Nelson Mandela is highly regarded and celebrated worldwide as a man who played a pivotal role in bringing about change during such an oppressive time in South Africa. As an anti-apartheid revolutionary, he was a person with strong principles and never compromised them when fighting for what he believed in.
Even after being imprisoned for nearly three decades for his beliefs, he never gave up in the fight against his country’s oppressive regime and was released from prison in 1990. He then participated in the eradication of apartheid and became the first black president of South Africa in 1994.
Here are four character traits which made Nelson Mandela so successful.
1. His strength and resilience
Nelson Mandela had great strength and resilience and he used these traits in the face of unbelievable hardship and adversity. Under apartheid, the rights and movement of the majority black inhabitants as well as other ethnic groups were curtailed and white minority rule was maintained. While campaigning for equality, he was ultimately sent to prison where he would spend the next 27 years of his life. He was confined to a small cell without a bed or plumbing and was forced to do hard labour. As a political prisoner, he received smaller rations and fewer privileges than other inmates and he was only allowed to see his wife and mother of his two young daughters twice a year. It would be easy to understand why someone would completely give up hope if they were subjected to these inhumane conditions but Mandela stayed strong throughout the years and was able to fuel international outcry against South Africa’s racist regime while he was imprisoned.
2. He was an excellent public speaker
Nelson Mandela’s oratory played a key role in his journey from imprisoned revolutionary to the man who helped unite South Africa and he delivered many powerful and significant speeches during his lifetime. He was a great speaker who was eloquent and could articulate himself well. His speeches were put together with beautiful words and sentences. In 1964, he was on trial in the high court of Johannesburg, charged with treason and acts of sabotage. He did not deny these charges and in a long and eloquent address, he outlined the stages by which his resistance had become an imperative moral duty.
“I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony with equal opportunities. It is an ideal which I hope to live for, and to see realised. But, my Lord, if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die.” He was ultimately sentenced to life with hard labour by Mr Justice Quartus De West.
In March 1990, two months after his release from prison, he addressed 72,000 people at Wembley Stadium in London at a benefit concert supporting the end of apartheid. In a simple but powerful statement he told the crowd “Thank you that you choose to care”.
On May 10 1994, Mandela made his inaugural speech as South Africa’s first black president. It marked the moment apartheid was buried once and for all. Hailing a rare moment of hope in Africa, Mandela pledged to live up to the aspirations he had raised. “Never, never and never again shall this beautiful land again experience the oppression of one by another,” he declared and he finished many of his speeches with a clear and strong call-to action.
3. He did not seek vengeance
Mandela was full of hope, not hate and he was a man who was able to forgive his oppressors. He even forgave those that imprisoned him for 27 years. Mandela had a willingness to reach out and connect with even those who hated and feared him and this set him apart from many leaders. During his time on Robben Island, he developed a close relationship with Christo Brand, a white prison guard who was part of the regime and should have been Mandela’s enemy. He invited the former guard to his inauguration and after becoming president of South Africa, singled him out for recognition and welcomed him with open arms.
He even had dinner with the man who tried to kill him. Percy Yutar was the state prosecutor at the 1964 treason trial at which Mandela was convicted of sabotage and sentenced to hard labour for life. Yutar demanded the death penalty for Mandela. In 1995, Mandela invited Yutar to dinner where they enjoyed a meal. Mandela said that Yutar had only been doing his job and when asked why he was so willing to forgive, he answered “Hating clouds the mind”.
4. He focused on goals and missions beyond himself
Nelson Mandela had a sense of humility and always focused on the people and not his own ego. He was the first president to take office following the dismantling of apartheid and introduced a multiracial democracy. During the 1995 rugby world cup (which South Africa hosted), he encouraged black South Africans to support the previously hated South African national team which had been subjected to various boycotts. The country went on to win the tournament, with Mandela presenting the trophy to Francios pienaar and this was widely seen as major step in the reconciliation of white and black South Africans.
During his last years, Nelson Mandela became one of the world’s most important and effective campaigners against HIV/Aids, bringing more attention to the issue and trying to end its stigma. As he grew older, he gave up most of his engagements except those were he was invited to speak and spread awareness on Aids. It became the most important work of his foundation and he launched a charity, to which he gave his Robben Island prison number, 46664, to raise awareness and funds through huge international concerts.
Recommended – Long Walk To Freedom – Sign up to Audible and listen to audio books like this for free.