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Remembering the Champion of Humanity and symbol of perseverance

Nelson Mandela, a Gift to Humanity

A tribute to Nelson Mandela on his tenth death anniversary today: December 5, 2023

Gregory Fortuin
Wellington, December 5, 2023

Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela: Born: 18 July 1918, Mvezo, South Africa
Died: 5 December 2013, Houghton Estate, Johannesburg, South Africa

Living on the continent of Africa where blacks at the height of their potential were wrenched away from loved ones and dehumanised as slaves for over three centuries was never a great prospect.

Yet, set to defy history and restore African dignity Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela was born on the southern tip of Africa into a far more sophisticated form of dehumanisation where blacks were officially lesser human beings to be “educated only to be hewers of wood and drawers of water.”

Gregory Fortuin

Today, ten years after the passing of that Extraordinary Ordinary Man at age 95, I salute not just our first democratically elected President and Nobel Peace Prize winner but the Father of Justice and Servanthood.

When the world model was Nuremberg, Madiba (as he was known by the name of his clan), gave us Truth and Reconciliation. When most of us clamoured for the dumping of the hated Springbok symbol, Madiba wore it as a statement of nation-building to 60 million South Africans.

Gregory and his children with former President of South Africa, Nelson Mandela. Photo: supplied

Refreshers
A tribute to Nelson Mandela a rare leader of a difficult era
Remembering Nelson Mandela on his birth centenary
Racism and white supremacy continue to plague Aotearoa

Inspiring Leadership

Under his inspirational leadership, we integrated two flags and two anthems and crafted a constitution lauded across the world.

Called a “Terrorist” by Conservative New Zealand Prime Minister Robert Muldoon (25 September 1921 – 5 August 1992), President Mandela displayed the utmost grace towards Conservative Prime Minister Bolger on his 1995 State Visit to New Zealand and reciprocated with generous hospitality during Bolger’s visit in 1996.

His dark realities were sustained by reaching for the light as he inspirationally displayed forgiveness and reaching across the aisle. He was our Moral Compass and our Beacon of Hope.

As we reflect on a life well-lived, we must honestly acknowledge that South Africa today has many mountains to climb. As we buckle under the darkness of power cuts, the scandals of corruption and state capture and the lawlessness of criminals’ we should heed the words of Madiba at the opening of the constitutional court in 1995, “We expect you to stand on guard not only against direct assault on the principles of the constitution but against insidious corrosion.”

Gift to South Africans

His gift in life to all South Africans was the inclusive Freedom Charter principle; enshrined in our constitution – The principle that South Africa including its greatest son in Madiba belongs to all its people. The annuls of the Constitution of Humanity will record the child born Rolihlahla Mandela, as the Creator’s Gift to South Africa and even mankind to construct an inclusive future where the wellbeing of “others” comes first. As the great man so eloquently stated “To be free, is not merely to cast off one’s chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others”

The baton has long been passed, the responsibility rests with us.

Madiba is dead. Long live Hope and Servanthood. Long live a Better Life for All.

Gregory Fortuin is a former Families Commissioner and Race Relations Conciliator. He is the Founding Chairman of the Youth Suicide Awareness Trust and has been deeply involved in community issues in Porirua, where he has lived since 1991. In 1997, he was appointed South African Honorary Consul General by Nelson Mandela, becoming the first resident South African representative in New Zealand of the new South Africa. Mr Fortuin has served on many boards, including Quotable Value NZ Ltd as well as a retirement savings fund for Muslims called Amanah. He was a Director and Trustee of the Salvation Army NZ Territorial Governance Board. He is married to Christine and has three daughters, a son, and eight grandchildren.

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