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Published: Saturday December 7, 2013 MYT 12:00:00 AM
Updated: Saturday December 7, 2013 MYT 8:44:16 AM

Following in Madiba's footsteps

Warm welcome: Mandela arriving at the Langkawi International Airport during a visit to Malaysia.

Warm welcome: Mandela arriving at the Langkawi International Airport during a visit to Malaysia.

As we mourn the passing of Nelson Mandela, we hope his legacy continues to live in all of us.

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 led the struggle against apartheid in his own country. He was in prison for 27 years. If his heart had not been able to leave the bitterness behind, he would not have been able to rebuild and reconcile South Africa.

Yes, South Africa has lost her favourite son. And the people, their father. Like the rest of the world, we mourn the passing of a great leader with the hope that his legacy will never die.

For the legacy of Mandela is felt not only in his own nation but across the world. There may never be another Mandela but his spirit lives on in the lives of honest and courageous people who continue to fight for truth, justice and equality wherever they are.

Today, the voices of world leaders drown out the voices of the ordinary people in their tributes to this great man. That is the nature of the mass media which somehow places a premium on the views of a President, a Prime Minister or an international entertainer over that of the common people.

And so we hear the accolades, some spoken from the heart, but the rest cleverly crafted by the speechwriters. But in the case of Nelson Mandela, who succumbed to a recurrent lung infection on Thursday night, we rest assured that he is deserving of all these words and remembrances that will be poured forth in the days to come. Even his political enemies and those who have called him terrible names for his struggle will bow down and respect this man whom God loaned to the world for 95 years.

At the time Mandela was about to turn 95 on July 18, the world was already watching if he would survive that day. There was a lot of attention on him in those crucial days when he was in intensive care at the hospital. But when things just went on like normal, he too, like all news developments, faded away from the front pages and the live TV coverage.

Over the next few days, we will be saturated with more news about Nelson Mandela, the man and the legend.

But let us not forget that Mandela is human after all, even though he has been elevated to an iconic level that few individuals, past, present or future, will ever be able to achieve.

What he stood for, and what he believed in, and the kind of struggle he took to achieve what he felt was the only right thing to do for his people and his country, is unique. But today, there are similar struggles in various parts of the world that have yet to command the world’s attention.

Let us also not forget that in the days of apartheid in South Africa, many nations not only endorsed but ensured that the regime continued with its divide-and-rule policies.

In this context, we in Malaysia can stand tall because we were among the very first countries to stand up against this regime.

At the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in 1960, our first Prime Minister Tunku Abdul Rahman was credited with creating the political atmosphere which put South Africa on the defensive. One year later, together with the Afro-Asian members of the Common-wealth, Malaysia piled on the pressure which led to South Africa withdrawing from the Commonwealth.

Even as a fledgling nation, our stand on trade sanctions and international ties with this rogue nation has always been consistent. Which was why in 1962 we were invited to sit on the United Nations special committee against apartheid to keep the international community focused on South Africa’s policy on apartheid.

When Mandela emerged from his prison cell in February 1990, one of the first nations he visited was Malaysia in November that year.

But the affairs of nations are often clouded by diplomatic niceties and perfunctory pronouncements that may not reveal the true hearts of the leaders.

Mandela was an exception. It is to Mandela’s credit that he was able to project his personal value system into the way he governed his nation and also in the way he expressed his moral conviction as a global statesman.

Read those words again, spoken by a man who was about to start his long walk to freedom after spending 27 years in prison.

We may think that such acts of forgiveness are beyond normal people and are only there as examples to inspire, not to emulate.

But if we are to mourn and celebrate Nelson Mandela and all that he stood for, then we can, and we must, emulate him to the best of our ability.

Rest in peace, Madiba.

Related stories:

Dr M an admirer of 'dear friend' Mandela

Najib conveys nation's condolences to South Africa

Meeting Mandela a dream come true

Malaysian factor in ANC polls

Ling: I've learnt to forgive thanks to Mandela

Tributes pour in for late ex-South African president

Tags / Keywords: Politics, Nelson Mandela, apartheid, South Africa

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