Nelson Mandela: Peace is his legacy

On his birthday we remember an individual who has inspired Africa to reach for the stars.
What is peace; Or more poignantly what is the price paid for peace? In truth, peace is not the absence of war but the presence of something else: this is what Nelson Mandela means to me.
I would never have accomplished as much without the organic example of Mandela - an African as myself. My father, an impressive man in his own right was to me a type of Mandela. And most South Africans, if you talk to them long enough, will admit that in the heady days of Apartheid there had a ‘Mandela’ in the family: some politically aware and active person willing to advocate for the African.
My father, Andrew Sibanda, was a graduate of the University of South Africa and had aspired to read law, he died in 2000. Tata, as I called my father, kept a steady flow of books in the house, as well as ‘Time’ Magazine. He taught me that God gives the gifts and nurtures them. You can not study to be a leader! While he was no Mandela, he came close…at least in my eyes. He taught me about rights, about God and country; just as Mandela did for South Africa was a whole. In that sense there was Mandela in every African during Apartheid. If it had not been Nelson Mandela, someone else would had stood up against the machinery of Apartheid sooner or later. That is how bad the situation was.
As I reminiscent on what Nelson Mandela meant to me I actually feel far much more closer to his ideals than when he was alive. For me, the history of Mandela etched in stone and sacrifice is most relevant in today's explosive African and Middle East political scene. There are some, and I hope with time will educate themselves, who still wrongly believe Mandela was a terrorist who romanticized violence. They are yet to understand the message of Mandela espoused in his fight for equality. Nelson Mandela did not fight to take something away from white people, he fought to restore something to the African. He never attacked any foreign nation nor did he advocate a culture of violence and hatred. After years of trying peacefully to end Apartheid, he decided on a course of action - the only course - to engage in a military struggle.
My lessons from the Mandela, having had the pleasure to meet him several times, are that Africa needs peace, the world needs peace and most importantly people need peace. This peace is generated by sober minds and not from political calculus. Our generation in Africa have to live with the ideals of Mandela while reaching out into the world as equals and world citizens. We should not imitate Mandela - but we should become our true selves and as Mandela did. There will never be another Nelson Mandela, but perhaps other men and women will be greater than him in the future, this is not my place to say. The aim is not to produce (or reproduce) another Mandela but to learn from a life that generated so much peace.
African politics is still in a nascent state (evolutionary state) it is yet to reach its fullest potential; when tribe is replaced by ideas. SO in this stage we need heroes, myths and real people. African politics needs to break from of its past and no one but Mandela offers a clear example of what to do with power. Relinquish power easily, love your country men and women but most importantly support fellow Africans - because in other Africans is the image of God, as it is imprinted in you as well.
Perhaps, it is impossible as humans to aspire and grow without a living man or woman to assist us at various stages. To draw us closer to the center. As my own father, Andrew Sibanda, taught me, and as it was reinforced by my experience with Nelson Mandela - peace is very possible and very dear, it starts with you as an individual before it grips a Nation. You have to give peace, before you can get peace.
There are those who will cite Mandela's friendships ( Qaddafi, Arafat and others) based on the ANC's strategic anti-Apartheid alliances and describe him as a 'murderer,' and terrorist. If we are to accept this argument, it would mean Mandela should have distanced himself from those who aided him the most to win our respect! A very unfair and racist judgment of the man. It shows a lack of understanding to expect that those we don't support in times of their need should support and love us after gaining their political rights. Mandela was a friend of Israel, a friend of Jews ( the ANC had many Jews including Joe Slovo). He wrote his autobiography, Long Walk to Freedom, with a Jew (Rick Stengel); because Israel's foreign policy was not the policies of Mandela's ANC does not mean the two were enemies, but perhaps were operating from two equally valid positions. As Bibi puts it, 'there is a higher truth and a lower truth.'
Ken Sibanda, is an American Constitutional Lawyer born in Transkei South Africa. Known affectionately as 'Tecumseh' in South Africa for his contribution to law and literature.