I think the relevant thing of note to Filipinos on this day of the death of revered champion of human rights Nelson Mandela is that he cannot be compared to “national hero” Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino Jr. While Nelson Mandela, like Ninoy Aquino, endured imprisonment (though Mandela’s 27-year term dwarfs the latter’s), Mandela unlike Ninoy went on to survive, serve his country as its president from 1994 through 1999, and achieve as a true statesman. The proof of his greatness is in the actual performance and the results of that performance delivered to his people.
Mandela was often criticised for not doing enough to curb the spread of the HIV/AIDS virus in South Africa. Rampant crime was cited by the more than 750,000 South Africans of European descent who fled the country in the late 1990s. However, Mandela remained widely-admired for his contributions to the uplift of living standards of impoverished black South Africans and mitigating the strained racial relations that was a legacy of decades of apartheid.
Under Mandela’s presidency, welfare spending increased by 13% in 1996/97, 13% in 1997/98, and 7% in 1998/99. The government introduced parity in grants for communities, including disability grants, child maintenance grants, and old-age pensions, which had previously been set at different levels for South Africa’s different racial groups. In 1994, free healthcare was introduced for children under six and pregnant women, a provision extended to all those using primary level public sector health care services in 1996. By the 1999 election, the ANC could boast that due to their policies, 3 million people were connected to telephone lines, 1.5 million children were brought into the education system, 500 clinics were upgraded or constructed, 2 million people were connected to the electricity grid, water access was extended to 3 million people, and 750,000 houses were constructed, housing nearly 3 million people.
The Land Restitution Act of 1994 enabled people who had lost their property as a result of the Natives Land Act, 1913 to claim back their land, leading to the settlement of tens of thousands of land claims. The Land Reform Act 3 of 1996 safeguarded the rights of labour tenants who live and grow crops or graze livestock on farms. This legislation ensured that such tenants could not be evicted without a court order or if they were over the age of sixty-five. The Skills Development Act of 1998 provided for the establishment of mechanisms to finance and promote skills development at the workplace. The Labour Relations Act of 1995 promoted workplace democracy, orderly collective bargaining, and the effective resolution of labour disputes. The Basic Conditions of Employment Act of 1997 improved enforcement mechanisms while extending a “floor” of rights to all workers, while the Employment Equity Act of 1998 was passed to put an end to unfair discrimination and ensure the implementation of affirmative action in the workplace.
My colleague Ilda noted a while back,
It was said that sport helped the former president of South Africa, Nelson Mandela sustain his spirits while in captivity for 27 years as a political prisoner. In 1995, as the president of South Africa, he handed the Rugby World Cup trophy to Francois Pienaar the captain of the victorious South African team . This single act united a nation divided and fractured by apartheid. I wish I could tell a similar story about the Philippines.
Indeed, the late Nelson Mandela is a man who is revered for both (1) enduring crushing personal sacrifice to uphold his principles and (2) delivering undisputedly outstanding results to his country consistent with those principles. Not too many historical figures enjoy a claim to having endured and achieved both respectively.
“I have walked that long road to freedom. I have tried not to falter; I have made missteps along the way. But I have discovered the secret that after climbing a great hill, one only finds that there are many more hills to climb. I have taken a moment here to rest, to steal a view of the glorious vista that surrounds me, to look back on the distance I have come. But I can only rest for a moment, for with freedom come responsibilities, and I dare not linger, for my long walk is not ended.” — Nelson Mandela
For with freedom come responsibilities.
Mandela, even in death, continues to speak to all the world’s peoples who remain broken by the unfulfilled promises made on the bases of ill-conceived notions of what “freedom” really means.
But in this one he seems to be speaking to one certain son of a ‘hero’ in particular:
As I have said, the first thing is to be honest with yourself. You can never have an impact on society if you have not changed yourself… Great peacemakers are all people of integrity, of honesty, but humility.
Rest in peace Nelson Mandela.
[NB: Parts of this article were lifted from the Wikipedia.org article “Nelson Mandela” in a manner compliant to the terms stipulated in the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License that governs usage of content made available in this site.]
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