Nelson Mandela And The Elders.

English: Young Nelson Mandela. This photo date...
English: Young Nelson Mandela. This photo dates from 1937. South Africa protect the copyright of photographs for 50 years from their first publication. See . Since this image would have been PD in South Africa in 1996, when the URAA took effect, this image is PD in the U.S. Image source: (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Posted December 7, 2013

by Jerry Alatalo

Nelson Mandela spent 27 of his 95-years-long life behind bars as a political prisoner. Keeping in mind that he was sent to prison after studying law, where he learned the architectural framework that basically ruled how the world moved, we can only imagine the thoughts he had while exploring his inner mental worlds for those 27 long years. One could see how Mr. Mandela spent a tremendous amount of time in a profound meditative, combined with thought-filled, state during his imprisonment. We could see how he traveled to amazing and astonishing places on his inner intellectual journey while enduring those endless hours, adding up to 27 years, before finally being released, and then becoming President of his home nation South Africa.

People can imagine the legal, political, philosophical, spiritual, and intensely human worlds of thought that Nelson Mandela explored after learning how to learn in university. One can see him in that cell, hour after hour, day after day, year after year, staring straight ahead while working with his mind and soul, actually writing lengthy books about all the important subjects of human life. In his mind.

How much of his focus was on what actions he would take after getting released, if released before dying, we will never know. However, it would be a safe bet that he had developed a set of actions for that possible day of freedom and had prepared himself for it. One could say with safety that he spent many hours thinking about the human race and the world – what was important to speak to and take action to bring about on this Earth.

Important issues such as strength and hope, opportunity for those denied, equal rights for all people, freedom and justice, equality as opposed to wealth disparity, and the oneness of the global village. After Nelson Mandela was finally released from prison he set out to speak on the important issues, including bringing about real, tangible improvements in the lives of the many millions of ordinary citizens around the world who helped him secure his freedom.

He spoke out on the North-South division of wealth, where economic systems remain unchallenged even though the practice of those systems is guided by the interests of the wealthy and powerful of the world – not concerned about the poorest of the poor. He spoke to addressing the need for answers to problems which keep all the people on Earth, not just the rich, in mind while the analyzing and problem-solving occurs. Mr. Mandela suggested using the intellectual capacity available in men and women around the world for developing ideas which then can become implemented – to equally benefit all the nations and people in the global village.

Nelson Mandela compared poverty to slavery and apartheid

He spoke out about ending poverty in the world, pointing out that as long as poverty persists none of us can rest. He urged thousands and thousands to join in the noble cause of ending poverty in this generation. He compared those millions of men, women, and children around the world to prisoners trapped in jails of poverty, and that it was time to set them free. Mr. Mandela spoke out by saying that slavery and apartheid were man-made, able to be overcome by the actions of human beings – and that poverty could be overcome with human actions as well.

He advocated for an end to poverty worldwide because it was every person’s right to live a life of dignity, developed nations’ ensuring of trade justice as the only way to end global poverty, an end to the debt crises of the poorest countries, and not looking away or hesitating to act with courage and vision. Nelson Mandela encouraged young people, and all people, to become the greatest generation, to make poverty – a crime against humanity – history.

Once world poverty has been eliminated, Nelson Mandela said, then we can all stand with our heads held high.

In 2007, after sharing the idea of forming a group of independently minded men and women elders from around the world with Peter Gabriel and Richard Branson, Nelson Mandela helped found the group and it came to be called “The Elders”. Today the group consists of the following men and women from around the world.

Martti Ahtasaari, Kofi Annan, Ela Bhatt, Lakdar Brahimi, Gro Harlem Bruntland, Fernando Henrique Cardoso, Jimmy Carter, Nina Jinani, Graca Machel, Mary Robinson, Desmond Tutu, and Ernesto Zedillo.

In the first video Nelson Mandela speaks at the introductory gathering of “The Elders” in 2007, describing the men and women members as people who are able to work on and discuss problems which are global in dimension – violence, poverty, disease, illiteracy, etc. – without serving any vested interests, whether they be nations, corporations, or any group of individuals. Men and women who are independent and speak to solving intractable problems in the effort to create a peaceful, healthy, and fair world.

A better world.

Mr. Mandela said that “The Elders” work will reflect the spirit of Ubuntu, with kindness and generous accommodation, where the idea is kept in mind that “we are human only through the humanity of other human beings”. He mentions “The Elders” speaking freely and boldly, both in public and in private behind-the-scenes discussions, to the needs and concerns of those in this world who have the least, and suffer the most. He then talks in a way which reminds of St. Francis of Assisi, about finding peace where there is conflict, courage where there is fear, and hope where there is despair.

Mr. Mandela speaks to Desmond Tutu words which perhaps sum up the extraordinary life he lived. Perhaps the spirit contained in those words sum up the extraordinary lives of every man, woman, and child on Earth.

As a sinner, I will expect you to write a letter to the big man up there. If a man of your standing can do that, when I knock on the door to heaven they will say, “We will allow you in.”


For more information, please visit

(Video source: Theeldersorg channel – YouTube)


7 thoughts on “Nelson Mandela And The Elders.

  1. According to John Pilger, writing in Freedom Next Time, Mandela only spent 24 years at Robin Island. In 1986 he was moved to a mainland prison, where he had three rooms and could entertain people privately. He spent his last 2 years at the chief warden’s house at Victor Verster Prison, where he had a phone, fax, swimming pool, and secret meetings with South African president P.W. Botha.s

    Tabo Mbeki also participated in secret meetings with the apartheid government, where it was agreed that blacks would get voting rights provided the mining and banking industries remained under white control. It was during these meetings that Mandela agreed not to prosecute security officers who had committed crimes against humanity (to hold Truth and Reconciliation meetings instead) and to repay the IMF debt.

    In other words, the ANC agreed to accept economic apartheid in place of political apartheid – which is one of the main reason poverty and living conditions (with 30% unemployment) is much worse under the ANC than apartheid.

    These secret meetings came about as a direct result of the South African stock market crash in 1985, which caused the apartheid government to default on IMF and other foreign debt repayments. This led to the apartheid government getting one of those offers you can’t refuse from the international banking establishment – unless they worked something out with the black majority to end growing popular unrest, their international loans would be cut off. Publicly Ronald Reagan was advocating a policy “constructive engagement” with South Africa, while according to declassified documents, Wall Street was exerting strong pressure on the apartheid regime to bring the black majority into government.


    1. Stuart,
      How are you. I haven’t spent any time researching South African economics. I wonder if the stock market crash was caused by worldwide divestment from S. African companies. The apartheid regime was feeling great pressure from the world’s people to end it, so the anti-apartheid movement must have been very strong, as the internet wasn’t nearly as large as today. I’ve never read any books by Nelson Mandela. Got to believe there would be some interesting revelations/explanations of the actions taken during the transition. Pilger’s title “Freedom Next Time” implies that Mandela somehow came up short in bringing true freedom to South Africans. Could Mandela have taken other actions at the time, like nationalizing the banking and mining companies? What is Pilger’s take?


      1. Pilger isn’t really critical of Mandela, as it appears that his release was conditional on agreeing to US/IMF conditions. Pilger’s main aim is to point out that South Africa has remained very much a US client state, as opposing to taking the road of Cuba or Venezuela and declaring economic independence.


        1. Stuart,
          Just read some reviews of Mandela’s autobiography “Long Walk To Freedom” at Amazon. He could have treated the apartheid oppressors in the same manner as they had treated S. African blacks, with revenge and retributive violence, but chose peace, forgiveness, and reconciliation instead. He believed there was good in all people, whether they were aware of it or not. Long Walk To Freedom looks like a book very worthy of reading. Many reviewers expressed thoughts like “should be in every history class”, “every person should read this book”, “Mandela is a leader every nation needs”, and other superlatives.


    1. Robert,
      How are you. You are correct when you say words don’t seem worthy enough. Awe would come the closest. There’s a movie soon to be released based on his autobiography “Long Walk To Freedom” which should be one of the few great films to come along in a while. I forget where I came across it, maybe reading articles on the UN, but there was a consensus that Nelson Mandela was the only person to stand out as an ideal UN Secretary General.


Leave a Comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.