By Frank Amponsah
President Nana Akufo-Addo has eulogised Nelson Mandela, the first black President of South Africa saying, that the South African anti-apartheid revolutionary “gave us an example of sacrifice, of dedication to principle, and of devotion to freedom that is without equal in the annals of Africa’s modern history.”
In a speech at a lecture commemorating the centenary celebration of the late Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela on the theme “Be The Legacy”, last Wednesday, 18th July, 2018, at the Labadi Beach Hotel in Accra, Mr Akufo-Addo said Nelson Mandela was someone who came along and managed to leave an indelible imprint on his generation and humanity as a whole.
“Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela, the man whose birth one hundred years ago we celebrate today, is surely one such person.
According to him, the Mandela name first came to the minds “in our early manhood, when we followed the proceedings of the celebrated Rivonia trial. It was a particularly poignant time for me personally, for 1964, the year of his incarceration, was also the year of the beginning of my grandfather, Dr. J.B Danquah’s second and fateful period of detention without trial by Kwame Nkrumah’s CPP government, from which, tragically, he never returned.”
“When, in 1964, Mandela and his colleagues were sent to prison after the Rivonia trial, there were deep misgivings around Africa, but I doubt that there was anyone then who imagined that it would take 27 years before they would be freed,” he said.
He said they could not imagine that the jailing of Nelson Mandela and his colleagues, the heroic Rivonia 10, would be like what happened in other parts of the continent.
Nana Akufo-Addo pointed out that that incident was the tested formula in other parts of colonial Africa which sadly turned out to the underestimated obduracy of the proponents of apartheid.
“By the time of his release in 1990, the Mandela brand and the Mandela legend were well and truly established. He came from prison with, probably, the most recognized name in the world, even though nobody had any idea what he looked or sounded like after 27 years behind bars.”
He said: “Some twenty-eight years after the event, it is easy to forget or make light of the South Africa into which Nelson Mandela was released that 11th February 1990 day. It was a country on the brink of racial war, where massacres were part of daily existence.”
He Ghanaian President averred that the actual measure of the man emerged when South Africa needed him the most and that for the continent, the biggest and most important legacy he has left for us is one of inspired leadership.
“He became easily the most sought-after personality on the globe, and everybody wanted to see and hear him, including those who had been his fiercest critics and been most unsympathetic to his cause. Many of these were the great world leaders of the day. Mandela was gracious and dignified in his relations with them.
…But he made no compromises in his dealings with those who might not have been perceived as part of the great and the good, but who had supported him and the ANC, when it was not fashionable to do so. Much to the discomfiture of the western powers, Fidel Castro of Cuba and Muammar Gaddafi of Libya were honoured guests at Mandela’s presidential inauguration.”
Lauding the late Mandela for his diplomacy, President Akufo-Addo indicated that Mandela’s conduct of foreign policy reinforced the importance he attached, as an African leader, to independence of action to accomplish stated goals.
He said, he has no doubt that Nelson Mandela would have happily endorsed Ghana Beyond Aid project, whose goal is to free the Ghanaian state and economy from dependence and reliance on foreign aid and assistance, in order to build the free, prosperous, self-reliant nation that was the dream of our founding founders.
“For many black South Africans, there had been too much suffering and too many betrayals for them to allow their leaders space for a negotiated settlement. Their white compatriots were equally unwilling to believe there could be a negotiated settlement. And there were a frightening number of people ready to maim and kill to prevent a negotiated settlement,” he said.
According to him, Nelson Mandela practiced what he preached, and, for years, he was the first to arrive at the office in Shell House, the ANC headquarters in downtown Johannesburg, and he would be seen pacing outside until someone arrived to let him in.
Akufo-Addo expressed confidence in the South African Constitution saying it is a brave and vibrant document that is proving to be way ahead of many others in the older democracies.
He said, the South African government has continued to play a leading part in the affairs of the continent since there have been moments when “we, who are long-time friends of South Africa, have had anxieties about some of the goings-on in the country, but the stability of the state and respect for human rights have never been threatened. Democratic governance in South Africa continues to be a beacon and magnet for the new Africa that is being shaped.”
Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela was born on July 18, 1918. He was a nonviolence anti-apartheid activist, politician and philanthropist who became South Africa’s first black president from 1994 to 1999. He became actively involved in the anti-apartheid movement in his 20s. Mandela joined the African National Congress in 1942. For 20 years, he directed a campaign of peaceful, nonviolent defiance against the South African government and its racist policies.
Beginning in 1962, Mandela spent 27 years in prison for political offenses. In 1993, Mandela and South African President F.W. de Klerk were jointly awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for their efforts to dismantle the country’s apartheid system. For generations to come, Nelson Mandela will continue to be a source of inspiration for civil rights activists worldwide.