“What counts in life is not the mere fact we have lived. It is what difference we have made to the lives of others that will determine the significance of the life we lead.” – Nelson Mandela.
On 18 July annually, the world join hands in commemorating the life of one of the greatest leaders of all time, former South African President, Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela.
Mandela Day, as it is commonly known, is a day inspired by a call that Tata Madiba made for the people to grasp on the baton of leadership and address the social injustices in our communities. The message behind Mandela Day is simple: Everyone has the ability and responsibility to make a positive impact and make the world a better place.
The writing is on the wall that government alone cannot triumph over the triple challenge of poverty, inequality and unemployment. I like the slogan of the Gauteng Provincial Government, “Together, Moving Gauteng City Region Forward”. It epitomises the kind of collaboration the government aims to foster with the people. The government has an enormous task; however citizens can also play their part towards the common goal.
There is no need to conduct a survey to ascertain the high rate of unemployment. The number of people, especially youth, loitering the streets in the townships during the day is enough evidence to prove joblessness is a serious challenge in South Africa. On the other hand, the less number of black people participating in the mainstream economy paints a vivid picture they don’t have a share in the economic pie of the country.
These challenges cannot be solved over 67 minutes or by certain people. All of us must emulate the leadership qualities of Madiba and advance active citizenry. The fiery personalities and unwavering steadfastness must be embedded in our hearts. Folding hands and hissing from the side-lines will not help us to keep the legacy that uTata Madiba has left with us.
Imagine if leaders like Nelson Mandela, Oliver Tambo, Walter Sisulu, Anton Lembede, to name a few; never cared about the struggle for freedom. South Africa would not be relishing the democracy that we pride ourselves of today. The freedom of this country was achieved through grief, sweat and blood. The freedom fighters, who opposed the apartheid government, sacrificed their lives, careers and families to emancipate people from oppression. This is what true leadership is all about – standing firm and making bold decisions regardless of unfavourable circumstances.
What is not often said about uTata Madiba is that after he dropped out of University of Fort Hare, where he was studying Bachelor of Arts degree, he went to Johannesburg and worked as a security officer in the mine.
Even at that time, Mandela was always conscious about the role he needed to play in his lifetime. In the book titled, ‘A Leader without a title’ author Robin Sharma elaborates on how one can work with and influence people like an icon, regardless of their position. In the book, Sharma explains that one does not need to be a leader to lead or to make a difference. Making a positive impact in someone’s life starts with people in your neighbourhood.
In reiterating the statement made by uTata Madiba: “It is now in your hands”, the burden must not only fall on government’s shoulders – everyone has a role to play towards upliftment of communities. The challenges that we face as a country present an opportunity for everyone to make a difference – make everyday a Mandela Day!
By Ndlelanhle Dominic