By Kelebone Lekunya

I think we have to acknowledge the big role that Nelson Mandela played for the “liberation” of the blacks and whites in South Africa. Nevertheless, I don’t think we should be obsessed with him to the extent of thinking of everything as being Mandela. The man played his part and left us to play ours. If each of us would play in his/her position, we would be able to connect each one of the dots and make a bigger whole. The world would be a very wonderful place to live in. We don’t need other Mandelas, but we do need the real each of us to occupy his/her position and show us his/her mission. Being occupied by the memory of Mandela and feeling like being him will not change anything. It will make matters worse.

The world we live in needs people who know what they have been “sent” here to do. Mandela was one of those who had identified his calling. He did exactly what he was bound to do. If peace and reconciliation was his to complete, economic freedom in our lifetime is ours. We don’t have to blame him for the wrongs he left in governance to pursue reconciliation. I am one of the people who often blame Mandela for the stupidity of the South African regime that authorised the September 1998 Lesotho invasion which left many Basotho fatherless. I am one of those that blame him for the big gap between the rich and the poor in South Africa. I am one of the people who believe Mandela should have addressed the emotional land reform question during his term in office. But he wasn’t preoccupied with those things.

His was to see South Africa as a unitary state with all the races living in harmony. That was his mission. And I believe he accomplished it.

What then now that Rolihlahla is gone? Is South Africa obliged to produce another Madiba to cure it of its social and economic ills? God forbid.

How can the future of 52 million people be bestowed upon one man? Everyone in society should take his place and do what he/she does best. Let every man and woman play their role in building the kind of future they would be proud of. Let them take Madiba as an example of selfless service to their fellow man. He endured 27 years of prison because he had an ideal he was prepared to die for. Do we the present generation have that kind of an ideal? The one we might even dare to die for? I doubt that.

We are the kind of society that believes someone somewhere will come to our rescue. What we know is to live lives full of intoxicating drinks and drugs. Will these substances uplift us from the present dilemma we find ourselves in? Not at all. We need our sober selves to pull ourselves out. The Mandela we put everything upon is now dead. The youth should identify their capabilities and strengths to channel them towards their development.

Corruption and stealing from the poor won’t help us. We need to leave this, shake the dust from our aprons and get back to work. We need Afro-optimists who will help shape Afrika to become the leading continent. Not with the highest rates of death and malnutrition and aid recipients. No! Afrika should be leading in terms of socio-economic development and international trade. It won’t rise while it’s still full of thieves, despots and political thugs. Our mentalities should change for the better.

Let every one of us stand their ground and play their role. Let’s not be the Madiba. Let’s be ourselves and do our missions. Afrika and the world will change. Mayi-buye iAfrika! Ea khutla naha! Nkosi sikelel’ iAfrika! Morena boloka sechaba sa heso!

Kelebone Lekunya is a 2013 scholar and is studying a master’s in town and regional planning at the University of Pretoria.


  • Mandela Rhodes Scholars who feature on this page are all recipients of The Mandela Rhodes Scholarship, awarded by The Mandela Rhodes Foundation, and are members of The Mandela Rhodes Community. The Mandela Rhodes Community was started by recipients of the scholarship, and is a growing network of young African leaders in different sectors. The Mandela Rhodes Community is comprised of students and professionals from various backgrounds, fields of study and areas of interest. Their commonality is the set of guiding principles instilled through The Mandela Rhodes Scholarship program: education, leadership, reconciliation, and social entrepreneurship. All members of The Mandela Rhodes Community have displayed some form of involvement in each of these domains. The Community has the purpose of mobilising its members and partners to collaborate in establishing a growing network of engaged and active leaders through dialogue and project support [The Mandela Rhodes Scholarship is open to all African students and allows for postgraduate studies at any institution in South Africa. See The Mandela Rhodes Foundation for further details.]


Mandela Rhodes Scholars

Mandela Rhodes Scholars who feature on this page are all recipients of The Mandela Rhodes Scholarship, awarded by The Mandela Rhodes Foundation, and are members...

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