was formed in 1921, the same year as the Communist Party of China (CPC). Mandela served on the central committee of the SACP, which played an integral role in the underground structures of the liberation movements of South Africa. The SACP is still part of the tripartite governing alliance of South Africa.  

The dissolution of the Soviet Union was deemed to be the end of the Cold War and the beginning of a multipolar world. These events had a serious impact on Mandela as he negotiated and guided the nation towards a new dispensation.

Struggle for justice 

Mandela and his leadership team were guided by the principles enshrined in the Freedom Charter which, like the CPC, adopted people-centered policies, placing the needs of its citizens above everything else. A closer look at the history of South Africa and some of the statistics and figures show why the vision of a reconciled nation united in its diversity was so important. 

Mandela championed diplomacy and negotiations over ideological confrontations. He aligned himself with other liberation movements, emphasising the interconnected struggles for freedom and justice worldwide. 

The delayed response of the international community to address apartheid raised questions about the effectiveness of global institutions, notably the United Nations (UN). Mandela and the resistance movements miscalculated the global response, as the UN took time to counter and dismantle the brutal apartheid regime. This raised concerns about the UN’s ability to fulfill its mandate to protect human rights promptly. 

Enduring legacy 

Mandela’s legacy endures as the world faces new geopolitical shifts and challenges. The current international landscape, marked by unilateralism and hegemonism, prompts a reassessment of Mandela’s commitment to diplomacy and solidarity. As the world navigates towards an era of multipolarity, Mandela’s vision for a cooperative and conciliatory global community has gained renewed relevance. 

Mandela’s life and times serve as a beacon of hope and inspiration. His ability to lead South Africa through a peaceful transition, coupled with his unwavering commitment to global justice, leaves a lasting legacy. As the world commemorates the 10th anniversary of Mandela’s passing, it is an opportunity to reflect on the progress made, acknowledge the challenges that persist, and recommit to the values of unity, justice, and diplomacy that Mandela championed throughout his extraordinary life. 

One of his greatest contributions was that he correctly handled people’s contradictions brought on by the apartheid and achieved national reconciliation. He turned South Africa into a “rainbow nation” where people of different colours live in peace and work together. 

In his autobiography, he wrote that he suggested his comrades visit China and learn from China’s experience of winning national independence. He visited China in 1992. During his term as South African president, South Africa and China established diplomatic relations.  

After he was released from prison in 1990, Beyond, a band from China’s Hong Kong, released the song The Glorious Years to pay tribute to Mandela’s struggle for freedom during the apartheid era in South Africa. This song is popular in China even today.  

The author is Director of the Diplomatic Society of South Africa. African Times has published the article in partnership with ChinAfrica Magazine.



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