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Nelson Mandela Essay

Leadership: Nelson Mandela


Nelson Mandela was a great South African leader, who also served as the president of South Africa during his lifetime. He was a well renowned political leader, and an apartheid revolutionist who was well recognized for the efforts that the government made on tackling racist actions and developing some sense of racial awareness. Many great people have come and went, but have been easily forgotten as members of society (Juckes, 1995). However, Mandela’s leadership qualities have been impressive with great ideas and contributions to society (Maanga, 2013). He was morally, economically, religiously, culturally, and socially aware of the societal requirements. The paper will look and examine Mandela without objectifying aspects that have allowed him to become one of the most recognized statesman in African history.

Setting foot to empowerment

Mandela’s vision was in line with Abraham Lincoln, Churchill, Martin Luther King, and many other patriots who fought and stood for humanistic involvements. As one studies the recent history, one can view that Mandela was a zealous frontline activist in 1962, in the ”Spear of the Nation” group, that primarily opposed apartheid policies in South Africa (Carlin, 2008). Eventually, he was convicted of sabotage and treason. During this time, he came the ANS president, and got an opportunity to work with people like Albert John Luthuli and others who remained his colleagues along his journey. After staying in prison for 27 years, and having spent many of these in solitary confinement, he was released on 11th February, 1990 (Maanga, 2013). Mandela is viewed and looked up to as a man of compassion and peace. It can be easily stated that the legacy and relevance of Mandela is a lesson for many Africans and other activists to adapt.

During the 1940s and 50s he rose quite rapidly amongst the ANS team and hierarchy, despite being a frequent guest at police detention centers and harassments. ANC was eventually to be outlawed in 1960 that resulted in there being an underground military wing being formed. As mentioned above, “Spear of The Nation” was the wing formed. As a result, Mandela was sentenced to 5 years in prison after 1962 due to illegal travel that was aimed to instill a sense of revolt amongst citizens (Carlin, 2008). ANC prisoners had the least earned respect at the prion and did not have many rights. Moreover, they were kept in abysmal conditions that included thin blankets, buckets for toilets, hay carpets and other aspects such as food were insufficient for nutritional purposes. The prisoners were given shorts to wear even during the winters and restrictions also included no access to newspapers and magazines. The prisoners were eventually made to work very long and hard during their stint there (Carlin, 2008). As a leader, Mandela has received harsh treatments that pertained to his stay at the prison. The situation was extreme as he was not allowed to see anyone that included his wife as well for two years. He was only allowed to receive a letter every 6 months, and as such, is a highly passionate man for having gone through imprisonment.

Mandela has great yet rare virtues that have led him to become a well-established presence in the world. Primarily, he radiates aspects from his religion that is adapted from Gal 5:22-23, where he aims to promote peace, love, kindness, and gentleness (Duncan, 2015). As such, Nelson Mandela has always been a good example of these virtues. His love for humanity allowed him to remain upright and steadfast in solitary confinement as well (Boehmer, 2008). His perseverance is also established for the average viewer when one looks at the number of years that he spent in solitary confinement. He is easily the best representative of having faith that the darkest nights can finally see the face of dawn. Mandela has exemplified defending his dignity is seen as narrated by himself, “Let freedom reign. The sun never set on so glorious a human achievement (Mandela, 2003).”

Oliver Tambo also describes Mandela as a man whose inspiration lies in the heart of every Africa with patriotic views. Furthermore, Tambo describes the relationship as one that is self-sacrificing with his followers and for people who are in need. Yet he is also capable of flexible and delicate judgement, and knows the strength and masses of people who have made up freedom of struggle in the country. In many ways, Mandela’s judgement reminds one of the Sharpeville Massacre. The massacre itself took place on 21st march, 1960 and many people were put in solitary confinement. There were killings were as many as 69 people died and 180 were wounded and injured. Mandela was well aware of these massacres and took it onto himself to dedicate his life for fighting and defensing for human dignity (Maanga, 2013). Eventually, his resilience is viewable against the las and they were showcased to the corrupt world even before the events of the Sharpeville massacre. In particular, women were highly resistant, as explained by Mandela, in 1957, with the support of ANC’s women league, females from all walks of life in the cities, rural areas, ad other states were angry that they carry passes (Carlin, 2008). The women, as such, were persistent, courageous, indefatigable, enthusiastic, and protests were made against the standard where antigovernment laws were made (Boehmer, 2008). Chief Luthuli also said that whenever women started to become highly active in the struggle, no power could stop them from achieving the most desired freedom within their lifetimes.

Mandela also gives other views about pass laws. These laws were amongst the most hated in South Africa and changes the liability of the African police and its surveillance at any time (Juckes, 1995). One can imagine whether there was any man in Africa who did not have any brush up with the police. The laws tend to separate husband and wives from one another, and eventually breakdown the family life that is considered ideal.

Icon of reconciliation and forgiveness

From the time that he was in the tiny cell in Robben Island, Mandela’s role as chief in the political party was a way that any black man was chosen to lead anything in South Africa (Juckes, 1995). As such, the enigmatic leadership and political career started to become characterized as one that would be deeply sympathetic, forgiving, and reconciliation. These virtues were reflecting of his speeches and deeds that he would eventually lead during his imprisonment on Robben Island. It was more so Mandela’s love for reconciliation and peace that allowed him to gain international recognition that finally earned him the novel prize in 1993. In 2012 alone, he became the recipient of the Nobel Prize event where the European Union made the work commemorate and remember his existence in the African world. In this resolution to award Mandela, there was a remembering of his relentless fight for freedoms and equality. It was also at the time that the African countries parades themselves where multi party political systems were common. There was a lot to learn from Mandela’s rich history as a political leader. He belonged to the Xhosa ethnic group that was commonly known as Madiba. His role as one to fight against atrocities and still resonate cooperation was visible.

It was recognized a few years back that the work of church organizations such as WCC would express cooperation and integral strategies. Moreover, these organizations also stated that it was highly encouraging to see that Mandela was an example of peace and justice and some of these basic tenets in his personality were highlighted in many other Abrahamic religions as well (Boehmer, 2008). Justice and peace have been some of the basic requirements in the domain and Mandela was considered to be an ideal of these in multiple ways (Duncan, 2015). Peace and justice, both of these have been essential requirements in all societies.

Many of these ethnic clashes that were seen in different areas of the world are primarily cause due to the lack of justice and peace values in society (Duncan, 2015). The military competition was also lacking in order at the time that Mandela rose to counteract injustices. There was no place for justice and peace at the time, and whether one resonates these values or not, justice is a requirement in any civil society where human life is of any value whatsoever (Duncan, 2015). However, Mandela made sure to not take any sides when he came out of prison and he maintained a neutral political viewpoint to many of the issues that would eventually move forward a political stance for the countrymen. At the time, there were many likeminded members in society such as Boers and Nehru, India’s first prime minister who took it onto himself to maintain and establish a democratic state for the country. Nehru’s role as one to fight for justice and peace earned him fame across the globe and allowed him to stress on democracy and socialism in the newly formed Indian society (Duncan, 2015). As such a result, he succeeded in many of these desires to leave and represent likeminded ideals in society.

Looking at the administrative policies and pillars at that time, there were many important pillars such as socialism and democracy that allowed rural India to become a notable member of social, politics, and economic awareness. Majority of the people and followers in Africa expected Mandela to operate on a tit for tat ideology, but his response to such minute issues results in him being noticed for passive views. There were not many expectations in this regard, and he eventually forgave the strongest political opponents with kindness and he fought in the most distinct manner against agonizing parties. Amid these issues, Mandela also worked closely with Frederick de Klerk, a man who was part of a harsh South African regime that had truly treated Mandela and his colleagues with utmost disgrace in the ANC (Juckes, 1995). His views also changed in prison against the white rulers, though his stance changed as he got out of prison only to support the development and making if a new South Africa for his people. Mandela encouraged the whites and blacks to cooperate with one another as South Africa belonged to everyone living there (Juckes, 1995). He was one to recognize the role of the white community and expected that such campaigns would help him eradicate narrow minded whites as part of expanding his country.

Improving living and working conditions

One of the most terrible conditions in African related to the severed working conditions. These were addressed by Mandela by all the power that he had. Moreover, Mandela continued to address these issues and fight for the poor wherever he could. The conditions that induced these sufferings were also present when Mandela addressed the issues. The suffering also included working with the government ministers there, where nonstop efforts were made to improve the working conditions in the home country. To improve efficacy, the government also upgraded the labor relations act in 1995 where the act was done to maximize the democracy at work and places where there was settling of places and grudges to help improve misunderstandings (Southall & Melber, 2006). As mentioned above, Mandela went to trial and in 1964 stated that “During my lifetime I have dedicated myself to this struggle of the African people. I have fought against white domination, and I have fought against black domination. I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is an ideal which I hope to live for and to achieve. But if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die (Mandela, 2003).”

The rule of law and standing for an independent jury

It can be viewed that one of the greatest weaknesses of African countries is that there is no independent jury and that the law is simply insufficient. The judiciary is more so controlled by the ruling clique and by those who exercise remote control and the judges are appointed by the head of the state so that they can tend to the ruling class only. The police force is only there to serve the purpose of tending to endless complaints. Among the many things that Mandela fought for, he was present to fight for the proliferation of the independent judiciary as well. People were best reminded of the fact that any true and real judiciary should favor the right side only; it should not cater to decisions that are in favor of one side more than the other (Southall & Melber, 2006). Mandela’s leadership played a huge role in this task as his government aimed to attract leadership styles that were promoting of new constitutions that were free from any independent law. Following Mandela’s appendage ought to be required in most African countries as there is not enough democracy in societies. For a great amount of time, the power had remained within egoistic single parties only and there was a requirement for a multiparty system that Mandela proposed. One ought to understand that a genuine democratization of aspects of political life in a pluralistic system leads to rotation of leadership.

Empowering and assuring the less fortunate

As far as politics is concerned, Mandela once stated that the political power should be the one of the biases that people are economically empowered with (Mandela, 2003). As such politics is a place where trivialities are chose as they brightens the consciousness of the powerful and rich and the plight of the powerless and poor is covered.

Mandela ensured that his government would remain to fight for members who were poor and in need. As one looks back to history, the South African people have always tried to raise their voices against grinding poverty conditions. These low wages and shortage of land, and the resultant human exploitation that was seen required a change in the policy of white domination. However, instead of freedom, the repression began to increase and grow in intensity. It is also evident that many people in Africa still live well below the poverty line and that situation was even worse many years back on South Africa. Mandela tried his best to empower and assist the poor in many ways. As part of his government, he tried to ensure that such poor conditions were improved and it was saddening to see that after all these years, Africans would still be deemed as one of the wealthiest continents in the world due to abundant resources.

Having been elected to the presidency of in 1994, he served his term as the first nonwhite head of stated for 5 years in African history, as well as being one to take the office following the tearing down of the apartheid system and amalgamation of a multiracial democratic state. Having discussed the many ways that Mandela was successful as a leader and unifier, there were some issues when he was sworn in as president. For example, Mandela chose an incompetent health minister, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, who did not pay head to the AIDS epidemic. As a result, many people thought that Mandela’s administration was very haste and indecisive on matters that did not pertain to economic policies (Maanga, 2013). At times, the government policies drifted. However, there were many successes during his role as leader of the state.

His handlers of economic policy were very able and skilled. Trevor Manuel who was appointed as finance minister eventually left in 2009. During his term, the ANC also let go of focusing on grand nationilizing and commanding economy, and eventually welcomed the free market with all policies that were part of the state. This surprised many outsiders. There were still some issues that resulted in AIDS becoming an even greater epidemic during his tenure. When he was sworn in, 4.3% of women were infected with HIV, and was the best indicator for the presence of the disease in the country. However, when he left office, 22.4% of women were pregnant with AIDS.

One can easily state that Mandela’s government as distracted by tending to racial decisions more than containing such epidemics or missing opportunities (Maanga, 2013). In the midst of the heroic efforts to build a new, pluralistic South Africa, the HIV epidemic became a less important challenge. In some respects, Mandela set an example when he chose to resign and retire after his first term of leader of state. Despite there being many short comings, he chose to not cling to power for more than one term and later on became a great supporter of eradicating AIDS after his term.

Protecting the vulnerable circumstances

During his tenure at office, Mandela ensured that the government would defend the Butler able and that the street children and old members of society would feel secure. There was an increase in the tendency for young people to move to urban places, and the old were highly vulnerable to poverty and hunger situations (Maanga, 2013). Mandela protected the vulnerable members of society with utmost convent and his works will be remembered. Mandela stated with great concern that children who are made to sleep on the road and are made to beg for a living are part of one of the many unfinished jobs today. Caring for these children seemed to him like an unfinished job and something that should have been tended very quickly to rescue and care for these children. It was imperative to him that these children had access to basic education and health.

Mandela throughout history: Leadership traits and qualities

Mandela had many important collaborators who helped him in his journey to become a beneficiary in the social context. His actions also continued after his retirements. Nelson Mandela was one man who fought and stood up to fight back injustice in as many situations as he could. Due to Mandela’s strong desire to not counteract racism with racism, he had always been opposed and oppressed. Mandela gave people some of the most important lessons in history. All such heroes have left the people a legacy in terms of social commitment and courage. As such, his legacy will be imprinted in the minds of the people who are responsible for the African content and its development.

Mandela’s role in fighting apartheid, becoming imprisoned on Robben Island became a symbol of struggle of all those oppressed around the world. Essentially, his role was imperative in the rebirth of South African during the times, and he became a peacemaker in this worldly negotiation (Stengel, 2008). Having been imprisoned for 27 years, Mandela came out of prison after 1990 and he did not have any bitterness towards his oppressors (Boehmer, 2008). One can go so far to say that Mandela was an omnipotent power when it came to negotiating on the table. The noble prize that we won in 1993 was shared with the former South African president. Mandela yet again showed his unique abilities when tackling challenges of uniting countries where the public was fragmented and racial groupings were common (Stengel, 2008).

Even after his retirement, Mandela showed many leadership traits that were commendable. For instance, in 2004, Mandela officially retired. During this time, he was running charitable organizations named as the Nelson Mandela Children’s fund, the Nelson Mandela foundation, and the Nelson Mandela Rhodes foundation (Stengel, 2008). Nelson Mandela’s desire and power to remain human under the face of many obstacles is one of the many things that makes him human. Mandela’s death in 2013 saddened the entire world, particularly because a world leader was lost.


A part of many aspects that made him a great leader was the fact that he listened. In his autobiographies, “Long Walks to Freedom,” Mandela recalled times where he was nine years old, and he was starting to draw comparisons to a boy named justice (Carlin, 2008). They became friends even though Mandela was introverted. He was always very keen to enjoy solitariness of long distance running and enjoying discipline that allowed him to escape the perils of life (Stengel, 2008). Later on, as part of the ANC, he explained that he had always been an observer and not a participant when it came to discussing issues and evaluating arguments. Some of the most essential traits in his lifetime concerned his observing trait in life. One can suggest that introverts like Mandela make a huge difference as they are more receptive to most of the shortcomings and also tend to compensate for these by practice and preparation and pushing themselves. Mandela also mentioned this before when he could compensate his level of discipline and diligence when he could not compensate it otherwise (Stengel, 2008). Even introverted leaders like Mandela had the mental aptitude to lead well from behind. Moreover, he also loved to enjoy his lazy afternoons and herding cattle. One can easily state that his success as a leader are attribute to his personality type and these are aspects that are impossible to quantify.

“As I walked out the door toward the gate that would lead to my freedom, I knew if I didn’t leave my bitterness and hatred behind, I’d still be in prison.” –Nelson Mandela (Carlin, 2008). He was a man of peace, and one who had a powerful presence and disarmed enemies with a tinge of smile. There were ideal representations of forgiveness in his political career as well. Truly, he was a visionary and embarked on an endurance journey (Stengel, 2008). His patience reflected as he spend years in jail and fought against the multifold atrocities of the time.


Boehmer, E. (2008). Nelson Mandela: A very short introduction (Vol. 188). Oxford University Press.

Carlin, J. (2008). Playing the enemy: Nelson Mandela and the game that made a nation. Penguin.

Duncan, B. (2015). Islam, peacemaking and terrorism. The Australasian Catholic Record92(2), 204.

Juckes, T. J. (1995). Opposition in South Africa: The Leadership of ZK Matthews, Nelson Mandela, and Stephen Biko. Praeger Publishers.

Maanga, G. S. (2013). The relevance and legacy of Nelson Mandela in the twenty-first century Africa: An historical and theological perspective. African Journal of History and Culture5(5), 87-95. (Maanga, 2013)

Mandela, N. (2003). Lighting your way to a better future. Speech delivered at the launch of Mindset Network. Planetarium, University of Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa16.

Mandela, N. (2013). Long walk to freedom. Hachette UK.

Rwafa, U. (2017). Theorising Mandela. Journal of Literary Studies33(4), 90-105.

Southall, R., & Melber, H. (2006). Legacies of power: Leadership change and former presidents in African politics. Nordiska Afrikainstitutet; HSRC Press.

Stengel, R. (2008). Mandela: His 8 lessons of leadership. Time Magazine9.



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