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“In lieu of the Anniversary of South Africa’s Great Leader Nelson Mandela’s Passing”

-a tribute by Ed Chan


The human race produces such extremes in the spectrum between good and evil. From the extreme evils of people such as Hitler, Bin Laden, to the Good of people such as Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Mother Theresa. Amongst the giants of the Good, then Nelson Mandela must be right up there. A reconciler who brought an end to what might have been far bloodier conflicts and in his case, winding up apartheid in South Africa. The first stage in a long process of social and economic reform for a country birthed into the future of freedom for the human spirit. Mandela’s influence as a leader and insistence that there be no retribution combined with the realization of South Africa’s last white president F.W. de Klerk that apartheid privilege was no longer tenable made sure that there was no violent upheaval when apartheid was finally negotiated away in 1992. Those involved in human rights abuses were given amnesty provided they told the whole truth about their actions to the country’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission. This open accounting of what happened helped the country’s black population deal with painful memories of repression, while the memorable sight of President Mandela in a spring book jersey at the 1995 Rugby World Cup final embracing what was a treasured “white sport” reassured white South Africa that reconciliation was a reality. Mandela’s actions changed more than contemporary history. His Leadership in bringing to an end white apartheid personified the final smashing of centuries of warped political ideology based on racial superiority in imperialism, fascism, and then apartheid. It liberated both black and white humanity alike from the weight of such toxic belief. His capacity to forgive and in so doing, unite a nation, may be compared to another from Jerusalem whose legacy has been recorded in the Scriptures. Forgiving those who had condemned him to death with the following words:

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“…forgive them Father for they know not what they do…”

Those words of forgiveness and not retribution have reverberated through history and left a legacy that’s lasted over 2,000 years. Mandela was jailed for 27 years of his adult life for believing that all people should be treated equally and be given equal opportunities and that the suppression of humanity based on the colour of one’s skin and not the conviction of their character is wrong. For those beliefs and for not betraying his convictions, nor the plight of his people, despite threat of solitary confinement, he had 27 years of his adult life taken away from him. Yet despite the atrocity that was perpetrated upon him he forgave his jailers and in so doing united a nation and opened the doors to further reforms, not only to South Africa’s fight, but to humanities fight against oppression, racism and discrimination. Imagine for a single moment if you or I had 27 years of our adult life taken away from us, would we have had the strength of character to forgive. He was a giant amongst giants when it came to Leadership and his strength of character is a shining light to other leaders around the world.

Leadership is about uniting all people together, even those who do not believe in you and those lessons permeate down to every echelon of society whether it’s a prime minister of a country or a CEO of a Company or a Headmaster of a school or a parent of a family. We bow in humble appreciation to you Mr Mandela for the example you have left the world to follow. If we are to do justice to your proud legacy and be thankful for your sacrifice, we can live our lives, in our own small way by reflecting your example of forgiveness, tolerance and acceptance to those around us. And in aggregate, it would continue the momentum you have started, a society free of oppression and discrimination and thus respect the wonderful legacy you have left humanity.

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Rest In Peace Mr. Mandela, what a wonderful and fruitful life.

Ed Chan

Founder & Non Executive Chairman Chan & Naylor – Australia’s leading nationwide property business tax accounting and wealth advisory group

Ed Chan - Chan & Naylor


  1. Lisa says:

    Great article Ed. Thank you for the inspirational reminder of how one person can make a real difference for all.

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