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J. Mudenda: Address to Africa Summit

Address to Africa Summit 2018, Cape Town, South Africa, Nov. 21–25, 2018


Master of Ceremonies, Secretary General, Dr. Moon, Leaders of UFP, President Roger Nkodo, Your Royal Highness Chief Madiba Mandela, Other Chiefs, Your Excellencies, Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen, Good Morning.

On behalf of my delegation, I bring to you greetings from Zimbabwe through the president of Zimbabwe, His Excellency Emmerson Mnangagwa, the Parliament of Zimbabwe, and all the people of Zimbabwe. I come here fresh from the elections that took place in my country, which were very peaceful and, I think, credible. For the first time in Zimbabwe we enjoyed a peaceful democratic space created through the leadership of President Mnangagwa.

For the first time we had 133 political parties and 23 presidential candidates participating in our elections. I think we need to go into the Guinness Book of World Records for that. It has never happened before. 

This happened under the foundation of peace that was built by Nelson Mandela through Former President Mbeki, who created for us a government of national unity from 2009 to 2013. We are grateful to South Africa because after that Zimbabwe has enjoyed a peaceful democratic space. 

It is my singular honor and indeed a rare privilege for me to deliver an address at this Africa Summit, which is dedicated to celebrating and honoring the legacy of the late President Nelson Mandela. The luminary legacy of Nelson Mandela is immeasurable. It is immeasurable because President Mandela was and remains a towering leader par excellence.

He was carved out as a leader to exude passionate perseverance and a tenacity of purpose. In that regard President Mandela was able to endure 27 years of incarceration at Robbin Island with a high degree of equanimity, which baffled his tormentors and fellow inmates. Only a stalwart endowed with a vision of to accomplish freedom of the human spirit from the shackles of colonialism and racial segregation could maintain hope. That virtue conquers the forces of despair.

This was the indomitable Mandela who traversed into the future of a liberated South Africa. Madiba, as he is affectionately known, was able to become an unconquerable champion of social justice because of his fidelity to the cause of social justice, which was totally engraved in his political DNA.

As he sustained his faithful belief in the dignity of humankind, Madiba did so on the pedestal of humor. He had the ability to appreciate the circumstances of the political environment in which he was enmeshed and was able to be amused by it, even to the extent of laughing at himself. That is why Madiba was able to affirm in his own words that, and I quote, “I sometimes believe that through me creation intended to give the world the example of a mediocre man in the proper sense of the word. Nothing could tempt me to advertise myself.”

Madiba furthermore deprecated the idea of false adulation when he claimed to the world, “I am not a saint: unless you think of a saint as a sinner who keeps trying. Do not judge me by my successes. Judge me by how many times I fell down and got back again. The greatest glory in living lies not in never falling but in rising every time we fall.”

All these profound statements by Madiba signify leadership whose hallmark is humility, the acceptance of one’s strengths and weaknesses. It is the antithesis of an oligarchic leadership, which currently is the bane of leadership in some countries the world over. Thus, Madiba would want to evoke in us as leaders the African philosophy of Ubuntu: “I am because you are.” No leader is perfect. As leaders in our various spheres of human endeavor, let us embrace Madiba’s humble leadership as a legacy.

Ladies and Gentlemen, Madiba was a disciple of transformational and transformative leadership. He advocated for leadership that makes a difference in the world for the better, a world where there is peace through justice and fairness. That is why at the 90th birthday celebration of Walter Sisulu in 2002, Mandela noted, “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 will determine the significance of the life we lived.”

Think of the horrors of World War I and II. Think of the coups that bedeviled several African countries soon after independence.  Leadership of those historic eras left a trail of untold human and property destruction, as well as the vandalization of human rights and freedoms. Such naked leadership is anathema to Madiba’s transformational and transformative leadership, which predicates the qualitative life of people as the foundational value.

Thus, the significance of our leadership must be judged by the extent to which we lose our life in order to gain it in the service of others. As leaders, we should strive to save rather than to be saved. Africa needs servant leaders. The world begs for servant leaders who are empathetic towards the agenda of the people’s livelihoods, a leadership that has the capacity to ameliorate the economic gap between the rich and the poor. Such leadership would make Madiba truly rest in eternal peace.

Ladies and Gentlemen, Madiba was the architect and embodiment of reconciliatory leadership. He was an undying believer in the greater good in humanity individually and collectively. Madiba never ensconced himself in the comfort of bitterness against his torturers. Having languished in inhumane prison conditions for nearly 30 years, he stepped out of his incarceration with no bitterness at all against his former tormentors.  He sought no revenge.

Mandela demonstrated to the whole world how to forgive and be at peace with oneself and the other. He said, “I walked out toward the gate that would lead to my freedom. I knew that if I did not leave my bitterness and hatred behind, I would still be in prison.”

This amazing virtue would later be fully consolidated through the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Survivors of brutality were healed through truth telling while at the same time giving the perpetrators an opportunity to reflect on their brutalities and make a decision to transform. To that extent, Nelson Mandela finds company in the towering giant and leader of India’s independence movement, Mahtma Gandhi, who said, “The weak can never forgive.  Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong.”

Ladies and Gentlemen, it is axiomatic that Mahatma Gandhi’s reconciliation philosophy was seminal in South Africa and inspired civil rights and freedom movements across the world. It had a profound influence on Mandela. That spirit of forgiveness and reconciliation has found favor as the premise of political dialogue in conflicts worldwide. It is no wonder Madiba founded in 2007 the Council of Elders as the apostles of peace in conflict zones. He wanted the group of elders “to speak freely and boldly, working both publicly and behind the scenes. Together they will support courage where there is fear, foster agreement where there is conflict, and inspire hope where there is despair.”

We all owe the vital elements of peace and security to Madiba. Thus, it is not surprising that when Madiba was inaugurated president of the Republic of South Africa, he invited his main jailer to sit with him at the head table among the distinguished guests.  How many a leader can reach out to that level of reconciliation? How many? That is part of Madiba’s legacy.

Lest we forget, Ladies and Gentlemen and Distinguished Delegates, that Resolution 64, Stroke 13, of the UN General Assembly, which was unanimously adopted on November 10, 2009, established Nelson Mandela International Day and proclaimed Madiba as an iconic democrat par excellence, the gallant international freedom fighter in the liberation of the conquered and the conquerors, the foot soldier of gender parity and of the sacrosanct rights of children the world over.

Mandela Day encapsulates that deserved worldwide recognition. It will remain forever the indelible footprint of the long walk to freedom. It therefore behooves humanity today and tomorrow never to abuse it for narrow interests. Long live the enduring legacy of Nelson Mandela. God bless us all. I thank you.



To go to the 2018 Africa Summit Schedule page, click here.