As we all mourn the passing of one of the greatest citizens of South Africa and of the World, let us also celebrate what his life has meant to all of us.

Most people throughout the globe would all have wished to meet him and to know him. Some of us have been privileged to have done so and there is little doubt that each one of us treasures the memory of meeting him and what that meeting him meant to each of us.

Walking in his footsteps one day when I was accompanying him to a beautiful Victorian, but derelict, school where the company for which I worked had been asked to rebuild the school, I saw the unbelievable out-pouring of joy and adulation by hundreds of women and girls as Nelson Mandela walked up the path to the school hall. Once inside the ululating and singing reached a crescendo in what can only be described as a messianic experience. I watched entranced.

Later on when it was time to leave, and in aggravation of the anxieties of his staff who were trying to manage an impossible time table, Nelson Mandela walked to the line of policemen who had secured the venue, and shook each one by the hand and thanked each of them individually for looking after him. He was not in a hurry and was determined to show his appreciation.

On the flight back to Johannesburg, I had the opportunity to ask questions about some of the then-current political problems in Africa. His answers were all concise, uncomplicated and to the point. His grasp of the essential aspects of several conflicts and his insight into the leadership and human aspects to the peoples and of their leaders, made it easy to appreciate his statesmanship and why his opinions were sought after by many nations.

This record may be a personal one, but it exemplifies what Nelson Mandela stood for, what he meant to people and what he was able to contribute to the world as a statesman.

Having lived through the nerve-racking and often fractious and dangerous political transition in South Africa, it is absolutely clear to me that Nelson Mandela’s leadership of all South Africans was the anchor of a process which he drove with a determination that he had shown in public ever since his famous speech at his trial in 1964. Without his strength and wisdom the “revolution” would certainly have degenerated into a bloody and destructive one. We are forever thankful for what he did.

As we all look ahead we must remember what he stood for and that he led the reconciliation of the many different peoples of South Africa from a centuries-long history of discrimination and conflict through the first passages of a democratic, non-racial, non-discriminatory and expectantly peaceful society. As we live our daily lives we need to bear this in mind when the realities of our efforts seem to show the opposite side of this coin.

Like Nelson Mandela, we must not capitulate.

Lastly, his example is one which can be followed by the many leaders of countries in conflict today. If the many different peoples of South Africa were able to settle their differences, then all people can do so. In South Africa we were fortunate as the process was successful because of the leadership of a person of the calibre of Nelson Mandela.

Dr (Col) John Job


Reserve Force Council
7 December 2013