Mandela’s Legacy: What the World Needs Now

By Shlomo  Maital   

Mandela Invictus

 Morgan Freeman as Mandela

    New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman used the death of Nelson Mandela to diagnose precisely what the world’s core problem is, regarding leadership. 

    Mandela trusted his people with the truth, rather than what they wanted to hear. Leaders today tell people niceties. They think this is the road to re-election. It is not. It is the road to mistrust.  We deeply distrust leaders who sugarcoat, who do not tell us the truth.  Mandela asked the whites in South Africa to cede power. This was hard for them.  But he also asked his people, the blacks, to forego revenge. This was equally hard.  De Klerk, white leader, told his people to give up power. Mandela told his to forgive.  Friedman notes, “Mandela’s leadership genius was his ability to enlist a critical mass of South Africans to elevate, to go to a new place, not just shift a few votes at the margin.”

     Today, Friedman observes, millions of people all over the world are newly empowered by Twitter and Facebook to gather in public squares, to demonstrate against leaders, sometimes legitimately elected ones.  These protests are seemingly a renewal of democracy. The problem is, they are just that, protests.  Israel youth staged enormous protests in 2011 against social inequality.  Others created the Occupy Wall Street movement, that demonstrated worldwide.  But in order for protests to achieve anything,  effective leaders have to emerge who gain election and who know how to act.  This has not happened.  Facebook has half the ingredients of social reform. The other half, Mandela-like leaders, is missing.  To create change, you need the whole, not just the half. And it has not emerged from the Facebook,  Tahrir-Square protests. Nor can it.  In Israel a handful of the Social Protest leaders turned to politics, a very few are Knesset members, and the whole protest movement has sputtered and died. 

     The Ukraine will be a key test.  Vitali Klitschko is emerging as a protest leader, and he may take the protest to the next step.  As a champion boxer, he learned discipline, patience, endurance and strategy – and he has a Ph.D.  There are signs the Ukraine President is already backing down and is ready to sign the EU trade pact.  Let’s see if Klitschko really does emerge, to fulfill the Mandela half of the Facebook revolution.