Saturday 16 December 2017

Mandela wasn't just a politician – but a prophet for the world

Life would not have been complete without Nelson Mandela but his greatest work is just beginning – that of a guide for humanity.

Mandela pictured in 1952.
Mandela pictured in 1952.
Nelson Mandela at his home in Capetown in 2008 during celebrations of his 90th birthday.

Shaun Johnson

IT is July 2, 2003, in a hall as grand as Great Britain can muster, and a setting as far from a traditional African seat of power as one could conjure. A scene is developing, like a photograph in a tray, and it depicts the extraordinary metamorphosis of Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela into the most revered human being in the world.

Among red, ornate, throne-like seats on a raised dais in a room so pomp-filled it makes the guests in the packed hall feel they inhabit a dreamscape, are gathered powerful and famous men – mostly from the northern hemisphere. Here is British Prime Minister Tony Blair, explosively energetic, bobbing on the balls of his feet, pumping the hands of dignitaries.

Here, too, is former US president Bill Clinton, wafting his effortless aura over the VIPs on the stage. Here are many others who, on another night, would command star billing themselves: former Australian prime minister Bob Hawke, former Canadian prime minister Brian Mulroney, University of Oxford chancellor Chris Patten, Rhodes Trust chairman Lord Waldegrave, former New York mayor David Dinkins, De Beers head Nicky Oppenheimer . . . the list is long.

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