WHAT lesson can we draw from Nelson Mandela’s leadership?
That’s the question many Solomon Islanders were asking yesterday when they learned of the passing of Mr Mandela, the former South African president.
Mr Mandela, a man who needs no introduction, died quietly in the presence of family members in his Johannesburg home in South Africa.
He was a man widely referred to as “a world hero”, “an icon”, and “a symbol of peace and unity”.
Most Solomon Islanders who have gone through the school system learned of the life, struggles, and achievements of Mr Mandela in their social studies lesson.
So what lessons can we learn from his life and leadership?
But one that struck home quietly markedly is forgiveness.
For 27 years, Mr Mandela was imprisoned by the racist apartheid leadership on the isolated Roben island off South Africa.
When he was finally released in 1990 and later become president, Mr Mandela, despite the oppression and suffering he’d been through under apartheid, decided to forgive his adversaries.
He embraced forgiveness and shunned retaliation.
His life story has long since become a legend, one that transcends borders, race, language, or culture.
His extraordinary achievement was to encourage racial harmony, forgiveness without forgetting, power sharing, and a strong focus on the future, not the past.
As a master of symbolism, Mandela supported his strategy by being magnanimous towards his former enemies.
For example, in 1995, he visited the widow of the very man who was the main architect of the apartheid regime and in effect put him in prison (Prime Minister Hendrik Verwoerd).
He rejoiced when the South African rugby team Springboks won the world championship even though this team had been a symbol of racism and Afrikaner power for decades.
He proudly wore the team’s shirt during the championship match, waved his hands in support and signalled to the world at large that he truly supported a rainbow nation.
Such leadership is as precious as it is rare.
Mr Mandela will forever be a unifying global force of nature; a man whose humility confounded everyone he met; whose refusal to submit to injustice was matched only by his refusal to bear a grudge.
”Forget the past, throw your weapons into the sea,” Mandela said in 1990 after his release from 27 years in prison under the racist South African government.
Six years later, as president of the 40 million people he had helped set free, Mr Mandela stressed again: ”Let’s forget the past and concentrate on the present.”
From his imprisonment in 1962 through his release in 1990 and beyond, his influence on his people and world affairs has been huge.
Mr Mandela’s decision to promote unity and democratic principles when he became president ensured his beloved South Africa rose to take its place amongst the world’s nations.
Our beloved Solomon Islands was in recently times rocked by ethnic hatred and racial division.
With that turbulent period now before us, let’s embrace unity and forgiveness as a people.
Mr Mandela employed those ideals in his leadership and saw his country moved forward from a racist nation to a full-fledge democracy.