WITH THE events of Taksim square fresh in my mind, it strikes me that Nelson Mandela is the Kemal Ataturk of South Africa. For starters, our country’s first president is a non-sectarian father of a Secular State. This in itself is no mean achievement. With the world lurching towards sectarian warfare in the name of religion we could do well to see Madiba in a better light than the one cast by the ruling party which pays lip-service to the values enshrined by our constitution and Bill of Rights.
Nelson Mandela the founder of democratic South Africa, was a non-sectarian and bipartisan. His life casts a massive shadow over events in both the 20th and 21st century. Long after he passed away in 2013, people will look back to see that he was many things. Not simply a revolutionary and freedom fighter, Mandela authored a Bill of Rights which contains secular rights and freedoms that present unique contributions to the democratic order. In the same way that people speak of Jefferson as a law-giver, Mandela was a Moses to his people.
Like Kemal Ataturk the founder of modern Turkey, Mandela brought South Africa, kicking and screaming, into the new age, enshrining freedom of speech, cognitive liberty, sustainable development and a host of rights which include freedom of sexual orientation, gay rights, women’s rights, children’s rights and so on. To his critics, Mandela compromised and negotiated away the struggle. But in return he offers us so much more than an economic debate.
That he was not an economist but rather a jurist is clear. Preferring to leave such problems up to future generations, Mandela stands tall in the history of civil liberty and human rights enacted via progressive laws, having awarded us a constitution and an estate that has been tasked with carrying forward the noble goal of peace and reconciliation, not just amongst the people of South Africa, but for the rest of the world.