The Mandela Spirit and challenges of Familyhood in Africa (2)

As October 1 draws near

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

Mandela’s sacrifice: To gain freedom for South African people Mandela had to sacrifice his own freedom. Not only that, Mandela  sacrificed his love for his family. While in prison between 1968 – 1969 Mandela lost his mother and his first son. He was not allowed to attend any of the funerals of these two persons most dear in his life. Yet he didn’t give up. Mandela was like the proverbial grain of wheat that died in order to bear the fruit of justice and freedom for South Africans. He was resilient in his course. Many couples in the modern society today are afraid to make sacrifices for their families. Some men are afraid to take risks for their wives and children, yet want to be worshipped in the home. Mandela loved South Africa and took great risks for her. That is the challenge of leadership. When the times are rough, when training of children becomes cumbersome, when sickness threatens family members, the leader must step out to make sacrifice. Mandela was poor at some point for his course. Family heads must also deny themselves of pleasure in order to liberate their families.


Mandela’s fidelity: Between 1962 and 1990 Mandela revolved between Prison on Robben Island and Pollsmoor Maximum Security Prison. Undoubtedly he would have had offers and attractions from those he opposed to drop his revolution and be settled. He would have been lured in many ways since he had become a threat to the apartheid practice. Who knows what would have happened if Nelson Mandela had dropped his ambition. Who knows what South Africa would have become today. Who knows what Mandela’s funeral would have been like. This helps to educate families on the virtue of faithfulness. Faithfulness to a chosen career begins with faithfulness to oneself. Faithfulness to one’s partner derives from faithfulness to one’s chosen course. It begins with refusal to succumb to material and economic allurements. That is what leadership means. Heads of families have to learn from Mandela and avoid selling themselves cheap for the sake of material demands and acquisition. Many have betrayed their families with lame excuses of seeking ways and means that are completely unacceptable and incompatible with marital vows.


Mandela’s optimism: One quality that carried Nelson Mandela through his struggle was his optimism. He always looked to the future with hope. He never despaired in his struggle. The challenges, failures and even incarcerations never gave him reasons to give up. Even when his marriage to Winnie became a sour point in his life, Madiba kept up the struggle. He was always hopeful. He believed that liberation was an end point of the battle to freedom. Mandela never believed in failure. He trusted in himself and also trusted in God. We were told that of the twenty seven years he spent in prison, Nelson Mandela only missed going to church once.

This challenges families on the need to be optimistic about life. Life does not end when things become rough. It is not always rosy in family. The cross must have its place in the homes. Though heavy, the optimist looks up while carrying his cross. Like Madiba, men and women should always see the half cup of water as half full and not half empty. They should always look unto God while marching on in their marriage struggle.


Mandela’s humility: It takes a humble man like Mandela to relinquish power after having secured it the hardest way ever conceived. It takes a humble man like Mandela not to go the African way of holding tenaciously to power. It takes a Mandela to calmly surrender power and not to fall out with his successor Thabo Mbeki who nurtured ambition the  to take over. It takes a Mandela to realize that presidency is service. It takes a Mandela to step aside only after a four year term having spent twenty seven years for the people in prison. It takes a Mandela to actually say no to pressures from political supporters and sycophants who would surely sing his praises and goad him back to power for their selfish interests. Mandela defied all these to teach men and women in the homes the value of humility. He was not only a politician but a good sportsman. He exhibited true spirit of sportsmanship that is lacking in today’s society. If husbands become humble, if wives learn humility, there would be reduced tension and cases of broken homes in contemporary society.


Mandela’s integrity: Mandela could not have been a saint while he lived. He must have had his flaws as a human being. In fact, Mandela had to confess openly to Archbishop Desmond Tutu when he finally married Graca Machel officially as his wife, “Now you won’t shout at me and say I am setting a bad example”. Madiba realized what it meant not to set a bad example. He was a man of integrity. He was a man of justice, sincerity, transparency and firmness. He avoided scandal. He avoided inflicting harm on others. That was why when the US President Barack Obama, among other world leaders was paying his tribute to the late African legend said, “He (Mandela) makes me want to be a better man”.

Men and women should learn to be men of integrity. They should set good examples for their children. They should leave legacies of truth, equity and justice for posterity to judge them. They should aim to be emulated after their exit.


Mandela’s patience: Mandela could be described as one of the most patient men that lived in the twentieth and twenty first centuries. He was a sober and contemplative personality. Mandela was patient in his political struggle, patient in his marriage, patient as a leader and waited for the will of God to be done. To spend twenty seven years in prison and come out to continue the course of his life ambition- the liberation of his people- speaks volume of his patience. He had his disappointments and perhaps his regrets. But these did not overwhelm him.

This is a serious lesson for African families. Most problems that arise in families nowadays can be attributed to lack of patience. Men and women of this era must imbibe the virtue of patience and learn to ponder over events to allow fruitful results come after. Joy, the scripture says, always comes in the morning.


Mandela’s forgiveness: The great Madiba towered over his mates because of his spirit of forgiveness. A rare quality for someone to suffer in the hands of his executioners, lose mother and son in the process, then regain opportunity for revenge and not use it adequately. Mandela replicated the spirit of our Lord Jesus Christ. By his actions he echoed the words of Christ, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do”.  He forgave all and accepted all. Mandela brought in both black and white. He restored human dignity battered in South Africa by racial discrimination and power.

From Madiba, married couples must learn to forgive each other the wrongs they have committed.


Mandela’s victory: Nelson Mandela actually traveled a long journey to herald his victory. His victory however, did not consist in his becoming the president of South Africa but in the total emancipation of the South African people, the restoration of the fundamental dignity due to man. And you know what, that victory came in 2009 when the United Nations declared July 18 (Mandela’s birthday), to be Nelson Mandela International Day. The purpose of the day was to bring awareness to community service. Mandela humbled himself but the people’s liberation exalted him. He became victorious in justice and equity.


These are strong pedagogies to be drawn by African families from the great Madiba. The victory of selflessness is a collective victory. When couples become selfish they enjoy short term and momentary glory. Nelson Mandela was victorious because he exhibited the virtues that promote love and peace. He is celebrated because of his commitment to the rights and dignity of others. African families should emulate his heroism. Leadership does not only consist in holding political offices and positions, it begins from the home. Parents are the real leaders of the society since they set the example for others to follow. The victory of the family is the victory of society. Long live Madiba! Long live Africa!



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