“For to be free is not merely to cast off one’s chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others”
– Nelson Rolihlala Mandela
The history of the African liberation struggle would be incomplete without the personal history and motivations of Nelson Rolihlala Mandela. As Daniel Lieberfeld wrote, the quality of life that Mandela lived enabled him to embody the ideal of inter-group reconciliation, not only in his home country of South Africa, but also on the African continent and the world over, to an extent that is perhaps without historical equivalent. It was therefore not surprising when on July 18, 2009, the United Nation General Assembly instituted the Nelson Mandela International Day to commemorate the lifetime service that Nelson Mandela gave to South Africa, Africa and the world.
Nelson Mandela lived in a period of ruthless oppression in South Africa. The challenges of the times and how he rose to become the model of the anti-apartheid movement places Mandela’s legacy in a progressive perspective with consequences on collective actions against racism, oppression and exploitation in Africa and across the world. Mandela’s influence on the African liberation struggle is that of inspiration and the belief in the human spirit to forge ahead in the face of fierce oppression and the willingness to reconcile with former adversaries. Liberation fighters in Africa and across the world draw encouragement from Nelson Mandela’s rare sense of personal sacrifice in the cause of pursuing the collective good and the wellbeing of all. The very life of Nelson Mandela challenged the unfettered ideals of selfishness, greed, revenge and unhealthy competition that characterized many African countries in the post-independence era.
Beyond representing a symbol of peaceful collective action for change, Nelson Mandela was actively involved in resolving a number of conflicts on the African continent. After voluntarily stepping down as President of South Africa in April 1999, Mandela became the chief mediator of the civil war in Burundi after the death of former Tanzanian President Julius Nyerere. Mandela pushed hard for the inclusion of rebel groups and advocated ethnic power-sharing arrangements such as a rotating presidency and equal Hutu-Tutsi representation in an integrated army. Nelson Mandela unblocked the talks by instituting decision making by “sufficient consensus” of the largest and most representative parties; imposed a deadline for agreement; involved African governments and the United States and European countries as sponsors and donors; and pushed Thabo Mbeki, his successor as president, to commit South African troops as peacekeepers. The resulting Arusha Accords of 2000 were largely the product of Mandela’s procedural and substantive innovations, his capacity to speak truth to politicians and exert moral pressure on recalcitrant parties.
The legacy of Nelson Mandela indeed transcends the borders of the African continent. His is a legacy for leadership and humanity as a whole. As a strong advocate for liberation, Nelson Mandela did not only concern himself with freedom from the shackles of physical oppression but was also a strong activist for mental liberation through the power of education. Nelson Mandela lived a life filled with the belief that education and life-long learning are the most powerful weapons for changing the world. In his own words, “a good head and heart are always a formidable combination,” in every human struggle.
As the world commemorates Mandela Day, we at Stanbic Bank Ghana take inspiration from Nelson Mandela’s leadership in liberation from social and economic oppression and his love of education as a weapon of change. We celebrate the life and achievement of this great global icon of peace and respect for humanity. Indeed, our eight (8) values – serving our customers, growing our people, delivering to our shareholders, being proactive, working in teams, constantly raising the bar, respecting each other, upholding the highest level of integrity – find expression in the words of this towering figure when he said,
“What counts in life is not the mere fact that we have lived. It is what difference we have made to the lives of others that will determine the significance of the life lead”.
To this end, Stanbic has been using the celebration of Mandela Day as platform for supporting educational initiatives in Ghana. These include the donation of computers and learning materials, refurbishment of some learning centres and the adoption of some special schools.
To commemorate the day this year, staff of the Bank will spend time mentoring students of the La Yahoushua Primary school in Accra, and donate items to the pupils.
Nelson Mandela may not have lived in the era of Kwame Nkrumah, Patrice Lumumba, Sekou Toure and others when the struggle for African liberation from colonialism was at its peak. However, rising to the challenge of leadership, together with his keen support for education have put Mandela on a pedestal among the pantheon of African and global heroes.