In November, MANDELA’s near–god stature went a notch higher when he became the first human being for whom an international UN Day has been set aside, writes BOB WEKESA
No single living person has captured the world’s imagination like Mr. Nelson Mandela. He is sometimes referred to as saintly, even by atheists. And this larger-than-life image is without an iota of blemish. The late Jomo Kenyatta of Kenya coined the phrase “Suffering Without Bitterness”, for one of his autobiographies written while he was President, but it has taken Nelson Mandela to be the living embodiment of
that noble sentiment and all the world loves Madiba specifically for this. The 150-watt smile, the twinkling-wrinkly eyes, the colourful and
eponymous shirts (Zambia’s founding President, the lachrymose Kenneth Kaunda, was the only other African leader to have a style of dress
named after him, the Kaunda Suit), the clenched fist salute made with fingers that clearly belong to someone who has been both a boxer and a hard-labour prisoner, are all instantly recognizable props that go to make up the icon. Mandela is the only person of African heritage to
have a statue of him erected in central London, the former capital of the late, unlamented British Empire. He bestrides the world stage like
a benign colossus and cutsa profile that is too high to be contained by an African Presidency, even that of economic powerhouse South Africa, or indeed any other earthly office.
Iconic: The most decorated African ever
In November, Mandela’s near-god stature went a notch higher when he became the first human being for whom an international UN Day has been set aside, a feat that not even Mother Teresa, an actual candidate for beatification (sainthood), or Mahatma Gandhi achieved.
The Nelson Mandela International Day will henceforth be a permanent fixture on the global calendar, with worldwide celebrations
every July 18, the icon’s birthday. In a world increasingly weighed down and saddled by less-than-excellent leadership and other celebrity role models, the UN General Assembly could not have made a more apt living choice in its citation declaring the Day as honouring “the South African leader’s contributions to global peace… [and] promotion of a culture of peace…” This means that on the occasion of
his 92nd birthday and for many more years to become, the UN will lead the community of nations in reflecting on peace and taking stock of efforts at conflict resolution in his name. Not a finger was raised in opposition of the UN declaration! The living legend’s life story, told many times over, is cause for celebration of the triumph of good over evil. For this, Madiba (an affectionate nickname that derives from eldership conferred by his Xhosa people), has received more than 250 awards by the peoples of the world.
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