It is with great sadness that I learned of the passing of the first Black president and Father of South Africa, anti-apartheid icon and model political leader, Nelson Mandela.
The world has truly lost a champion for peace, human equality and freedom. In more ways than one, Nelson Mandela has managed to inspire countless of individuals around the world through ordinary human actions.
The “Madiba phenomenon” (service for the people) has had a great deal of influence on political leaders around the world including your humble servant.
From his release from prison in February of 1990 he mounted a campaign of service to his people until his illness and subsequent passing.
As a trade unionist and politician, I have treasured the lessons from his life and his unquenchable desire to spend himself for the well-being of others.
I shall always remember and be guided by a particular quotation from one of his speeches after his release from prison. It reads: “What counts in life is not the mere fact that we have lived. It is what difference we have made to the lives of others that will determine the significance of the life we lead.”
What has also stuck with me since his release from prison in 1990 was his poise and presence. He exhibited traits that set him apart as the consummate public servant.
Taking into context the era in South Africa during his release from prison – a time of subjugation, violence and racism, he did not appear angry nor did he exhibit a thirst for revenge. Instead, he exhibited a disposition that would lead to others being inspired to build a new South Africa. In fact, he inspired other leaders around the world to fight peacefully for their people.
For most leaders across the region, including myself, Nelson Mandela’s life has inspired us to lead lives of service to our people. In his first speech immediately after getting out of prison, he also said: “I stand here before you not as a prophet but as a humble servant of you, the people.”
Those words mean a great deal to me in my everyday work for the people of Antigua and Barbuda.
In my estimation, Nelson Mandela’s greatest and most notable achievement was his ability to unite a deeply divided country, a skill which all politicians of today greatly yearn for.
Nelson Mandela will always be one of the greatest civil servants and politicians to have graced the earth in the 20th and 21st centuries. May his life and work continue to inspire others to service.
To our South African and African brothers and sisters in Antigua & Barbuda and around the region, take comfort in knowing that the lives of ordinary South Africans at home have been positively impacted by the work of Nelson Mandela.
In honour of his life and work, Antigua & Barbuda will observe a week of mourning from Friday 6 to Friday 13 December. Flags will be flown at half-mast on all government buildings during this period.