The Mandela Lessons For African Rulers And Leaders – Alex Ndungu Njeru


I am pushing my will to churn out this piece, because at this moment in time my heart has been made supple by Nelson Mandela’s loss. However my heart may bleed, I shall not mourn his death. I shall not mourn his death because for the first time in my life I am writing about a man who will never die. I am writing about a man who has immortalized his legacy, a man whose heart spoke an honest language, a man who chartered a righteous and virtuous path for us.


I am writing about Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela, a man with no contemporaries, a man whose name forever shall remain engraved on the face of the earth like the pyramids of Giza. Mandela fits into the fold of those in humanity who have lived a life seeking freedom; for themselves, for those around them, for humanity. He fits into the mould of; Martin Luther King, William Wilberforce, George Washington and a few others who have lived their life and bared it all for freedom.

But questions abound, why has Mandela ridden his way into world folklore? Why does his person connect with hearts all over the world? Why have many an ode been composed in his honour? How did he achieve extra-ordinary greatness among swathes of ordinary peerless people?

Mandela exemplifies what good humanity can birth, he saves grace for mankind. He’d have redeemed mankind’s image to the Martians if they existed.

I was around eighteen, when I read half Mandela’s autobiography, ‘Long walk to freedom’. It was not lost to me that Mandela was not born great, save for the fact that he was born into Thembu royal family, he was not in line to the thrown as he was born into a lesser house, a fact that condemned him into the ignoble task of regent (king’s) adviser.  Otherwise there was nothing utterly distinguishable that would have pointed to Mandela’s great destiny. Mandela chose his destiny, and he has trodden on a path he so chose to tread on almost a century ago. Every man choses his destiny, every man chooses the path his life takes, every man chooses his legacy. That holds true, for us lucky and blessed enough to have the blessing and gift of life and breath. Doesn’t Bob Marley in his song Zimbabwe sing, ‘every man got a right to decide his own destiny’?

Africans of today and especially Africans in leadership have lots to learn from Mandela’s life. Personally as an African man, who considers himself virtuous, I have so much to learn from Madiba’s life. I have learnt that one must make a conscious decision to succeed, that one must remain steadfast on the path that delivers destiny.

The biggest lesson though that Mandela’s life holds, should be reserved for Africa’s leadership. In this continent of; depraved, inept, corrupt and colourless leadership, the current and future crop of African leadership can learn a lot from Mandela. They can borrow a leaf from Mandela. Africa’s current crop of leadership from the South with Zuma and Mugabe, to the West with Goodluck Jonathan and to the North with Egyptian military Junta, to the Central Africa, the DR Congo to Eastern Africa with Uhuru, Museveni and Kikwete. African leadership at the moment is subsequently lacking in character and qualities, we have men and 2 women at the helm of African leadership with absolutely no qualities except for a few.

Power has gotten into the heads of the African presidents, and that has subverted them from the goal of leading the African people to the achievement of their goals. There is a huge gulf between Mandela and Africa’s leadership of the day. Mandela was a leader not a ruler, today we have African rulers who leadeth not their people, but rather who impose their will over the African people. The African people are left to bear the brunt of poor and visionless leadership, they are condemned to poverty, to abrupt loss of life, to disease and famine. African people are condemned to resource leakage and corruption, and the paths to their destinies are severed. There are no leaders in the day that can set the nations up for greatness. We have presidents ruling their lands like fiefdoms, destroying the very axis of society like Messer Mugabe.

One thing is certain the current crop of African leadership are not fit enough to lay wreath over Mandela’s grave; they are busy creating blighted legacies. Driving Africa on a downward spiral, glossing over the people’s problems and amassing personal wealth into the trillions.

We have hope, we the young especially should demand pro-actively for Mandela-esque leadership, for good, selfless and nation serving leadership. We must make our leadership accountable, they must know the virtues and values we hold high, we must not waver in our quest for a brighter Africa. Maybe then, just maybe we shall change the culture of leadership around this continent, may be then, we shall have many more who will and who merit inheriting Mandela’s legacy.

RIP Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela 1918-2013