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African Development Bank (AfDB) staff, including President Donald Kaberuka, on December 12 paid tribute to the late Nelson Mandela, the former South Africa President who passed away on December 5 in Johannesburg, South Africa.
At the ceremony, Kaberuka saluted the vision of Mandela, his intelligence and devotion for the well-being of the humanity. “We’re here for a celebration of an extraordinary life. We’re here to celebrate the life of Madiba,” Kaberuka said to a packed room, noting that, even in death, Mandela was able to bring together people despite religion or race.
Kaberuka saluted Mandela’s courage, resilience and humility and paid homage to the man who had spent 27 years in prison on a barren island so that others could have their freedom.
“I take three lessons from Madiba: you must always fight for what you believe in. Second, be ready to listen to the fears of those on the other side. Third, realize you are a human and none of us has all of the solutions.
“Sleep well, Madiba. Your sacrifices were not in vain.”
On behalf of the Bank’s South African community, AfDB Executive Director for South Africa, Lesotho and Swaziland, Shahid M. Khan, said it was a day of celebration for Nelson Mandela, who symbolizes collective leadership, reconciliation and forgiveness.
“I stand here today with mixed emotions,” said Khan, with “sadness that Mandela is no more,” and pride that Mandela is one of the most inspiring leaders of our age.
On behalf of the South African Ambassador to Tunisia, Graeme Bradley, First Secretary for Economic and Political Affairs of the Embassy of South Africa, expressed his “enormous gratitude” for the outpouring of condolences from around the world.
“The world is a better place for having had [Mandela] in it,” said Bradley, adding that young African leaders would take his legacy forward.
The hour-long event, which also featured the screening of a short documentary on Mandela’s life, closed with a spontaneous South African song. “In times of trouble, Africa sings,” said ED Khan who took to the stage with staff members representing his constituency.
Mandela represents freedom. He dedicated his life to delivering freedom. He gave freedom new meaning. He taught us that leadership is about serving above self. Leadership is about focusing on what matters and convincing others to follow you. Equally he taught us that leadership is about determination, persistence, consistency and endurance. He taught us that character is destiny. His legacy will endure.
In Nelson Mandela’s own words: “What counts in life is not the mere fact that we have lived. It is what difference we have made to the lives of others that will determine the significance of the life we lead.”
I had the honour to work closely with President Nelson Mandela. I recall going into rural communities with him, such as Tabankula in the Eastern Cape, when it was struck by a tornado. He wanted to see the impact on the community and wanted clear explanations on the actions we would take as government. He wanted detailed information on the time it would take for us to intervene. And he followed through on the progress. A second such instance was when we went to an area of the Southern Cape that was hit by flash floods. It was rather perilous going in by helicopter but he was insistent. He tried to meet everyone, farmworkers and farmers. He was compassionate, yet firm; he was impatient, yet generous.
Above all, it was in Nelson Mandela’s first cabinet that a number of women were appointed to key positions. I was first appointed as Deputy Minister for Welfare and Population Development, and in 1996 as Minister for Welfare and Population Development. I was the youngest woman appointed. I saw this as an opportunity to contribute to “what difference we have made to the lives of others.”
Nelson Mandela had the ability as a leader to follow and to inspire, but above all, he believed in collective leadership, he was a product of the collective that built him.
Hamba Kahle Madiba!