01 July 2008
Mandela is unsurprisingly one of my heroes. But I am surprised how often the media have sought to excuse his long silence on Robert Mugabe, only recently broken. As a child I remember being taught that none of our Biblical heroes are without flaws, that the very greatest men and women are inevitably human. It was argued that even Moses was prevented from entering the Promised Land because he displayed a flash of pride. Mandela is as near to Moses as any human being in our lifetime, but surely this is a case where we can legitimately question the great man’s long held silence on the crisis. Mandela makes clear in Long Walk to Freedom the immense value he places in loyalty and one senses it is this indestructible, misplaced loyalty to old supporters that has prevented him speaking out. The Daily Telegraph's political editor recently reached the bizarre conclusion that Mandela’s silence could have been because he felt “entitled to a few years rest and retirement”, which is surely as wide of the mark as it is possible to be. Is it not more likely that Mandela has made one of his very few mistakes, when his unique influence could have helped to rescue an entire country from the catastophe that has unfolded.
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