Leaving a will for us all to live by

2014-02-09 14:00

A will can be a clinical set of bequeathments. You get this. You get that. Charity gets this. And you get nothing.

Nelson Mandela’s will?–?which was read this week?–?is much, much more than that. It is a statement of legacy and a symbol of leadership.

For one: the quantum has surprised many in a country where the elite is really elite.

Extravagance and bling are the order of the day. This can be the Mpisane bling where the tenderpreneur couple can splash out on a pair of Rolls-Royces, just like that.

Or it can be Izikhothane culture where young people burn beautiful branded goods, just like that. Or it can be the mining bosses who spent up a storm in Cape Town this week while their platinum employees throttled their negotiators for a monthly wage of R12?500.

Nelson Mandela had R46?million to distribute and?–?by global leadership standards and for a man of his stature?–?it is small.

But that was how he lived. He often shook down wealthy people, but did so for others. In an era of patronage politics, it’s easy to see the difference. And how Madiba distributed his money was also laudable.

He did so according to his values and to symbolise what should be important to his country. Education, for one. He gave to all the schools that shaped him. From his Eastern Cape schools to the University of the Witwatersrand where he was a law student, each got something.

He gave to his political party, the African National Congress, which was the incubator of his principles and values.

Then he signalled the importance of family by giving to his own family and his extended family by virtue of his marriage to Graça Machel.

He also signalled the value of service by leaving gifts to his support staff who were, if you read his biography, his rock when times were tough.

So, beyond the detail of who did not get what they expected and the fights about his will, it tells us a story of a life well lived and a legacy contained in his final piece of writing.

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