The legacy of Nelson Mandela


A Google search of the name Nelson Mandela yields 186 million pages. It is staggering how much information about this man exists out there. As an exercise I also googled my name and I was disappointed at the results. My consolation is that the former president is more than twice my age and has made sacrifices that I doubt I would be willing to make. Obviously not everything that is written about Mr Mandela is true.

There are varying opinions about him and some are disparaging. An article on page 9 of the Weekend Post dated June 15, 2013 reported that Nick Griffin, chairman of the British far-right British National Party caused a storm on social media when he tweeted that Mandela was a “murdering old terrorist.” I do not know who Nick Griffin is but he has now achieved notoriety with this unsavoury remark.

This brings me to the legacy of Dr Nelson Mandela. It is not a secret that he supported the formation of Umkhonto Wesizwe (MK), the then military wing of the ANC. This means that he was not against the use of violence in the struggle against racial oppression but the fact that Mandela was not a pacifist should not taint his legacy. The much acclaimed British war-time hero Winston Churchill was also not famous because of pacifism but for his exploits during battle.

One of Churchill’s well known quotes is “we shall defend our island, whatever the cost be, we shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight on the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender.” The latest hospitalisation of Mr Mandela has now given rise to questions about his eternal destiny. Questions are now being asked about his relationship with God.

These questions are being asked while others are refusing to face up to the eventuality of his death. I am not going to posit an opinion about where Mandela will spend his eternity but I would like to focus on the enduring legacy he is leaving behind. If Mandela was not a Christian then he certainly was one in conduct. His manner and conduct were consistent with what you would expect of a follower of Christ.

His conduct is an exemplar for those who claim to know the living God. If all Christians lived like Mandela then the world would be a far better place. It is far better for most Christians to be like Mandela than for Mandela to be like them. Mandela had ideals he was not only prepared to live for but also to die for. Very few people are prepared to live for their convictions and let alone die for them.

Our former president is not a saint. He himself once said: “I am not a saint, unless you think of a saint as a sinner who keeps trying”.  Mandela does not represent sainthood but the principle of divine providence. He is a gift from God but it is what we do with that gift that concerns me. God gave him to us, warts and all. If we do not emulate his values and internalise his principles we would have failed. His values are more aligned to Christianity than to any other philosophy or belief.

If we say his values were humanistic then humanists make better neighbours than some Christians. He once said: “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.” A sinner who lives like a saint is less of a problem than saints who live like sinners. We need to think about the void this man will leave behind. A void in ethical and inspirational leadership

The leaders that Mandela leaves behind are an embarrassment to his legacy and the country he loves has also not lived up to the Mandela brand. This is a brand we have exported to the world but we should now import to our hearts and homes. We should import it to our churches, schools, businesses, etc. I know that Mandela’s works will not earn him a place in heaven but then again, we do not know if he doesn’t already know that.


  1. Greetings Africa, I salluit you, positive writting, God bless. Amen

  2. Mr. Mandela has many redeeming features and was instrumental in allowing SA to have a peaceful transition. Many are installing “Saviour” status on him. However, he has some very weak moments. He presided over the ANC when thousands of its opponents were hacked to death and set alight, the Defense spending of R80b with R2b stolen for the ANC coffers also happened on his watch.He has blood and money on his hands.Otherwise, he is a great man.

    • Thanks Jack,

      Indeed Mr Mandela has weak moments like anyone else. He is not a Saviour and will never be. It is comforting to know that he is not the one who sought to be idolised as it has been done by some.
      He is a humble man who was helped by God to be an instrument for the good of SA.

  3. blessed are the peace makers. pray for him that he will one day part of the first resurection.

    • You are right Martin. It would be tragic for him or anyone for that matter not to be with the Lord in the afterlife.
      I pray that Madiba joins us there in that beautiful place.


  4. No one could do what he did for our country and not know The Lord

    • I have to believe that what was behind the work of this man Pete-Ann was God. I know that most of the struggle individuals leaned on Christianity that any other religion. They likened themselves to modern-day Moses’ who must liberate their people.

  5. We should always consider things the way God teaches us through the Scriptures. What is done to the LEAST is done to GOD. The least before man is the greatest before God, the last will be first, what is highly esteemed by man is an abomination before God. The world and SA honour Mr. Mandela for his statemanship, forgiveness and for saving us from bloodshed. BUT under Nelson Mandela abortion on demand was legalized. This resulted in the legalized mass murders of 1-2 million totally innocent babies and of many more still to come. Abortion futher promoted  promiscuity and spread of HIV and death to millions of others.So in view of Scripture and before God Mr. Mandela’s legacy is not honourable at all but violent rebellion against God. The poor man and world will be so shocked when God judges them to give account for the blood of the innocent that they will seek holes to hide in, they will call mountains and rocks to cover them from His face and they will seek death  – but will never find it. So shall it be.   

    • Hi Fanie,

      It is regrettable that the ANC government, which Nelson Mandela led, legalised the termination of pregnancies. I agree that those who were party to such a decision will have to account to God.
      I am not sure where you get the figure that 1-2 million babies have been aborted since the law was passed in 1996 and how abortion contributes to promiscuity and the spread of HIV.
      Do you mean the fact that people know that they can abort their babies this gave them the leeway to engage in illicit sex? I struggle to find the connection.
      I think that it is not only Mr Mandela who will be shocked on the day of judgment but also many of us in the Church will be also. We might just find people in heaven we didn’t expect and not find those we expect will be there. Thank you

  6. unfortenatly those who will be saved are a small a number of people, the narrow way, those who keep His commandments(all ten)who keep the faith in Jesus, and who is holly. Its a tough road to heaven and a easy one to condemnation. stay strong and fight to get into heaven.

  7. Happy birthday to Madiba, the old man(his life & legacy) is an inspiration to all of us, him and O.R. Tambo during their student life at Fort Hare were members of the Bible Society and they taught Bible classes to people in the neighbouring villages on sundays, which I think Madiba was well aware of the teachings of Christ & Christianity, also a combination of Christian foundation,academic education, upbringing & chieftainship/kingship values of his family clan/tribe and the circumstances of the past by the colonial rule and the apartheid regiem, those influences & experinces had made him to answer or accept a call to be active participant in the liberation of his people, which I think God who is not a respector of persons had enabled him for his bravery & good heart to achieve all that he had achieved for himself and for his people & SA at large. Ofcause as a human being he had his mistakes and regretable moments like everybody else but what are they compared to the great and life time achievements/opportunities that Madiba brought for his people & country, anyway thank you Mfundisi great analysis of his legacy, siyabulela. Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh Dalibhunga, uThixo abenawe!