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Need for Compassion in politics and its relation with success of countries

7 years ago today, Nelson Mandela left us - committed to ending differences in human race and a keen follower of Gandian values, Mandela is a powerful role model for leaders in the 21st century.  

But before there was Mandela, there was Robert Mugabe, the Premier and later President of Zimbabwe who was heralded as the statesman of Africa and the model for good governance. [1]. As history tells us however, Mugabe and his politics failed miserably. 

The reason why Zimbabwe became a failed state and South Africa a successful one was because of the Gandhian values, mainly 'Hate the Sin, Not the Sinner' imbibed by Nelson Mandela, and a contrasting revengeful reign by Mugabe in Zimbabwe (especially in the 1990s). The story about how Mandela used the Rugby World cup [2] to reconcile and reach out for his erstwhile oppressors is a case in point [The subject was used in the movie Invictus, which is titled on one of Mandela's favourite poems - and mine too!].

Mugabe vs Mandela is a very useful template for future leaders to follow.

Mugabe vs Mandela is a very useful template for future leaders to follow. History often shows us that our ancestors were wronged or were wrong-doers - but civilisation can only move forward when we discard the baggage imposed by such history and recognise the lessons from it. The baggage of holding successors of wrong-doers responsible or victimization of the present generation of the wronged will only lead to negative outcomes in the long term. Parts of our society (successors of wrong-doers) will feel marginalized and discriminated against, while other parts (successors of the wronged) will develop a false sense of entitlement, which would ultimately lead them to a false sense of propriety and prosperity - and by the time they break out of that reverie, the damage would have been done.

There is no better example of this than the state of Zimbabwe where whites fled the country over two decades of Mugabe's regime and laws made in the name of resettling landless black poor were used by corrupt ministers and officials to embezzle funds. Notably, there were times when the opposition raised these and other issues, even tried to take over power after winning elections - but were thwarted in the name of 'nationalism' by Mugabe's party ZANU–PF which increasingly equated itself with Zimbabwean patriotism. And through all these years, the Zimbabwean economy plummeted from trough to mega-trough, with runaway inflation making lives miserable for people.

These anecdotes from South Africa and Zimbabwe have important lessons for present-day India, where political considerations have led to similar trends. State governments are passing laws [3] based on victimization theories and targetted specifically towards framing one community of people as wrong-doers. Even National laws [4] for granting asylum are also discriminating specifically against people of a specific religion, without recognizing that this religion can have differences of creed [5]within itself. When asked why people of this religion are being discriminated in the act, the answer is that their ancestors chose to leave India at a time in past. 

These statements, stances and positions taken by the ruling party are similar to the intolerant laws passed by Mugabe during his presidential tenure. Their rebuffs of their detractors being anti-national are also eerily similar to the pronouncements of Mugabe's ZANU-PF. What is scarier is that India's economy has taken a downward turn, aided only by its buoyant position in the pecking order of emerging economies and a larger backlash against its competitor China due to its perceived role in the Covid-19 pandemic.  

The only thing that keeps me positive is my faith in Indian people - India's democratic institutions and its people are far more mature and balanced than what the pronouncements of political parties or breaking news of television channels indicate. Underlying the bombastic media is a society which has a strong secular and balanced fabric. Individual relations between people are more important than relations between their religions or creeds and in general people can reconcile from policy shocks because they know how to work around these unfair laws. In summary - India is no Africa!

Nevertheless, it would help for budding politicians and social leaders to read and understand the cases of Mandela and Mugabe. The fact that Mandela succeeded where Mugabe failed, and that Mandela was himself an ardent follower of the man whom we consider the Father of Our Nation, should be reason enough for the next generation of leaders to make the right choice in Mandela as their role model!

To end, here's a small quote from Nelson Mandela:

“No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin, or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.”


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