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The former South African president, a champion for peace, reconciliation, and humanitarian development, passed away on December 5.
World Vision joins with others around the globe to express sympathies to the family of former South African President Nelson Mandela, and pay tribute to a modern legend of peacebuilding and human endeavor.
“Nelson Mandela has been, and will remain, an inspiration for many of us around the world involved in humanitarian work,” says Kevin Jenkins, president of World Vision International.
“Mandela was probably the greatest leader of our age, a tireless, fearless advocate for the needs of some of the most vulnerable people in our world, particularly children. He believed in justice, and wasn’t afraid to do what he thought it would take to achieve it.
“Mandela’s death is, of course, most keenly felt in his home country, and we join with South Africans in sending our condolences to his family, and in mourning his loss.
“Many of the children we work with, and our staff, have life-changing stories to tell of meeting Madiba over the years. All talk of his great compassion, and his tireless commitment to seeking justice and change.”
Jenkins recalls a statement by Mandela that “all people are created in the image of God and are his children.” When his time came to lead his nation, he preached tolerance, respect, and forgiveness.
Lindokuhle Ngobe, World Vision’s business development adviser in South Africa, had a chance to interact with Madiba, as Mandela is also referred to, at a personal level and through the Nelson Mandela Foundation.
“When I first met him at our homestead in KwaZulu Natal (KZN), in 1992, I did not know who he was,” says Lindokuhle. “However, many in the village knew who he was, and they descended on our homestead, where he was visiting my uncles and father.”
The next time Lindokuhle met Mandela, the anti-Apartheid icon was on a peacemaking mission.
“When I conversed with him when he visited our village again, during the political killings in KZN, that is when I got to understand that the words he said made people refrain from the political violence and fight each other in the political space,” remembers Lindokuhle. “That is when things changed (less political violence). After his visit, things became calm, and those of us who had gone to live in Swaziland returned, as it was now safe to stay in the village.”
Added Lindokuhle: “I remember that most of his speeches at that time were about how the community viewed itself, urging the people to stand for each other. He was particularly worried about the future of the children who were not going to school, which would cripple the country in the long term. He emphasized the importance of education, social cohesion, and political tolerance.”
Lindokuhle has worked with the Nelson Mandela Foundation in projects they collaborate on with World Vision. The two organizations share objectives to improve the well-being of children.
Lindokuhle says Mandela’s love for uplifting children was evident when he launched a scholarship for the best five students from each school to enable them to go to university.
“When I got the scholarship, I remember Mandela said to us: ‘The only thing that I can give you is a ticket to venture into this academic institution, and through that, your life and that of your family will change.’” Lindokuhle says.
Jenkins summarizes the legacy of this visionary leader.
“What he achieved for his nation took determination, hard work, and perseverance in the face of seemingly insurmountable opposition at times,” says Jenkins. “He knew when to get his hands dirty and when to be diplomatic. He made the world better for countless millions of children. What better legacy is there than that?”
World Vision has worked in South Africa since the mid-1960s. Read more about our work alongside children, families, and communities there.
Please join World Vision staff members around the globe in a prayer of thanksgiving for the life and work of Nelson Mandela. Pray, too, for Mandela’s family as they mourn their loss and reflect on his legacy.