One less conscience to the world has gone at a time when we need more men and women of conscience. May his thoughts and actions that swayed our consciousness to recognise our humanism live on. Rest in Peace Madiba. I had met Nelson Mandela at a peace rally in Hyde Park in London, a concert for his 90th birthday, a few years ago with my friend, a leader of a global civil society empowerment movement whose social conscience was nurtured in the bowels of the civil rights movement when he was growing up in South Africa.
Nelson Mandela, already a legend, the material of myth, in the flesh and so much humility and so much warmth that there was nothing overtly discernible, though much unfathomable, that suggested that this was a man who brought all the world to reexamine its conscience and its humanism. The dismantling of apathied was just one element of his impact; He swayed the world.
Today his conscience drives our global movement for social justice and transformation; the one that had us pulling the threads of global consciousness through the holiday mood burning the midnight oil on the eve of one Christmas eve to stir public opinion for the release of prisoners of conscience of Ethiopia, wrongfully imprisoned for working for social justice. We worked round the clock hoping to have them released so that they could spend Christmas with their families and not in a jail cell as they had for the previous three years; as Mandela himself had.
Sitting in a small island in the Caribbean, in Trinidad behind a phone and email, waking up friends in the global media and global civil society organisations and institutions, to stir their populations to move their governments to pressure the Ethiopian regime, posting on social networks and the sites of those who could move conscience into action .. the work goes on…
My friend, one of Mandela’s proteges has not been able to keep himself out of jail not then in the aparthied struggle as a civil rights activist for oppressed people and not now for people threatened by all the economic and political and social injustices we see transferred into threats to the environment and livelihoods of people still living in poverty and squalor in the face of wastage of the world’s wealth. In demanding social justice for those who do not have a voice, many regimes – corporations, governments, those who believe they hold the reigns of power – still try to snuff out the Madiba conscience in so many intrusive and inobstrusive ways – As I recounted experiences like these to a ministry seminar earlier this year- invited to talk about social justice – and identifying how misguided, illconceived and ill advised some of our bureaucratic focus were for, presumably, advancing equity and social justice (coincidentally it was Nelson Mandela (birth)Day), I was virtually hustled away from the podium and the room by the organisers…. the quest for social justice can be muted but it would not die.
Mandela’s was a quest for personal peace through finding freedom for his people that became a part of the global movement for world peace too. I had found some of that peace and awe of the freedom fighters spawned on South African soil at the hero’s park in Cape Town…. awe, peace and reverence that contrasted with the place I came from – where the sense of reverence has been ridiculed to oblivion by centuries of conditioning of inferiority and dependence and unfreedom …and where, with yet unfree consciousness, of our peoples and politicians devote unconditional time and energies in tearing up, pulling down and destroying each other and often in the name of social justice …. a place where we have no heroes, or at best, want to believe they are all dead….
The Madiba conscience lives on and so he may rest in peace….