Nelson Mandela – A Life of Advocacy

11 Dec 2013

Last week, RESULTS staff  were in South Africa running advocacy trainings for partners from across Africa. Steve Lewis describes how plans changed when Nelson Mandela died:

[caption id="attachment_14175" align="alignright" width="225"] 'Mandela set us free'. An emotional morning in Cape Town workshop[/caption]

Our trainings were progressing smoothly last week in Cape Town – we had ten partners in one room learning about media work and another group learning advocacy methods in our room. But Thursday at around midnight the news leapt around the hotel that Mandela had died. Many of us stayed up late that night watching the rolling news, talking to friends; everyone was in shock.

Friday morning - how  could we  continue the workshop when all that people wanted to do was talk about Mandela?  How he had changed the country, how he had changed their lives... ? We began with a minute of silence, but then carried on with our planned agenda. We were spending two days studying advocacy methods – some techniques that help you for example, build a strong coalition or hold successful meetings with decision-makers.  Some of these ‘tools’ can come across as quite dry – but when we  suggested assessing the tools in the light of Mandela’s life the room came alive.

“We can learn so much from Mandela’s life”, said Ndumiso.  “He said to us that slavery, and then apartheid were not normal, not inevitable.  They could be ended if people worked together. He said that poverty in not inevitable either. It can be ended.”

[caption id="attachment_14177" align="alignleft" width="225"] A son comforts his mother, laying flowers for Mandela.[/caption]

“In this workshop we’ve talked about how advocacy should have a clear goal, but also achievable milestones”, said Linda, “and that is what Mandela achieved. The end of Apartheid was the goal, building equality for all sections of society. But there were concrete milestones too – the end of the pass laws, desegregation of housing and so on. That allowed us to see we were making progress.”

“In advocacy we talk about the importance of a clear message”, said Peggy. “We use the ‘EPIC’ technique (Engage the audience, state the  Problem, Inform, Call to Action). Mandela had a very clear message of justice that people all over South Africa wanted to follow. The Call to Action was heard around the world. From Anti-Apartheid we learn that a strong clear call is essential if you want to win support. So for talking about TB, we need a clear message – like ‘Zero Deaths, Zero New Infections’.

[caption id="attachment_14179" align="alignright" width="300"]Alan Ragi, KANCO director (Kenya) with participants from South Africa & the UK Alan Ragi, KANCO director (Kenya) with participants from South Africa & the UK[/caption]

“Mandela was an expert at both ‘Insider and Outsider advocacy’”, said Alan.  “He and the ANC used both.  On the Insider track he negotiated, he was polite and softly-spoken, he held backroom meetings with presidents and staff. But behind him were the mass protests and the threat of armed struggle, the rent strikes and the international boycott.  Mandela had a soft voice but his people had a big stick.”

“Another lesson is that he formed a strong coalition”, suggested Manaan.  “The ANC allied with many groups – the unions, the churches, white people, all races. Sometimes in life we have to ally with groups we would not normally be friends with. For example Nelson allied with the previous president FW de Clerk - that’s why they shared the Nobel Peace Prize”.

We began to talk about leadership… “He was humble but determined. While in prison he learnt Afrikaans so that he could understand  the ruling class and negotiate with them.  He was patient and he lived his values…”  That session could have gone on for twice as long.

“In the end”, said one black speaker, “Mandela taught us about equality. Here I am now, in a workshop with Linda, a white woman, talking equally, sitting together. Mandela set black people free.”

[caption id="attachment_14178" align="alignright" width="300"] Crowds came onto the streets to march & dance in celebration of Mandelas life[/caption]

“That’s true”, said Wena, “but there’s more to it. He set all of us free. When I was a child I was told I could not be friends with the little girl next because she was black. I couldn’t understand it. Now I am friends with anyone and everyone. I am proud to work in the Health Service, with black and white and Asian colleagues. All of us together are trying to improve the health of this nation. Because as Mandela said to us, Apartheid was not natural, and could be ended. Poverty is not natural either, and we can end it. Now it is the job of our generation to carry on his work.”

All photos credit: Steve Lewis/RESULTS UK


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