From the introduction:
Until early 1990 many people believed that South Africa was on the road to civil war, a war that would finally unleash black anger against white racism. Four years later, Nelson Mandela was sworn in as the country’s first black president. Much happened during those four years, beginning with Nelson Mandela’s release from prison after twenty seven years and ending with the country’s first ever free and fair multi-racial elections.
Many people see this relatively peaceful transition from oppressive apartheid to a modern democracy, without a civil war, as nothing less than a miracle. No doubt it is. Nevertheless, it is a miracle based on decades of preparation and firmly held convictions by many people who suffered under one of the world’s more ‘successful’ oppressive regimes. An essential part of this miracle is how many of the leaders of these oppressed people used their long incarcerations in prison, mostly on Robben Island, to continue preparing for the time when they would be called upon to lead their country – even as their convictions were tested day after painful day.
Although Robben Island was not a death camp, conditions were extremely oppressive and designed to destroy the morale and dedication of the inmates. These political prisoners had all been given long sentences, many life sentences, following their conviction for political offences. The island is in the icy Atlantic Ocean which surrounds Cape Town, and the magnificent Table Mountain is clearly visible from it. Cape Town is beautiful and life there is good. The seductive freedom of life in Cape Town is visible to all on Robben Island but it could not be reached by the prisoners as the ocean is bitterly cold, and sharks swim in its strong currents. The cells were cramped, humiliatingly cold in winter and severely hot in summer. The guards’ job was to treat prisoners harshly. Inmates toiled by day in the stone and lime quarries, often in the glare of the sun or in cold rainy conditions accompanied by strong winds. Rations were meagre and unpleasant. Despite these conditions the political prisoners on Robben Island continued to believe that they were the new South African democratic government-in-waiting. They regarded their stay as an opportunity to prepare for this job. Nobel Laureate and Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu explained, in Mandela – The Authorised Portrait, that, “Suffering can of course embitter the one who suffers. But in many instances it can ennoble the sufferer.” (p.9).
The program presented in this book is based on how many South African heroes achieved what they did. Initially, motivated by a concern that these strategies may go to waste and be lost to future generations, I was moved to acknowledge the material, to unpack it, and to present it in a form that can be used and modelled by all. I decided to name this program MadibaMindset, as a way of honouring the teachings of Nelson Mandela and his fellow political prisoners.
I make no claim to ownership of the ideas, nor to having invented the material, as practised on Robben Island. However, I believe that the way I have analysed and presented the available public and archived information about the political prisoners, and combined it with the recorded experiences of other international examples, timeless universal teachings, current psychological research, and practical business ideas, is new if not unique.
The program as presented is both similar and different to how Nelson Mandela and his colleagues practised it while incarcerated. The main reason for this is that I never spent time locked up in an apartheid prison like Robben Island. This program is therefore my interpretation of how the Mindset was practised, and my understanding of how to make it applicable to ‘normal’ living conditions.
I am convinced that the strategies used in South Africa’s negotiated revolution comprise very valuable and relatively unused resources available to governments, non-governmental organisations, businesses and individuals. Therefore this program has been developed to make these strategies available to you, the reader, who can use them productively. The MadibaMindset is a way of escaping from the mental prison that inhibits you, so that you are not able to rise above present circumstances and challenges. The pleasing result is that individuals and organisations can uncover, articulate and demonstrate the beliefs, values, habits, strategies, and structures that empower them to live and work in accord with their convictions every day.