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Ndaba Mandela: Lessons from grandfather

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Ndaba Mandela: Lessons from grandfather

Ndaba Thembekile Zweliyajika Mandela was born on 23 December 1982 in Johannesburg, to Makgatho Mandela and Zondi Mandela. Ndaba’s father, who died in in in 2004, was the second son of Nelson Mandela and his first wife Evelyn. Ndaba was interviewed by reGina Jane Jere

As a youth, if I may still call myself that, living the Madiba magic is the courage to dream, and I am not just saying this because Nelson Mandela was my grandfather. The courage to push your dream until it becomes a reality. And to do what you can until that dream comes true.

But unfortunately these days we live in a hyper-consumerist and a hyper-capitalist world. And in that pursuit for consumerism, we have lost our humanity and lost touch with what is really important in life and for mankind, as championed by Madiba.

South Africa is a country that is expected to stand on a pedestal of values and morality, because we are a country that produced this great Father of the Nation and international icon. But granddad always taught us to create our own legacies and to give back to society.

We have scenarios where some rich people, even in this country, will give their sons $100m as a birthday present, for example. The question is, where and how is this child going to learn the value of things and responsibility?

You have to question what kind of adults these rich kids will grow up to become. Will they add value in society or are they already taking it away? So as we celebrate the Centenary of Madiba, these are the some of the questions we should be looking into. What type of world are our children inheriting?

I am a father of two myself, and instilling my grandfather’s values into them, really matters to me and to them. It does not mean that just because I am a Mandela, I am privileged and that I do not have to work, for example. Privilege unfortunately can sometimes drive one to the wrong side and it sometimes does not work for the good of society, and we have seen that happen here in this country and elsewhere in the world.

South Africa on a pedestal

The world looks up to South Africa a lot. Compared to the rest of the world, South Africa is a country that is expected to stand on a pedestal of values and morality, because we are a country that produced this great Father of the Nation and international icon. But granddad always taught us to create our own legacies and to give back to society.

In my book, Going to the Mountain: Life Lessons from My Grandfather, Nelson Mandela [released 26 June] I have taken all the lessons he taught me personally and some of my own life’s lessons to help to get a younger audience to relate to Madiba’s legacy; who may know of Nelson Mandela, but may not know what his values mean in the modern world.

The book is therefore aimed at helping this young and future generation to get to know the icon from a fellow youth’s perspective, so that they can achieve the same affinity to Nelson Mandela as the majority of the older generation have.

These lessons from my grandfather are also about mentorship and encourage adult readers to take up mentoring the youth. Imagine if all role models took one hour a week to mentor a young person, the same way my grandfather mentored me and other grandchildren; I think that would go a long way to making the world a better place.

In my view leadership is a huge challenge – be it in the US, Korea or Rwanda, it is a global challenge. That is why it is also important to inspire young people to go into the governance space and be encouraged to experience the leadership path of Madiba.

The other thing I have come up with is a leadership programme called The Nelson Mandela Leadership Accelerator, which among other organisations, we have partnered with the Global Youth Foundation.

I came up with this idea because, I asked myself: ‘How do we make sure that Nelson Mandela is remembered for the next 100 years and beyond, every day in the lives of the current and future youth?’ Youth development and instilling leadership skills should be key in honouring Madiba’s legacy.

In my view leadership is a huge challenge – be it in the US, Korea or Rwanda, it is a global challenge. That is why it is also important to inspire young people to go into the governance space and be encouraged to experience the leadership path of Madiba.

However the issue I have with the current situation in South Africa, is that in general, there is no youth leadership. The ANC Youth League is in disarray, while the Economic Freedom Fighters, which claim to be leading the youth, are not really telling them the truth. There is no way South Africa can be a better country by nationalising our banks, for example. That is not realistic.

So to a large extent, the so-called leader of the EFF is not 100% truthful to his audience, because South Africa has a serious shortage of skills – one of the most pressing issues this country faces, even as we look back at Madiba over 100 years. Skills acquisition is still very low in South Africa and this is an issue that needs to be resolved with urgency.

But that comes with education, which again in my view, can come in different forms. Formal education will and does take time, but you can also have education in terms of skills acquisition, or training on the job.

What largely concerns me is the plight of kids in rural areas of South Africa – who are, incidentally, the majority of our population. Do they get enough support for their future? They do not! I know this because I run a foundation called Africa Rising and every year we partner with the NedBank Foundation and the South Africa National Air Force to provide career guidance days in these rural areas. So I know what is lacking.

There is the need in South Africa to demystify what success is and what successful career paths are. We have discovered through our work that – although it is not a bad thing to aspire to – most youths think wearing a suit and holding a briefcase and working in an air-conditioned building is the best career.To them, a farm with animals is not a picture of success.

We also have our agriculture project, where our main premise is food security. We have brought together the South African Department of Rural Development and Land Reform and British America Tobacco to help promote rural farming. The truth is that it has become increasingly difficult to afford food in this country. Without food security a country becomes an unproductive nation and people start to go for the wrong things because they are not thinking straight.

But we should make the sector more appealing to the youth. We must ‘bring sexy into farming’, so to speak – doing simple things such as changing the terminology, for example. ‘Agribusiness’ sounds more appealing to the youth than ‘farming’.

Also, there is the need in South Africa to demystify what success is and what successful career paths are. We have discovered through our work that – although it is not a bad thing to aspire to – most youths think wearing a suit and holding a briefcase and working in an air-conditioned building is the best career. I was speaking to kids in Qunu, where Madiba is laid to rest, about how The MeatCo made a turnover of R1bn last year alone; they did not believe it. To them, a farm with animals is not a picture of success.

His compassion for all was beyond this world. He treated his cook or gardener the same way as he would treat the Pope, Mike Tyson or Barack Obama.

What are the best memories I have of my grandfather? I mean, this is a person whose face almost everyone recognised, but every time he met somebody he would first greet them by saying “Hello, my name is Nelson”. He also loved his grandchildren so much, it was beyond this world; and so was his compassion for everyone. Etched in my memory to this day is the love he gave to his personal cook Mam Xoli. He treated his cook or gardener the same way as he would treat the Pope, Mike Tyson or Barack Obama, for example. Compassion, humility and his great and impeccable sense of humour, are my Madiba magic.

 

For the full Mandela Centenary Coverage – Grab a copy of July Edition – OUT NOW!

 

 

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Written by Regina Jane Jere

reGina Jane Jere is a Zambian-born London-based journalist and founding Editor of the New African Woman magazine the sister-publication of the New African magazine of which she was the Deputy Editor for over a decade. The mother of two juggles a wide-range of editorial and managerial duties, but she has particular passion on women’s health, education, rights and empowerment. She is also a former Zambian correspondent for Agence France Presse, and a former Africa Researcher at Index on Censorship. She writes extensively on a wide range of issues, from politics to women’s rights, media and free speech to beauty and fashion.

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