Jonathan Jansen:The 67 who shaped my life

JonathanJansenFor my 67 minutes on Mandela Day I praise 67 people who shaped and influenced my life. Each praised person represents Madiba’s values. I begin with my mother, Sarah Jansen (number one), who taught me the value of hard work. Without her steely determination and sense of purpose, I would not be here today.

And thank you for that smack to the face at the age of five for not greeting a complete stranger as he passed before us.

I hold up my mentor, Prof Chabani Manganyi (number two), a professor of clinical psychology. You told me that I should replace anger about the lack of transformation with deep thinking that leads to a disciplined activism.

I cannot forget Paul Galant (number three), my Latin teacher. If you had not interrupted my soccer game in junior high school to tell me I had “potential”, I do not think my horizons would have shifted.

Prof Thamsanqa Kambule (number four), it was during turbulent times that I visited Pace College in Soweto. I had never before seen a principal lead with such quiet grace and discipline.

My students, Sinoxolo Gcilitshana (number five), a man with unbelievable academic ambition who established the first in-house residential library in 114 years at the university, and Ofentse Morawe (number six), who rewrote an examination in which she got in the 80s to ensure she achieved in the 90s.

There were the activists who embodied Nelson Mandela’s fearlessness such as Trevor Manuel (number seven), Saki Macozoma (number eight), Joey Marks (number nine), David Ndaba (exile name, 10), Phyllis Naidoo (11) and Phila Ndwandwe (12).

Principled leaders have shaped my career and choices, like public protector Thuli Madonsela (13), banker Reuel Khoza (14), activist intellectual Neville Alexander (15) and Ghaleb Cachalia (16), whose political choices were not constrained by his illustrious family histor y.

No place is more difficult to lead and to make a living than in the non-governmental sector. People who give away their money and themselves strongly influence leadership approach, such as Lorenzo Davids (17), of Community Chest, Eric Atmore (18), from the Centre for Early Childhood Development, Denzil Smith’s (19) leadership laboratory (20) and Nangamso Kosa’s (21) Inqubela Foundation.

These stalwarts will never be rich, but they enrich the lives of countless others.

Most of all my leadership has been influenced by those who cross borders, who forge friendships and intimacies across racial, gender and class lines in the face of social reprisal like Mpho Tutu (22) or my students Tania Calitz (23) or Foster Lubbe (24) or Karis Topkin (25) or Sibusiso Tshabalala (26).

These are the non-angry South Africans who believe the pursuit of justice among entangled people cannot be achieved through segregated lives.

These are the principal leaders I know who live and lead with unbelievable commitment – Mark Potterton (27, Holy Family), Greg van Schalkwyk (28, Science Academy), Felix Mshololo (29, Menzi), Marguerita Lopes (30, I R Griffith), Cedric Lidzhade (31, Mbilwi), Phaldiela Cooper (32, Cosat), Ashra Norton (33, Leadership College) and Shumi Shongowe (34, Phumlani).

And there are the South Africans who, in overcoming disability, capture Mandela’s spirit of perseverance.

I know of few greater than Nicky Abdinor (35, motivational speaker), Lesego Shuping (36, wheelchair rugby player), Lucas Sithole (37, wheelchair tennis player), Louzanne Coetzee (38, blind Olympian athlete) and Sherri Brynard (39, Down Syndrome leader).

There are people whose very words of courage carry Madiba’s authority in their writings like Max du Preez (40), Ferial Haffajee (41), Justice Malala (42), Ryland Fisher (43), Sam Sole (44), Judith February (45), Rhoda Kadalie (46), Poppy Louw (47), Jan-Jan Joubert (48), Ruda Landman (49), John Robbie (50), Redi Thlabi (51) and Mondli Makhanya (52).

Yet far from the spotlight of public attention the following Mandela-type change agents work quietly to restore our schools every single day: Muavia Gallie (53), Johan Volsteedt (54), Corvell Cranfield (55) and Louise van Ryn (56).

If reconciliation is Madiba’s greatest legacy, these are the public bridge builders today: Pumla Gobodo Madikizela (57, scholar), Olga Macingwane (58, bomb victim), Stan Henkeman (59, leader), Tali Nates (60, speaker), Ginn Fourie (61, victim family) and Rudi Buys (62, youth leader).

The spirit of Mandela is captured in the lives of those who achieve great things on a world stage and yet remain the most humble of citizens, like Wayde van Niekerk (63, 400m world champion), Rolene Strauss (64, Miss World), Pretty Yende (65, opera singer) and Samson Diamond (66, violinist).

And one served him, then and now, Zelda la Grange (67). No, Mandela is not dead. His life and legacy continues through the work and example of these 67 amazing South Africans.

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