Nelson Mandela remembered as great leader by Lipscomb students from South Africa

Nelson Mandela remembered as great leader by Lipscomb ...

Nelson Mandela remembered as great leader by Lipscomb students from South Africa

A man who changed the world over his 95 years — a man President Bill Clinton said, in an interview on NBC, was in a class shared only by Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr. – Nelson Mandela has died.

To many, he’s known as a ground-breaking politician and social reformer who helped heal South Africa from the wounds of apartheid, a system of racial prejudice and social injustice literally meaning “the state of being apart” that sometimes violently discriminated against black residents and kept the minority white Afrikaners in power from 1948-1994.

Tributes and memories have been pouring in from all over the world on television, on the internet and in newspapers.  The importance of this man and significance of his loss reaches all the way to Lipscomb University, not only because the changes he led affected the entire world, but because there are students from South Africa who today are themselves remembering and asking what’s next?

South African Miguel Hof, a sophomore and Bisons soccer player, says Mandela’s passing signifies the end of an era.

“Obviously, it’s a tremendous blow for our country,” Hof said.

“Because, if it wasn’t for Mandela, we would’ve most probably had a civil war in 1994 after the apartheid.”

When Mandela – who served 27 years in prison for his youthful battles against apartheid – was released in 1990, he worked for peaceful resolution of the institution and worked with the white government to end apartheid and establish democratic elections in 1994, when he was elected president of his homeland.

Instead of coming out of prison embittered and preaching revolution, Mandela focused on forgiveness and worked to bring all together in the “Rainbow Nation.” At least one of his prison guards remained friends with Mandela to the end.

According to Hof, the death of the leader “basically signifies the ending of an era and the start of a new one.”

Mandela’s health had been declining over the past year. Hof says that the preparation for Mandela’s passing had been widespread in the country.   Indeed, it has been said that Mandela helped to prepare the nation – where by many he was viewed as a superman — for his death so that the movement could continue.

“We could see his declining health for a year now. So it’s not like it’s a total shock. Not like this is out of the blue,” Hof said. “He’s been struggling and people [in South Africa] have been preparing for his death for five or six months now. Obviously, him being as big as a politician, was a hero. It’s a shock that he is dead. That he is finally dead.”

“He changed Africa,” said sophomore Mignonne Bryant, who grew up in South Africa before moving to the United States. She says that Mandela’s passing came as a surprise to her.

“I was shocked, I mean, but, you know, at the same time, he was 95 years old, so, I mean, he lived a very full life. Definitely a lot happened during his life,” Bryant said. “But, I was surprised.”

Bryant’s father Guy, a musician, actually co-wrote with a friend a song called “Madiba” – the leader’s affectionate nickname — about Mandela’s rise from prison to leader and he played it for the South African president on one occasion.

“Nelson Mandela just made a huge impact,” Bryant said.

Bryant noted the many charities that Mandela helped, including the Nelson Mandela Foundation, which helped children, those in poverty and those with HIV/AIDs, a massive problem in Africa.

To Hof, Mandela’s passing needs to ignite a passion of positive change across the country, using the leader’s lessons as a foundation.

“Obviously, his death is a tragic one, but we need to look forward into the future because we still have a lot of problems in South Africa,” Hof said. “The gap between the rich and the poor is huge, and the crime rate is becoming unacceptable.

“So, we need to mourn for his death, but, at the same time, we need to take what he taught us, which is living together in harmony and loving one another no matter what race you are, and he also taught us forgiveness.

“However, we are still a country that, even though we lived together in peace … you can still see that apartheid has played a role in black people being really poor today.”

Bryant said she believes we all can glean from Mandela’s leadership qualities.

“I think the thing about Nelson Mandela is he was a great leader,” Bryant said. “He was a great man. We can all learn so much from his life and the legacy that he left behind. He made such a huge impact on South Africa. He overcame so many things.

“So, I think we can just learn so much from what he was able to do in his life, and how much change that he brought to those around in South Africa.”

Hof says that he expects people to pick up where Mandela left off by looking to the future.

“People are going to look at this and say, ‘he did wonderful things for our country,’ and ‘he made our country to what it is today.’ And basically support what he used to say, ‘the past is the past, and we need to look towards the future now.’”

Jael Teme contributed to this story. 

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