Who influenced Nelson Mandela

I went to the University of South Africa in Pretoria (UNISA) for the first time in 2001. It is the university where Mandela also studied and you can imagine the role he still plays there today. UNISA was the first university where black people were allowed to study under apartheid and it still plays a major role today when it comes to educational equality in South Africa. By the way, Mandela also finished his second degree (“Law”) at UNSIA, back then in prison (1989). After my studies, I continued to work for UNISA and have been Professor Extraordinarius in the Department of Mission Studies since 2013. So I still have close connections to the country and the people and go there at least once a year. And of course my black colleagues took me with them and showed me the historical places, especially the “Mandela House”, the Apartheid Museum, but also many personal places from their own history, where they in the wake of Mandela and the ANC against apartheid Have resisted. Some have lost friends in the process, some have lost their house or their country. These stories get under your skin, I won't forget them. What impresses me most is how much readiness there is for reconciliation among many of my friends, which I find deeply impressive.

The importance of Mandela for South Africa?

The role of Nelson Mandela in South Africa cannot be overestimated. Not just because he became the first black president, but because he managed to bring apartheid to a peaceful end. He is an absolute authority and as long as he was alive he was like a “kit” that held the various groups in South Africa together. In the past few years, President Zuma has seen how quickly a country can be run down. But, and it has to be said, South Africa is on a difficult path, because the wounds of apartheid have still not healed. After the topic of reconciliation (by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission set up by Mandela), the main focus is now on the issue of justice (e.g. the current discussion about the new legislative proposal that provides for the expropriation of farmers without their compensation). The long road to freedom that Mandela proclaimed and started walking is far from over. But his person is a political and moral role model for reconciliation and peace - not only in South Africa, but worldwide. One must not forget that Ronald Reagan once called him a "terrorist" and that many conservative Christians, also in Germany, supported apartheid and viewed Mandela critically. We often forget that today.

Mandela - also inspiration for my life

The irrepressible will not to lose one's own inner freedom; that is very impressive. Mandela was a political prisoner in Robben Island from 1963 to 1990, a total of 27 years, in the famous "Cell 9". That's a few square meters, years of isolation and yet no trace of bitterness or inner brokenness. That impresses me very much and I recommend everyone his autobiography "The Long Walk to Freedom" (German: "The Long Walk to Freedom"), which Mandela wrote secretly in prison and buried pieces of paper in the small flower bed in the prison yard. Especially in our time, in which we are so quickly influenced and unsettled by social issues, Mandela's inner steadfastness and conviction is a great role model for me. He then shared this inner freedom with all of South Africa and fought for political freedom and his dream of a “rainbow society”, in which all people should have a regular place.

Last year I went to South Africa with my family and we went to the Apartheid Museum together. My hope was and is that my children will also be inspired (by him) in the footsteps of Mandela ...


Part of this text belongs to an interview on an interview on Nelson Mandela: