This blog is a special tribute to the Honorable Nelson Mandela. It was inspired by the people here who have made contributions to this article – thank you all. At the announcement of Nelson Mandela’s death, many people simultaneously changed their profile pictures to Nelson Mandela and three of these caught my eye – Bernadette Saltibus, Cyril Saltibus and Didacus Jules – because Nelson Mandela was part of the photographs with them. I felt honoured to know that they had such close contact with such a great man and wanted to know their thoughts about meeting him. In addition, I asked a few other community leaders, musicians… to share their thoughts on how Nelson Mandela has influenced their lives. Enjoy reading – a bit long – but I hope well worth it!
Bernadette Saltibus with Nelson Mandela below.
Bernadette Saltibus, Senior Lecturer, Leeds Metropolitan University
Back then, Bernadette worked at an Aide-de-Camp to the Governor General of St. Lucia.
Question: Bernadette, tell me about your experience in meeting Nelson Mandela.
“I had the fortune to meet Nelson Mandela not once but twice! Once in St. Lucia and again in South Africa at the inauguration of the second democratically elected president Thabo Mbeki. My first meeting was one where I was stunned first into silence, a rare occurrence with me, but of all the heads of state, celebrities, and dignitaries I had, and have ever met I had never met anyone with such a countenance, demeanour or for want of another word aura like Nelson Mandela’s. It was a calm, humility which exuded light and compassion, and I can remember him saying to me that he wanted to go over to the fence at the airport where he had landed to meet the children and the people lined up outside of the fence ( much to the concern of his staff), a gesture which to me showed that it was not all about the pomp and ceremony, but rather the child, or man or woman who stood outside of the VIP boundary who were critical to his everyday experience.”
Question: What was his humour like?
“During his short visit we had several conversations. One was about the lack of wild animals in St. Lucia, although he did find it a beautiful country. He teased that a few giraffes, gazelles and antelopes would be a good addition but no elephants or rhinos as they would destroy everything! ( This was of of course the humour which many people spoke of.)
Another conversation was about the fact that I seemed to have everyone very organised and I was still able to remain calm. He said that I should be commended as he knew how difficult it was to get people to do the right thing at the right time, and particularly deal with old men who wanted to do as they pleased, at which point he asked to have a picture taken with me, ( rather than the other way around).”
Question: How did you manage to get a photograph with Nelson Mandela? Was this a breach of protocol?
In my role I would have never breached protocol by asking for a photograph, which is why the expression on my face in the picture is one of discomfort rather than elation which is potentially what I should have felt being afforded such an honour. Maybe that is what he remembered as the next time I was in a room with him was in South Africa at the Inauguration Breakfast, again dressed in my uniform, I was inconspicuously trying to do my job, when he beckoned to me when I was checking that her Excellency was comfortable. Of course I went over to his table and he said to me that he knew me, bearing in mind that I am sure that he met thousands of people. I was shocked when he asked me whether we had got any antelopes for St. Lucia yet. ( Again a sign not only of his amazing memory but also his humour).
Question: What impact did he have on your life?
- I think one was that every man, woman or child is equally important no matter what side of the fence you are on, that the person who thinks they are the least important, or in the weakest position often carries the most power
- That the sign of a truly great leader is not how he/ she differentiates him/her self from the people that they lead, but how through humility they show those they lead that they are the same
- In a time where we mourn Nelson, I wish people would focus on continuing his legacy instead of trying to relive it……. I am sure that it would please him more that we focus on triumph over adversity rather than reminding ourselves that he was in prison for 27 years, that he stood up for what he believed and was willing to die for his convictions, that forgiveness is a great healer, and reconciliation is key to moving on, and it is not the vessel which brings the message that should be the concern but whether we are getting the message and living the message, that is the greatest gift we could give to Mandela and his legacy.
- That we all leave an impression on others in our own way, and it is not always through making the loudest noise that we are remembered, that it is sometimes in our efforts to be invisible that people can’t help but notice us, maybe cliche, but metaphorically I believe that this summarises my experience.
Cyril Saltibus with Nelson Mandela above. Back then, he was a volunteer at the LePavillion Royal Museum at Government House. Bernadette was her Aide-De-Camp (ADC). He became ADC a few years later when Bernadette moved to the UK.
Question: How did you meet Nelson Mandela?
“I met him because I was commissioned by the Governor-General to design and make a gift to be presented to this great leader. I felt more than honored to be selected to do this and I delivered with a sense of pride and with the highest standard. During his visit to Government House, I was invited into the Private Office of the Governor-General by her ADC Major Saltibus Bernadette. I remember mostly his firm hand shake. My thoughts that day was “More Than Life” for I met a great Man of Men. I been a silent artist for a long time, I worn many prices for my art in the past but the biggest honour was when I witnessed our Head of State present my hand-made model of Government House to Mandela who I describe as “a Great Man of Men” who is more than life.”
Question: Since meeting this great man, what influence/impact has he had on your life?
“While going through immigration in the USA one time, two officers opened my bags and the first thing they pulled out was that photo of Mandela, Bernadette and myself. The conversation that followed was something like “Hey fellers, this guy got connections…” They had a nice time asking me question of how I got to take a photo with him but this photograph has brought me luck.”
Julian Williams, English Language Instructor at Royal Commission for Jubail and Yanbu and at Yanbu Industrial College, Saudi Arabia. (originally from St. Lucia)
“Mandela was a great man for having that charm in winning the hearts of people for political change in South Africa. It is great not to be bitter after 27 years in prison and become a Head of State; to also leave office after one term and not be addicted to power and form a dynasty or cult of personality. However, having been to South Africa five times and always reading the Editorials from blacks, I think and the opinion is shared too among black South Africans, that Mandela tried to be too good and moved too fast with that Truth and Reconciliation Committee. The cohorts in the ANC failed to set up a legal economic mechanism that would have made finance accessible as part of the deal for about at least twenty years after the dismantling of apartheid.
The government is blocked from getting funds based on race to help the millions who lived in the slum townships. Therefore millions still live in the poverty because they can’t get the money. Also, South Africans need some strong spiritual values that will strengthen their perception of self and encourage self-help. A trip to Dominica and St. Lucia would have helped realise the importance of setting up cooperatives and credit unions in the building of our communities. In fact, that applies to all black Africans because they seem to not have that self-confidence in transforming their communities from rudimentary slum to middle class residence and depend on governments to do so.
I have heard the most racist comments from some Indians in South Africa although they were the biggest beneficiaries of apartheid. They still hate the dismantling of apartheid because blacks being in the majority encroached on their private spaces.”
Didicus Jules, Registrar/CEO at Caribbean Examinations Council
Didacus Jules is behind Nelson Mandela in the photo above.
“My involvement with Mandela preceded his visit to St. Lucia. I did some work for the ANC before the end of apartheid in designing an adult education program for their MK guerillas for accelerated qualifications with O levels so that they could assume positions in the South African army after liberation.
Also during the Grenada revolution, the ANC had cadres visit and some were attached to various ministries for training in public sector management.”
Rastafarian Tafari Simon – a family man
“I started reading about Nelson Mandela when I was a teenager and being from an area in Vieux Fort where so many Rastafarians were from I became aware as to why they always used Africa in their vocabulary. It is my motherland and I am a Pan Africanist. No black man shall fully have a knowledge of self without knowing his roots in Africa. Nelson Mandela taught me from a young age to stand up for what is right, stand up for your people and stand up for humanity. I can definitely say that because of Madiba and my Rastafarian consciousness I am able to walk confidently and I am prepared to defend myself in any debate about the motherland and our plight as a people. I hope that this generation bear in mind that many have given up their freedom to be where we are today. I did not always agree with how he handled those who brought on so much blood and tears to S.A but I respect the man for paving the way for me. My mission for the future is to keep meditating on my consciousness and keep informing and educating my children as to the importance of the road the great Madiba has travelled.”
“Nelson Mandela epitomized authentic leadership. He knew who he was and he knew what he stood for and he never wavered in his convictions. His vision inspired others to believe in something greater than themselves. He led by example and taught us about the power of compassion, respect and forgiveness. He stood for human dignity and taught us that each person deserved to be treated equally. And he was right. It is by his example and his values, that I strive to live my life and in turn, inspire others to the same. His legacy will endure forever, in my heart.”
“Nelson Mandela is an Icon in Jamaica. During his incarceration many reggae artiste advocated continuously for his freedom and an end to apartheid. He stood as an inspiration for my generation leading us toward national unity and upliftment.”
Wilson Jn. Baptise, Founder of Gems of St. Lucia, Tourism Management Consultant
“Nelson Mandela did not have to go to prison. He could have mended his behavior to fit the demands of the status quo or continue on a behavioral path which eventually landed him in prison for decades. Why should one individual, with others, choose a life of prison against one of freedom and luxury? His decision was taken within the context that there was no guarantee that apartheid would have been abolished as a result of this heavy-duty sacrifice. However, he proceeded on the path to end apartheid, die in the process or be imprisoned and black listed by the developed world. What are the lessons to be learned in that decision? Are we or have we faced such challenges in our lives before?
This decision by Nelson Mandela had a profound effect on my life as I witness societies migrate from points of principle to points of compromise. In addition, I have also witnessed those individuals who chose compromise or allowed themselves to be compromised degenerate from self-confidence, resourcefulness and power positions to minions and slaves because they had no moral values to stand up on.
There are many lessons to be learned from this journey from prisoner to president. We must always be willing to reach out even to our worse enemies and understand their actions against us.
Nelson Mandela passed on Thursday, December 5, 2013. He has left a void in terms of global leadership in the areas of conflict management and resolution. Mandela will be missed for many reasons and will be remembered for many more. He will always be remembered for his charisma, principles, humility and his search for enduring peace. Those of us who lived through the Mandela era should consider ourselves fortunate to have witnessed this great leader in action.
The different life cycles which Nelson Mandela went through and its impact on the Caribbean and globally will leave an indelible impression on our generation. He was intelligent, principled and humble. The world will never be the same again. Farewell our friend.”
Forns Arlette, Teacher, St.Lucia
“I am one who truly believe that a man can only be great by him being able to use his worst situation to touch lives and bring about change in a way that will impact many lives. Too often we see a great man by what he can do for us by what he gives in a tangible way but for me,it is those lives he touched and his impact to change people minds/thinking and how they live onwards to better themselves. I would like to express that Hon. Nelson Mandela was truly a great man. A man with a vision ,a man who defined resilience in every sense of the Word.
I heard about this man from very small and most of what I heard was that he fought for black people and was thrown to prison but my deeper understand of him is a man who stood up against the odds. A man who sacrifice his life and freedom to see that we ALL get equal rights and justice. I remembered in 2009 when I battled with my illness, today after 4 years I have come a long way. He taught me that whatever battles we face, with resilience we can get there. Every battle is possible to win. I really admire this man for not letting prison be the end of his life but to see it as new beginnings. It is not where a man ends up but what he does in his deepest place of hopelessness and what a man does to get out and what happens after such loss. I see this great man as an person who found himself in the pits of deep loss and was able to use this situation to bring about change. He exhibited the perfect example of what a man does when faced with his worst fear. This man used his time in prison not to feel pity but as a setting stone to bring about drastic change to touch and inspire the World. Prison did not stop him nor held him back. For when he was released, it was the dawn of action and change to better the World.
Please note that my daughter Termika Mandy Arlette with my then wife Frances was born on 11th February 1990,the same day he was released from prison and hence the name Mandy- Mandela. That’s the impact this man had on my life and my then wife at the moment. Thank you Hon.Mandela. May your fight/dream/vision live on and bring change to this World. RIP Hon. Mandela.”
Deepali Bhatt, Mom, Banking Associate, Blogger
“I am always moved by one quote that Nelson Mandela always said “I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.” Before I read this quote I used to fear ‘change’ a lot. In the face of extreme adversity I always keep this quote handy and it gives me immense internal strength.”
What are your thoughts on Nelson Mandela? What impact did he have on your life? How do you honour his legacy?
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Magdalene Cooman-Maxwell is from St.Lucia and currently lives in Ottawa. She blogs as a hobby but blogs ONLY for things which will bring inspiration and help make our lives better. You can follow her blog or share it with others to continue the flow of good thoughts into the world.
Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org