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Mandela – Celebrate the Others Too

December 6, 2013

So ends the longest deathbed scene featuring a political leader since the passing of Spain’s Francisco Franco in 1975. There the similarities end.

Franco was a warlord who took power by force and held it for nearly 40 years. Mandela was a symbol of forgiveness and reconciliation who served but one term as president.

I can’t add much to the eulogies pouring out from so many sources. But while we celebrate Mandela’s life, we should also remember and appreciate the contribution of others without whom there might have been an entirely different outcome in South Africa. Two people stand out. FW de Klerk, who recognised – perhaps just in time – that majority rule was the only option for his country in the long-term. And Archbishop Desmond Tutu, who added so much moral weight to the reconciliation process through his role in the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

Of these two, I would reckon Tutu the greater man. Like Mandela, he fought a life-long battle with courage, grace and humour. Yet De Klerk, despite being a beneficiary of apartheid for most of his life, though his actions over a relatively brief period allowed the decisive breakthrough to take place before fading into obscurity.

Though both are still living, we should celebrate their achievements as well.

From → History, Politics

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