He is one of only two people in the world I would have loved to meet, the other being the American theoretical physicist Richard Feynman, who also incidentally would have been 100 this year
For some, this week was spent thinking about what Nelson Mandela, who would have turned 100, meant to the world. Perseverance? Tolerance? Statesmanship?
Yet for others he failed. He did not dismantle “White capital” and his rainbow society idea was a little naïve, they say. This leaves one wondering how much one lifetime, even one as truly great as Mandela’s, can possibly achieve.
Obviously, not even Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela (Madiba) could turn out 100 per cent perfect, which is why it might be a better idea to pick up and run with the nobler ideals he represented.
In fact, as is already being realised, using Mandela as a symbol of inspiration for one to do good is more worthwhile.
When I first tuned into world affairs at about 11 years, the name Nelson Mandela was out there all over the place. At that time it was not clear to me whether the man was dead or alive, although later I figured he was in jail. Somehow his name floated about like the air. He was part real, part myth.
He is one of only two people in the world I would have loved to meet, the other being the American theoretical physicist Richard Feynman, who also incidentally would have been 100 this year.
Need I indulge myself and add that my maternal grandmother, without whom I wouldn’t be writing in this space, too would have turned 100 this same year.
In his public life, he was a politician, a freedom fighter, a lawyer, even a boxer, but Mandela’s inspiration need not be limited to those areas.
Some of us live in a country plagued by poverty, corruption, and uninspired national leadership. This means we, individually and collectively, need to find the fire and passion inside us to improve our society.
If in public office, suppose you decided that 30 per cent of the time you will chase deals (meaning abuse your office) and 70 per cent will be dedicated to making Uganda better by delivering on your job. I think that this would deliver much needed results from the public sector. The lumbering has gone on too long.
If a leader in the private sector, suppose you chose to treat your workers like they were human beings. You would have happy workers who would deliver quality.
As a citizen, suppose you volunteered time, expertise, money to reach out to the less privileged? Some are doing it individually and quietly, even anonymously.
Some are doing it collectively through organisations such as Rotary, “a global network of 1.2 million neighbours, friends, leaders, and problem-solvers who see a world where people unite and take action to create lasting change – across the globe, in our communities, and in ourselves”.
Globally Rotary has led the fight to end polio, and that fight is about to be won. In Uganda, the latest big-ticket projects include the establishment of a blood bank at Mengo Hospital and a cancer centre at Nsambya hospital.
Stories of blood shortages are so abundant yet the need is equally abundant. What gives? Do your least bit and donate blood. Surely!
And speaking of cancer, do your Madiba bit by participating in the cancer run in various towns around the country on August 26 to help raise money to complete the Nsambya centre. Besides, running, or walking for that matter, is good for your health. And this will set you back by a mere Shs25,000.
Individual Rotary clubs are implementing a myriad other projects that range from building latrines in schools, providing water in informal settlements, to supporting entrepreneurship projects for the youth.
The needs are huge, which is why each of us can choose to do something as best we can. If Mandela is not your kind of inspiration, find another and get going.
Okay, enough appealing to your good, great and gracious self. You get to decide what works, remembering that living in a society with injustice and inequality is a losing proposition for everyone and for that entire society.
Bernard Tabaire is a media trainer and commentator on public affairs based in Kampala.