One of my favourite films of last year, as is often the case, was a book first. For anyone who has seen the film and wanting to read the book, I should start by saying, as is also often the case; it’s only a tiny chunk of the book but it’s worth reading as it has so much more to offer.
The film may have heightened my enjoyment of the book as it goes into the details of Mandela being released and the events leading up to it, together with information on other political prisoners. This is by far the most fascinating revelation; that Mandela was gradually introduced back to society and indeed groomed to lead the country, whilst he was still in prison.
It’s also intriguing to read about his prison regime and clearly explains why a man released in his seventies and incarcerated for 27 years has the energy of a fifty year old. More importantly it explains why Mandela is saintly in his forgiveness of those who incarcerated him and those who abused, tortured and killed other innocent people.
This is how they used to rate people in South Africa: 1 – white, 2 – coloured, 3 – Indian and finally 4 – black. If anyone felt they were wrongly categorised, they had to appeal the decision as they received better privileges higher up the scale. Many won their appeal but what a humiliating process to go through and how prejudiced to be on a scale in the first place.
How different South Africa is after Mandela’s charismatic presidency; he has not only combined the nation but also insisted on combining the flag and the national anthems. Of course South Africa has its problems but we have come a long, long way and it’s thanks to Mandela’s brand of manipulative charm that people just seem to sway to his way of thinking. What I’d give to spend just 2 minutes in his company.
‘One Team, One Country’, the South African Rugby team slogan 1995
Everything about the rugby team screamed white South Africa, the flag, the jersey, the national anthem and the fan base. Mandela changed that just by wearing first the Springboks hat, as given to him by one of the team and then for the final, at the suggestion of one his loyal body guards, the jersey at the final.
South African rugby captain, Pienaar, after winning the world cup answers a reporter on what if feels like to have 62,000 fans in the stadium supporting them: “We didn’t have 62,000 fans behind us; we had 43 million South Africans behind us.”
Mandela seems to reduce, huge, hardened, grown men to tears such is the Mandela factor. Whereas some people appear to unjustly receive saintly status (you know who they are), none of them have spent 27 years in prison and then forgiven his captors and gone on to achieve unprecedented things for their country. This man has to be the one that certainly during my lifetime, deserves it. Do we still give out Sainthoods? We should.
Although I try and be a good person and treat others well, Mandela’s attitude puts us all to shame and I will always have his story at the back of mind, next time someone irks me. We’re all human after all.
I write this as an old frail Saint Nelson has been ill in hospital and we can safely assume his days are numbered. But what he has achieved in his lifetime, considering the 27 years he spent in prison cannot be matched.
He will leave a legacy of changed country, a changed attitude of 43 million people. And quite a few people who now pay attention to the Rugby World Cup.
Inspiration factor 9/10