The Diplomatic Society

  • Increase font size
  • Default font size
  • Decrease font size

Madiba’s  Magic

25 July 2018

Impeccable manners and humility were Mandela’s traits. “I am not a saint, unless you think of a saint as a sinner who keeps on trying.” Mandela’s biggest sin, according to those that had a misplaced sense of their superiority, and oppressed people in a most brutal, racist and vile manner, was to stand up to them and the hateful apartheid regime; to fight for freedom and justice.

Would you be able to survive, let alone thrive on a prison island in the southernmost coast of Africa for 27 years? Would you have had that sense of duty to stand up to a powerful yet insecure regime that victimized your family, wife and children in a most dehumanizing way?  

As a man, face to face with his own reality after a constant lock down, and the reality of the aspirations of a nation, Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela (Madiba) was released from prison at the age of 72. He lived to the age of 95.

Mandela spent a quarter of a century incarcerated while P.W Botha and his apartheid regime spent the countries abundant natural resources to spin an ideology of racial superiority, especially at the expense of  South Africa’s most precious human resource.

Barack Obama, the former President of the USA was in South Africa to speak at a lecture in Johannesburg, commemorating the 100th birthday of Madiba.  As the orator he is renowned for, Obama made some confessions about the crisp South African winter mornings, his age and about being a good dancer. He is also acknowledged with having served as a two term president of the USA.

Barack Hussein Obama born a Hawaiian had to face his own realties as a child, on those islands in the Pacific Ocean of the west coast of the United States.  He was brought up in a multi-cultural and diverse family that shaped and moulded his view of the world.  At the age of 48 Barack Hussein Obama became the 44th President of the USA.

“Madiba’s light shone so brightly, even from that narrow Robben Island cell, that in the late ‘70s he could inspire a young college student on the other side of the world to reexamine his own priorities, could make me consider the small role I might play in bending the arc of the world towards justice”.

The world’s financial system was subjected to a catastrophic breakdown in 2008; Obama won the elections in November of that year and was inaugurated as President of the USA in January 2009. Madiba’s life was an inspiration to the young Obama, whose name and deeds were kept alive by Winnie Mandela together with the African National Congress (ANC) and the unwavering and relentless campaign to free Nelson Mandela and all other political prisoners.

Oliver Reginald Tambo, the former ANC president in exile at the time, was instrumental in creating global awareness of the atrocities of apartheid. The Mandela name became associated with freedom, equal rights and justice, not only in South Africa but worldwide.

After his release in February 1990 Mandela’s legend grew into an icon, his image cast in a myriad forms, artefacts and apparel. His name became ubiquitous as streets, boulevards, buildings and public spaces were named after him. World leaders, celebrities and ordinary folk wanted to meet with him and often recall the moment when they met Madiba.

His steely determination and discipline will never be forgotten and his charm and sharp wit will always be remembered just like the Madiba shuffle, his unique dance style and his love for batik shirts from the Indonesian Archipelago.  

When Cyril Ramaphosa, President of South Africa introduced Barack Obama at the 16th Nelson Mandela Annual Lecture he made a point in comparing Obama and Mandela.  Mandela was tall so is Obama who is great speaker just like Mandela.   If manners were a judge of character then Madiba’s etiquette was exemplary, it broke down barriers. His amicable personality, his aplomb diplomacy and his awareness of relations, race or otherwise, were centred around the basic philosophy of being courteous and humble. 



November/December 2019











© copyright 2011-2017| The Diplomatic Society| All Rights Reserved.