As the African Union Commission (AUC) mourned the passing of Africa’s illustrious and transformational leader, Nelson Mandela, it paid tribute to the former South African president’s legacy in Africa, especially his efforts to promote democracy, freedom and equality across the continent.
“Mandela will be remembered as a symbol for wisdom, for the ability to change and the power of reconciliation,” said AUC Deputy Chairperson Erastus Mwencha, noting that Mandela’s “life and legacy are the biggest lesson, motivation, inspiration and commitment an African can give to Africa.”
In his early life, Mandela grew in a society that did not recognise his being; that defiled his humanity and dignity, caged his freedom, denied him opportunities and relegated him to a lesser state of living.
However, in those circumstances, Mandela thrived, created opportunities for himself where many could see none, and set himself apart by constant dedication, his faith, vision and the focus on a dream to achieve freedom for his humanity and mankind.
“His greatest gift to humanity was sacrifice, love and respect. From his release from prison in 1990 to his last moments with us, Madiba’s greatest lesson to humanity was the declaration of freedom for all; freedom not in the mainstream sense of individual freedom but freedom that cut across humanity,” said Mwencha.
He quoted Mandela as saying: “For to be free is not merely to cast off one’s chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others”
On his legacy to Africans, the AUC official explained that Mandela fought for Africa’s progress.
Although Mandela’s passing was a great loss to the continent, Mwencha said Africa has drawn inspiration from his life and legacy as he showed that it was possible to create lasting change, peace and stability even in the most challenging circumstances.
“Because of his choices, the continent has moved forward from decades of struggle and apartheid to one of great hope, freedom and racial harmony.
“The end of apartheid brought the new phase of Africa, moving Africa away from the focus on decolonisation to democracy, development and African integration,” told journalists at the AU headquarters here.
While Mandela’s anti-apartheid struggle brought Africans together to fight colonialism, Mwencha pointed out that his post-apartheid life brought about greater integration, political stability and development, all of which were cardinal to AU’s commitment for a new Africa.
“On peace and political stability, Mandela has shown that “We” is more important than “I”. His political life symbolised “Us” and he brought political stability in post-apartheid South Africa through peace and reconciliation,” Mwencha said.
While Africa celebrates Mandela’s life and would work to ensure that his legacy lives on in the work of the AU in forging towards an integrated, prosperous and peaceful Africa.
Mwencha recalled a statement Madiba made to the AU on 8 June, 1998, summit in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso.
Mandela said: “The successor generation can and must reaffirm…that our countries and peoples are bound together by the reality of a common destiny for our continent…that common destiny requires that we should treat the question of peace and stability on our continent as a common challenge.”