Comparison of Mahatma Gandhi and Nelson Mandela Essay

A comparison of Mahatma Gandhi and Nelson Mandela.

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Mahatma Gandhi was born in 1869 in India - Comparison of Mahatma Gandhi and Nelson Mandela Essay introduction. He was assassinated at the age of 78.He is recognized as political and religious leader of India and the Indian independence movement. He was the found of Satyagraha, an idea that is mainly concerned with truth and confrontation to evil through active, on violent resistance, which led India to self-government and enthused movement for ‘civil rights and autonomy’[1] across the world. He initially engaged peaceful civil disobedience in the Indian community’s fight for civil rights in South Africa. (Gandhi&et al 121)

Nelson Mandela was born in 1918 in South Africa; he was an anti-apartheid campaigner and the person in charge of the African National Congress. He was the 11th president of South Africa and severed as president between 1994 and 1999.He is also a ‘Nobel Peace Prize winner of 1993’[2].He is at present an eminent elder statesman who continues to offer his views on contemporary issues. In 2001, he became the first living individual to be made an honorary Canadian citizen. In 1990 he was also given the Bharat Ratna Award from the Indian Government. This paper will attempt to look at two world leaders, one from Asia: Mahatma Gandhi and another from Africa: Nelson Mandela. We will also try to compare their strengths and weakness as world leaders. World leaders such as Dr Martin Luther king Jr, Desmond Tutu and Nelson Mandela are said to be children of Gandhi and his religious recipients to non-violence. (Mandela 92)

The Indian government also has a yearly Mahatma Gandhi peace prize which it awards to notable social workers, world leaders and also citizens. One key beneficiary of this celebrated award and non Indian is Nelson Mandela due to his fight to eliminate racial prejudice and isolation. Mandela has repeatedly accredited Gandhi for being a chief cause of motivation in his life, both for the values of non-violence and for facing hardship with self-respect. As a result Mandela’s strategy was influenced by Mahatma Gandhi, who stimulated him and subsequent generations of South African anti-apartheid activists. We therefore find that Mandela was among the key participants of a conference in New Delhi in 2007, which was aimed at marking the 100th anniversary since Gandhi’s introduction of Satyagraha in South Africa. (Meredith 46)

The strengths of Mandela and Gandhi as world leaders.

The two world leaders though from different continents and born at different times seem to greatly have many things in common, more so in their style of leadership. They both seem to have led in the ‘struggle for independence’[3]. They could be said to be a symbol of freedom and equality. Gandhi was very vocal in his call to the British to quit India especially during the Second World War. During this time he claimed that he would not allow his country to join the rest of the world in war to fight for democracy which did not exist in his very own country. Mandela on his part was also very vocal in resisting apartheid in South Africa. He even went to the extreme of refusing to negotiate with white people example with P.W.Botha claiming that prisoners could not enter into contract. (Mandela 76)

They both fought against domination not only in their motherland but also in other parts of the world. Gandhi was protesting the cruel taxation and extensive bias among the poor farmers and labourers in India. He largely led nationwide campaigns for the mitigation of poverty, for the freedom of women, for brotherhood amid diverse religious and racial groups, for a stop to untouchability and caste prejudice, and for the economic independence of the nation. We find that he started his agenda not in India but in South Africa where he greatly fought for the rights of the Indians minority in South Africa. Mandela also had a similar agenda for his people. He led South Africans in their call and struggle to end apartheid and the need for equal treatment of people despite their colour and race. He fought white domination in South Africa. (Mandela 134)

It is very interesting to note that they were both imprisoned, in their struggle in fighting for what they believed in. At one time they both seem to have imprisoned in South Africa. Gandhi was imprisoned for many years on numerous occasions in both South Africa and India. He was imprisoned in South where he started his civil disobedience in his fight to ensure that Indian minority in South Africa were recognized as legitimate citizens. While Mandela was imprisoned for 27 years, much of which was in Robben Island for crimes that included sabotage committed while he spearheaded the struggle against apartheid. (Meredith 88)

They both practiced and advocated non-violence and truth in all situations. . It was through witnessing directly discrimination; unfairness and bias against Indians in South Africa that Gandhi started to query his people’s position within the British Empire, and his individual place in the social order. As a result he embarked on non-cooperation and peaceful confrontation as his weapons to fight against discrimination. He is said to be the father of non-violence protest. Mandela seems to have adopted Gandhi’s policy in his struggle against white domination. When this type of struggle failed that when South Africans resulted into armed struggle, Which Mandela said they used it as a last resort, when mounting oppression and aggression from the state persuaded him that many years of non-violent complaint against apartheid had not  achieved anything and therefore could not be successful.(Mandela 122)

However, Mandela later on admitted that the ANC, in its fight against apartheid, had also dishonored human rights, this resulted into a lot of critism more so from his party members who wanted such statements withdrawn from the truth and reconciliation commission. Nevertheless Mandela refused. This clearly demonstrates that just as Gandhi he was ready and willing to die for what he believed was the truth. They are both great world icons because they were ready to die so as to accomplish a democratic and free world in which all persons live in harmony and with identical opportunities. (Rolland&Daae 54)

Differences between Gandhi and Mandela.

As much as they share too much in common they are some key differences between them that make each one of them unique in their statues as world icons. Something so unique with Gandhi is that he underwent extended periods, at times over a month fasts for both self cleansing and protest. Gandhi cannot therefore be understood without the background of his trust and spiritual faith but it was a belief that was of fundamental help in promoting harmony and accord between people who worship diverse Gods or no God at all.

 He is on record for claiming that the most vital battle to wrestle was conquering own demons, worries, and insecurities. We also find that Gandhi was in no way the inventor of the belief of non-violence. But he was the pioneer to apply it in the political field on an enormous level. However, he was also conscious that this level of nonviolence needed unbelievable assurance and bravery, which he realized not everybody possessed. He consequently advised that each person needed not keep to nonviolence, in particular if it were used as a cover up for fear. (Ganthi&Fischer 77)

Following Mandela’s discharge from prison in 1990, his change to a ‘strategy of reconciliation and cooperation which aided lead the switch to multi-racial democratic system’[4] in South Africa, something that was very unique compared to the struggle that he had gone through. He also became the oldest voted President of South Africa, when he was elected at the age of 77 to become the first black South African president in 1994.He also decided not to stand for a subsequent term as President, and in its place retired in 1999, to be succeeded by Thabo Mbeki. He therefore goes down in the African history as the only African president who served only for one term. This clearly shows that he suffered not to get to power like many African leaders but for the benefit of South Africans and the world at large. (Mandela 231)

Weakness of Nelson Mandela and Gandhi as world leaders.

Everything that has a strong always seem to have a weak point also and this also applies to our two world leaders. They also have had their low moments. Example, Commentators and detractors including AIDS campaigners such as Edwin Cameron have criticised Mandela for his government’s incompetence in stemming the AIDS catastrophe. Mandela also admitted that he might have failed his motherland by not paying more interest to the HIV/AIDS scourge. However, he has since put in use many opportunities to emphasize this South African and global disaster. (Meredith 89)

Nelson Mandela is also criticised for a numerous positive remarks he had made about the diamond trade, particularly concerning blood diamonds. Critics say that his positive remarks could have been motivated by personal interests considering the factor that they were great friends with Harry Oppenheimer, who is a former chairman of De Beers, as while as narrow national interests of South Africa since South Africa is a major Diamond producer. (Mandela 244)

Mandela has further been greatly criticised in his failure to use his power to convince Mugabe to moderate his policies or to plead with him to step down more so due to the recently disputed presidential elections. This way he will have helped the people of Zimbabwe who seem to be greatly suffering. (Mandela 88)

Gandhi was also criticized by a number of Congress party members and other Indian political groups, mutually pro-British and anti-British, who felt that differing with Britain in its life or death resistance was morally wrong, and while others felt that he was not doing enough, in his struggle for Indian independence. (Rolland&Daae 97)

‘Gandhi’s unbending ahimsa implied pacifism’[5], which was thus a source of censure from across the political range. He also came under some political fire for his disapproval of those who tried to attain independence through further violent means. His denial to dispute against the execution of Bhagat Singh, Sukhdev, Udham Singh and Rajguru also resulted into criticism among some parties. Some people also questioned the competence of Gandhi’s theory of non-violence and argued that it attained simply a few token compromises from the British. There also those who claim that, it was British fear of fighting, as opposed to non-violence, which resulted into Indian Independence. (Gandhi&et al 231)

Looking at the weakness of the two world leaders it is clear that; both were mainly critized for not doing what people expected them to, since they mainly did, what they believed was the truth and was for the good of the people they were fighting for. While, some of their weakness come about as a result of over expectation of people. Some expected them to do such much, they forgot they were also humans and had their limitations. (Gandhi&Fischer 252)

Gandhi impacted   significant leaders and political movements. Such leaders include people like Martin Luther King and James Lawson who from the writings of Gandhi they were able to come up with their theories concerning non-violence. This also includes Nelson Mandela who could be said to have finished what Gandhi had started. It is interesting that Gandhi started his struggle in South Africa not India, then there is also Mandela who also started his struggle in South Africa. Due to Gandhi’s assassination  it would therefore, be said that he use not in a position to finish what he had started, therefore another world icon from South Africa came along to finish what he had laid down as his foundation.

Just as Samson in the Bible many scholars say that Gandhi has achieved a lot in death than when he was still alive. (Rolland&Daae 121)

Great leaders lead through thoughts, not through positional influence and power. This has clearly been demonstrated by Gandhi and Mandela. Even without positions and power they were able to maintain bravery where there was panic, promote accord where there was disagreement and more so encourage hope where there was misery. In the case of Nelson Mandela having spend 27 years of his life in prison due to what he was advocating as a result, it  would have been my expectation that after becoming the president of South Africa to remain on that position as long a he wished but he seems to have proved me wrong and others like me. It was for a worth cost, that ‘he was willing to spend 27 years to achieve what was not his personal interest but the interest of his people and this makes him a real leader’[6].(Mandela 432)

Gandhi was once battered in South Africa as he faced prejudice that was directed to Indians in the country then, but took no steps to ensure that the person accountable faced justice. This was mainly because according to his personal values not to request redress for  a individual wrong in a court of law, and he was able to stand by that, he did not go against his believe for personal interests or gains. This therefore makes the two of them world icons who deserve to be remembered, not only for this generation but for generations to come. They are both role models and will continue being role models for many years to come. (Gandhi&et al 324)

Conclusion

It is as a result of such great contribution that, we find that the United Nations General Assembly collectively adopted an affirmation declaring 2nd October as an international day of non-violence. On a rather disappointing note; Gandhi and Mandela both symbolize those who wholly resisted repression.However, what they resisted the most seems to have become the order of the day not only in the countries that they represented but in the world as a whole. One can not help but wonder what would happen if Gandhi would come back to life today, what would he say to our current leaders, what would he say to someone like president Mugabe, who has not only ignored the cry of his own people but also the cry of international communities. The two leaders and other great leaders brought us change that few of our current leaders seem ready to uphold. We have therefore not only disappointed our awesome world figures but also failed to keep their legacy. (Meredith 423)

Gandhi and Mandela were both prepared to die for what they believed in, however they were not ready to kill for it. But in our current generation, leaders are ready to kill for what they believe in but not die for it, thus letting our world icons down. Man’s decency is a blaze that can concealed but never extinguished, since integrity shines through in life and death just as the case with Gandhi and Mandela. We therefore need another Gandhi and another Mandela that we keep this fire burning. We need a leader that will be ready and willing to die for the common good of all people, a leader who will value the ideal of a independent and free society in which all persons live together in agreement and with equivalent opportunities, some one who is ready to openly address the fears and the cancer in our societies that no one seems ready to talk about. One who will be ready to stand firm in what he/she believes in despite the amount of critism that may follow such decisions, some one who can stand firm and not be shaken by threat and blackmail. One who will be ready to stand up and be counted among the great leaders of all time. We therefore need a Mahatma Gandhi or Nelson Mandela of our current generation and generations to come. The question therefore, is who is ready to stand up and counted. Let us be the change that we want to see in our society, it is our time to rise up be counted. (Rolland&Daae 204)

FOOTNOTES

Gandhi&ET al.An Autobiography: The Story of My Experiments with Truth. Beacon Press.1993.ISBN:0807059099.

Gandhi, M. &Fischer, and L.The Essential Gandhi: An Anthology of His Writings on His Life, Work, and Ideas.Vitntage Books.2002.ISBN:1400030501.

Mandela, N.Long Walk To Freedom: The Autobiography of Nelson Mandela. Back Bay Books.1995.ISBN:0316548189.

Mandela, N.The Struggle is My Life. International Defence and Aid Fund.1978.ISBN:0904759253

Meredith, M.Nelson Mandela: A Biography. Martin’s Press.1999.ISBN:0312199929.

Rolland, R. &Daae, C.Mahama Gandhi: the man who became one with the universal being. The Century co.1924.

[1] Gandhi&ET al.An Autobiography: The Story of My Experiments with Truth.
[2] Mandela, N.Long Walk To Freedom: The Autobiography of Nelson Mandela.
[3] Gandhi, M. &Fischer, and L.The Essential Gandhi: An Anthology of His Writings on His Life,
[4] Meredith, M.Nelson Mandela: A Biography.
[5] Rolland, R. &Daae, C.Mahama Gandhi: the man who became one with the universal being.
[6] Mandela, N.The Struggle is My Life.

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