MUHAMMAD: Nelson Mandela — 'Madiba' Unchained

Askia Muhammad | 6/26/2013, 3 p.m.
I have many truly fond memories of "Madiba."
Askia Muhammad

The people of South Africa are resigned over the condition of their beloved patron, Nelson Mandela. He was affectionately addressed as “Madiba.” He was truly the Father of his nation.

I have many truly fond memories of “Madiba.” I watched with glee on live television as he walked out of the Robben Island prison where he had been held unjustly for more than 27 years.

Just two years later, en route to Harare, Zimbabwe as part of the Rev. Dr. Leon Sullivan’s African-African American Summit, we were greeted by then President Mandela at a reception. His words have been with me ever since. He said that waging the revolutionary struggle to gain power in South Africa had been the “easy” part. Mandela warned that it is much more difficult to govern. He said once he was in power, he was offered temptations he had “never dreamed of,” in order to get him to compromise or betray his principles. He never did.

Wisely, as South Africa’s first freely elected president in which the 85 percent Black majority was permitted to vote, Madiba retained the Afrikaner defense minister for his first few months in office. I figured Mandela wanted to make sure he “made copies of all the keys” to all the jail cells, and weapons caches and other secret stashes throughout the country before replacing the White man who had been in charge of those places when he took power. Brilliant!

To the frustration of some, Mandela championed the country’s “Truth and Reconciliation Commission,” which granted amnesty to the White Afrikaner officials who came forward on their own and confessed the sins they committed against Black folks, rather than waiting to be hunted down and prosecuted for their dirty crimes against South African humanity. Many came forward. Others fled. Still others tried to hide. In the end all will get what’s coming to them just as we all will get what’s coming to us.

Concerning his health, around 15 years ago, he was once said to have cancer. He said: “When you reach my age, you don’t die from cancer, you die with cancer.” He had an amusing sense of humor.

Madiba – Nelson Mandela – never betrayed his allies and friends who supported his country’s armed struggle, and who stood by him when his country labeled him a “terrorist” and unjustly imprisoned him and his African National Congress (ANC) colleagues for decades. Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat and Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi are two men his country’s White leaders wanted Mandela to forsake so that he could receive the full embrace of those Whites. He never sold out his friends. The Whites wanted to embrace him anyway.

I remember when Nation of Islam leader, Minister Louis Farrakhan visited Madiba during his World Friendship Tour. Minister Farrakhan was another one of those leaders whom South Africa’s Whites wanted their president to shun. Just the opposite is what happened. In 1996, after the historic Million Man March, President Mandela received Minister Farrakhan and his entourage at his private residence in the Houghton District of Johannesburg, where he received only his most distinguished state visitors. Despite unrelenting pressure on President Mandela to distance himself from his guest, he told reporters following his hourlong meeting with Minister Farrakhan: “There was no issue that arose, on which there was a disagreement. He has explained his position. His views are identical with the principles that I put forward.”

And now, this beloved man hovers just this side of The Great Beyond, clinging to life in critical condition in a South African hospital. Some have even complained that he is being artificially kept alive by government authorities, and that there should be no extraordinary measures used to prolong his life.

I’m certain that Madiba will not be unnaturally chained to this earthly plane. I am certain that when it is time for him to go, just like he walked free that day from Robben Island, he will go home to his God and Be Free, unbound, unchained, just as he was in his life among us. Long live Nelson Mandela!