Forgiveness: Learning from the story of Mandela & Mugabe

Robert Mugabe & Nelson Mandela

⁃ Forgiveness is a fundamental virtue in life. When you forgive it gives you a platform to start anew. When you forgive you draw a line and tell yourself that from now on ain’t no going back and letting go of the past disturbing events. However it is inevitable that you will be reminded of the past. It is an adage that you can’t change the past but can change the future. For progressive people, dwelling on the past is a waste of time and time is a limited resource, between stimulus and response you will always choose to bury the hatchet.

⁃ The widely known epitome of forgiveness is Jesus Christ for he forgave all the sinners including those who crucified him. He said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34).

⁃ Since I was birthed in Southern Africa I would be remiss if I didn’t look at political examples of two man in particular namely Nelson Mandela and Robert Mugabe, both man were freedom fighters as well as first black Presidents for their countries- South Africa & Zimbabwe respectively. The man were seen as terrorist by the white settlers, and some whites around the world at large were programmed to fear them. Magret Thatcher the then Prime Minister of Great Britain disliked Mandela.

⁃ Before independence in 1980 Zimbabwe was called Rhodesia and on 18 April 1980 on his inauguration Mugabe declared that: “If you were my enemy now you can’t avoid the love that binds me to you and you to me”. I think this would have been a breath of fresh air to all the white people who listened to his words. It was a moment of great relief and jubilation. For a few though it was a moment of worry and dubitation. In my days I new Mugabe as a childless man but he was married to his first wife Sally until her untimely death in 1992. The word on the street was he had been castrated by Ian Douglas Smith while serving a 10 year prison sentence. His only child with Sally was said to have died in Ghana, he had succumbed to Cerebral malaria. Given what I thought he went through, he was a hail fellow with Christ like love for forgiving the man who had emasculated him. Four years later he got married again to his young secretary who miraculously gave birth in the eyes of many. Some speculated that he wasn’t emasculated but went under the knife while in prison- as a life saving measure a bit of his manhood was chopped off not castrated. He still had the bitterness within him which was revealed in 2000 by the seizure of white owned farms after the white farmers showed an increasing support for the opposition party. Also his bitterness was exasperated by the disagreement with the British government. In a reverse fortune one of the richest countries in Africa became one of the poorest before he was forcibly removed from power in 2017. Mugabe forgave and went back on his word. Mandela once said Zimbabwe was a star in Africa and then the sun came out, the sun being South Africa after becoming a democratic country in 1994.

⁃ In stark contrast Nelson Mandela forgave the people who had imprisoned him for 27 years. Before he came to power in 1993 he was awarded a joint Nobel Peace Prize in 1993, for his work with the then incumbent President of South Africa, Frederik Willem de Klerk, towards a peaceful termination of the apartheid regime. He embraced his enemies with unfeigned love. He even asked them to help him run the country which was inconceivable. He had nothing but courtesy and charm wether dealing with the former colonial masters or the black folk. He even allowed a whites only town called Orania in South Africa to continue to exists, were the spirit of apartheid is conserved. The town was established in 1991 when he was still in prison. In the process he won the hearts of many across the globe. He went on to serve one term as the President and handed over a well run robust economy. Some commentators say he did what was necessary at the time but a total freedom for the Black people wasn’t achieved. Mugabe argued that Mandela had become too much of a Saint at the expense of the black South Africans.

⁃ After both man passed away, due to Mandela’s long suffering and Christ like forgiveness he was labelled a giant of peace until his death in 2013. Yet Mugabe died as a nonentity in many’s eyes. So going forwards following Mandela’s path is a wiser decision. The path may have beclouded the majority left behind but that can be easily addressed by tarmacking it and make sure everyone has a clear vision going forwards. People across the World often forget that to build a sustainable future social equity is a key aspect. Going forwards there should be no discrimination based on gender, race and creed whatsoever. We can’t dwell in the past but it takes both parties to work collaboratively to build the future from an equal footing. Parents stop programming your children to embrace racism. I know it’s hard to erase racism like the mother language particularly in adults, you might learn a different language and speak it eloquently but you will never forget your first language. However choose not to use it.