Nelson Mandela, a Leader of Leaders
Every year on July 18, the world pauses for a while to think about a leader of leaders – and the lessons he has bestowed on all of us.
Mandela Day is celebrated internationally in many ways. There are music concerts, there are 67 minutes of unselfish giving to others and there are friends everywhere who will reflect on the life of Madiba.
And the world's leaders, most of whom take his calls at any time of the night or day, will also spare a thought for the great man. Here, in a few words, are some of their opinions of Nelson Mandela:
Bill Clinton, former US president: 'Nelson Mandela told me he forgave his oppressors because if he didn’t they would have destroyed him.'
Barak Obama, current US president: 'Through his choices, Nelson Mandela made it clear that we did not have to accept the world as it is – that they should do their part to seek the world as it should be.'
His long-standing friend, Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu: 'Which other country has a moral colossus to match Nelson Mandela? We are the envy of every single nation on Earth. He has become an icon of forgiveness, compassion, magnanimity and reconciliation for the entire globe.'
From the day he was plucked out of rural Eastern Cape village life and plunged into the competitive national cricketing system, pace bowler Makhaya Ntini – the first black South African to play cricket for his country - responded with good cheer, fantastic team spirit – and 390 glorious Test wickets.
Not only is Makhaya Ntini the first black African cricketer to represent South Africa, but for more than a decade his cheerful, on-field running commentary spurred his teammates on.
He was born on July 6, 1977, in the tiny Eastern Cape village of Mdingi. On a day in 1991, a cricket development officer called Raymond Booi was in Mdingi promoting the game to the young villagers. The 14-year-old Makhaya and his mates passed by, herding their livestock home. Booi called them over, picked Makhaya out and gave him a cricket ball to bowl. The rest, as they say, is fast-paced history.
Matthew Goniwe, Fort Calata, Sparrow Mkhonto and Sicelo Mhlauli became known as 'The Cradock Four' after they were assassinated by security police in July 1985 on their way home from Port Elizabeth. Their deaths sparked such a national outcry that historians have marked the event as 'the beginning of the end of Apartheid'.
Cradock-based Matthew Goniwe captured the imagination of an oppressed black population in the 1980s as a significant anti-apartheid activist upon his return from a four-year prison sentence under the old Suppression of Communism Act.
'The death of these gallant freedom fighters marked a turning point in the history of their Struggle. No longer could the regime govern in the old way. They were the true heroes of the Struggle,' said South Africa's first democratically elected president, Nelson Mandela.
Nadine Gordimer’s works were a thorn in the side of the apartheid government and, although a number of them were banned, she chose to stay on in Johannesburg. She was the first South African to win the Nobel Prize for Literature.
Co-winner of the Booker Prize in 1974 for her novel The Conservationist, which told of a white industrialist perpetuating apartheid through nature conservation, she won the ultimate literature accolade, the Nobel Prize, in 1991.
Among her other achievements were the Commonwealth Literary Award in 1961, the James Tait Memorial Prize for A Guest of Honor (1972), the Central News Agency Literary Award (4 times) and the Grand Aigle d'Or in France in 1975.
Archbishop Desmond Tutu
Humanitarian hero, Archbishop Desmond Tutu was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1984 for his continued struggle against the apartheid regime. After the abolition of apartheid, Nelson Mandela appointed the Archbishop as Chair of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.
In 1986 the archbishop once again made history when he was elected Archbishop of Cape Town. Following the first democratic elections and the ANC's rise to power in 1994, then President Nelson Mandela appointed Tutu as Chair of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.
Today the charismatic humanitarian figure continues his fight for justice across the globe. He helped the Kenyan government negotiate and form a coalition government after the 2006 elections, openly lambasted George Bush and Tony Blair for the 'immoral' war in Iraq and continues to keep a critical eye on the Zimbabwean government.
South Africans already knew Charlize Theron was a girl with immense potential when this breathtaking beauty won a local modeling competition at the age of 15. When her subsequent ballet career in New York ended with a knee injury, she started acting – and won an Oscar.
And what a career is has been so far: she became the first African to win an Oscar in a major category. The award was for her leading role as the serial killer, Aileen Wuornos, in the film 'Monster'. She was also nominated for Academy Awards for her roles in the films 'North Country' and 'The Valley of Elah'.
Though best known as a Hollywood celebrity, Charlize Theron is also deeply involved in women's rights organizations and is an active supporter of animal rights. Proving she's not just jumping on fashionable bandwagons, she and boyfriend Stuart Townsend decided not to marry until the USA government approves same-sex marriage.
In late 2008 the United Nations (UN) Secretary General, Ban Ki-Moon, asked Charlize Theron to be a UN messenger of peace.