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This tribute will appear in the December issue of The Diplomatist

MADIBA REQUIEM: ‘Let not the past kidnap the future’

by Francis A. Kornegay

My fleeting encounter with Nelson Mandela was his lifting up my son who had driven a toy car into his feet, oblivious of who those feet belonged to! It was at the home of a close aide where he stayed prior to the country’s first democratic elections, a moment that will forever stay with me as living testimony to the special attachment he felt for young children. They were Mandela’s inspiration in his tribute to the future. At a memorial this was given special meaning by one anecdotal remembrance of his offered wisdom to youth: ‘Never allow the past to kidnap the future.’

The depth of meaning contained in the universal salience of such an insight in a world burdened by histories of deep division, passionate blood feuds and bitter animosities may provide a glimpse into Mandela’s capacity for elevating reconciliation over retribution in heeling a once benighted land. Mandela’s derived wisdom from a life of struggle had instilled in him an abiding resolve.

Determined was he to guide South Africa through its difficult passage from apartheid totalitarianism into a nonracial democratic future. This meant overcoming the horrors of a past written in the racial mythology of white supremacy to ensure that the bitterness of that experience would not kidnap South Africa’s future. First, he had to avoid it kidnapping him! He transformed his personal sacrifices on Robben Island into a narrative of hope, then translated his narrative into the birth of a new autobiography for a country born anew into what was to become a redemptive symbol for the rest of the world.

Herein lies the global significance of democratic South Africa’s Founding Father in the humility of his example which most will strain to live up to but which urgently cries out for replication in transcending the chasms of today’s world. Perhaps the inspirational magnitude of the outpouring of commemorative tributes to Mandela and his legacy reveals something fundamentally very positive: the fact that humanity is indeed a Global Community; South Africa’s Mandela as Africa’s gift to the world in humanity’s evolution (from its African Cradleland) toward a global consciousness transcending geopolitical, sectarian and ideological fault-lines as continued sources of strife and suffering. The challenge of Mandela’s legacy extends well beyond ‘the beloved country.’

Can Africa overcome its fragmented inheritance bequeathed it by colonialism?  Can peace emerge from the Arab Spring in the Middle East? Can reconciliation and a culture of forgiveness take root in the blood-soaked soil of the Hindu-Kush and the troubled trinity that is Afghanistan-Pakistan-India? As everyone contemplates their own divisive baggage closer to the home of their unique existential realities, will there emerge leaders and/or communities of mutual responsibility capable of replicating their own versions of ‘Madiba Magic’?

For South Africa, Mandela’s challenge continues: its still unfolding post-apartheid transition must additionally navigate the post-Madiba transition. Will the past kidnap the future? Will hope conquer the past? Requiem can be rebirth: The Hope – and challenge – of Mandela!    


What breed of dog is that in your picture?


Shar Pei according to the owner. I seen him in Miami

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