The Presidential Years

First, I think his coming into the OAU had a profound influence in the OAU itself, because here was a man that the OAU over the years and the member states had worked with right at the beginning when Umkhonto WeSizwe was established. He had been to many countries before his arrest. And when he was imprisoned the OAU played an important role both in the campaign for his release and the release of other political prisoners, as well as supporting the struggle in South Africa. So for this man who was also a world icon to be part of the OAU had a tremendous impact.

But also I think he brought his own thinking into the OAU. He bought his own thinking, in terms of looking at issues of development now that decolonisation was more or less over, bringing social and development issues in general, but also bringing a sense that Africans had to be a bit more independent.

Madiba was also very outspoken, including that people mustn’t hold onto power forever. You can see the impact that he had from the fact that when he died they named the plenary hall in Ethiopia at the AU headquarters, the Nelson Mandela Hall, because, they argued, he embodied everything that Africa should be or should be doing. You also find that sometimes when issues are discussed, they will recall, ‘Oh, Madiba’s intervention in the Ouagadougou meeting’, ‘Remember his intervention in some other meeting’, even now. Some of these interventions were not necessarily made in a public speech but were made in the plenary discussions.

But I would say that he had a tremendous impact worldwide, not just in the OAU. But he participated actively in the OAU and SADC.

Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma