The Mandela Spirit and challenges of Familyhood in Africa (1)

As October 1 draws near

MIND AND BODY with Rev. Fr. Vincent E. Arisukwu

I have settled down to read and reflect on the multiplicity of eulogies, sermons and encomiums that have been pouring out in honour of the greatest African or if I may say, world hero of our time, the late Nelson Rolihlahla Madiba Dalibhunga Mandela since the announcement of his death by President Jacob Zuma of South Africa on Thursday, December 5. There is nothing else that could be said of a legend that has not been said or written  deservedly about Mandela. And like Funke Egbemode wrote in her column of Sunday Sun, titled, “Madiba’s living lessons”, “I have … seen the death of world leaders reported but none like this”.

Nelson Mandela actually wrote his name on the granite of history not only as South African leader, not only as African leader but as first class world leader. Come to think of it; between 1952 when Mandela led the ANC to launch her non violent Campaign for the defiance of Unjust Laws and 1994 when he was inaugurated as the first post apartheid president of South Africa, he virtually affected positively all human life in South Africa. What actually gave Mandela prominence is not his financial or material wealth. What gave him global recognition is not his political ingenuity or administrative sagacity. It was not his smartness. Rather it was his struggle for the defence of human dignity, his appreciation and pursuit of justice, development and peace which are the fundamental human rights for all irrespective of colour, race and gender. Mandela marched his words with actions. Hear him at the 90th birthday of one of his fellow activists, Walter Sisulu on May 18, 2002, “What counts in life is not the mere fact that we have lived. It is what difference we have made to the lives of others that determines the significance of the life we lead”.  And tracing his history in the South African struggle until his passing on now, we notice a strong testimony of his statement in 1999 when he echoed, “On my last day I want to know that those who remain behind will say: ‘The man who lies here has done his duty for his country and his people”.

Mandela really did his duty for his country and his people. He played his card well and will never be forgotten by posterity. So it is no longer about Nelson Mandela as every other thing about him belongs to the realm of history and “ism”. He will surely be read on the pages of books and newspapers. He will be studied in African anthropology, African philosophy and African theology. He will be seen as a quintessence of African humanism. Everything about him will now enter the realm of “MANDELAISM”. It is no longer “him”. It is now “us”. So what is important now is not necessarily to continue to sing the Mandela song but to nuance into the pedagogies of his life and like the biblical Elisha, say, “Give Africa someone with a double share of the spirit of Mandela”.

Having also looked at Mandela’s struggle, taking cognizance of the entire gamut of the road that culminated in his victory, I decided not to talk about living African leaders and politicians as much has been said of them. I hesitate to discuss politicians also since it will be an insult to the spirit of Mandela to associate him with our modern day politics. I rather feel the need to draw the attention of couples and leaders in the various homes to the spirit of Mandela that eventually made him today’s celebrated hero, a victor despite all socio-political and economic pressures. Given the contemporary challenges which marriages face in our time, it is pertinent for couples to take a clue from the different components of Madiba’s spirit. These can be a tonic towards conquering the challenges of modern day marriages.  Hence we look at:


Mandela’s commitment: Mandela’s commitment to the course of liberating the black race in South Africa was unequalled. He had to go through crucibles to actualize his noble intentions but remained undaunted. When the Mandela led ANC was outlawed in 1960 following the Sharpeville massacre, he went underground to form a new military wing of the organization. On his return from his European and African tour what awaited him was imprisonment. Mandela was initially charged with illegal exit from the country and incitement to strike and sentenced to five years imprisonment. Two years later he was convicted of treason and sentenced to life imprisonment. All these tortures never deterred the Madiba spirit in him. Mandela was committed to the challenges of his anti apartheid struggle. His is a lesson for couples regarding the various challenges that confront family life. Madiba’s spirit of commitment tells married couples that the road to greatness is never an easy one. When hardships, failures, setbacks, etc, try to imprison the marital bliss, Madiba’s spirit says, carry on and be committed to the course of fidelity and love. Commitment pays off a great deal with a long term marital profit.



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