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BY Francis Akhalbey, 8:00am December 05, 2018,

100 Madiba quotes to celebrate the iconic Nelson Mandela

Nelson Mandela -- Photo Credit: Herbert Shore/ Ahmed Kathrada Foundation

Nelson Mandela was born a century ago on this day. Even though the world has had some great men and women, very few have had as much of an impact on history as he has had. Remembered as South Africa’s first Black president and an international symbol of freedom and equality even after death, Mandela continues to influence the world with his great and timeless words of wisdom.

Leaders and human rights advocates around the world continue to use his stirring quotes in their pursuit for liberty and democracy.

To mark the fifth anniversary of his death, Face2Face Africa shares with you 100 inspirational quotes from Madiba. Take a look at them and let us know your favourite:

  1. “I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.”
  2. “Difficulties break some men but make others. No axe is sharp enough to cut the soul of a sinner who keeps on trying, one armed with the hope that he will rise even in the dead.”
  3. “Real leaders must be ready to sacrifice all for the freedom of their people.”
  4. “I am fundamentally an optimist. Whether that comes from nature or nurture, I cannot say. Part of being optimistic is keeping one’s head pointed toward the sun, one’s feet moving forward. There were many dark moments when my faith in humanity was sorely tested, but I would not and could not give myself up to despair. That way lays defeat and death.”
  5. “A fundamental concern for others in our individual and community lives would go a long way in making the world the better place we so passionately dreamt of.”
  6. “Death is something inevitable. When a man has done what he considers to be his duty to his people and his country, he can rest in peace. I believe I have made that effort and that is, therefore, why I will sleep for the eternity.”
  7. “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.”
  8. “I have walked that long road to freedom. I have tried not to falter; I have made missteps along the way. But I have discovered the secret that after climbing a great hill, one only finds that there are many more hills to climb. I have taken a moment here to rest, to steal a view of the glorious vista that surrounds me, to look back on the distance I have come. But I can only rest for a moment, for with freedom comes responsibilities, and I dare not linger, for my long walk is not ended.”
  9. “Overcoming poverty is not a task of charity; it is an act of justice. Like slavery and apartheid, poverty is not natural, it is man-made and it can be overcome and eradicated by the actions of human beings. Sometimes it falls on a generation to be great. You can be that great generation. Let your generation blossom.”
  10. “If I had my time over, I would do it again. So would any man who dares to call himself a man.”
  11. “It always seems impossible until it’s done.”
  12. “Everyone can rise above their circumstances and achieve success if they are dedicated to and passionate about what they do.”
  13. “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”
  14. “For to be free is not merely to cast off one’s chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others.”
  15. “Do not judge me by my successes, judge me by how many times I fell down and got back up again.”
  16. “There is no passion to be found playing small – in settling for a life that is less than the one you are capable of living.”
  17. “Money won’t create success, the freedom to make it will.”
  18. “We must use time wisely and forever realize that the time is always ripe to do right.”
  19. “Man’s goodness is a flame that can be hidden but never extinguished.”
  20. “Resentment is like drinking poison and then hoping it will kill your enemies.”
  21. “I like friends who have independent minds because they tend to make you see problems from all angles.”
  22. “A good head and a good heart are always a formidable combination.”
  23. “When people are determined they can overcome anything.”
  24. “May your choices reflect your hopes, not your fears.”
  25. “A winner is a dreamer who never gives up.”
  26. “Human beings have got the ability to adjust to anything.”
  27. “In my country we go to prison first and then become President.”
  28. “One of the things I learnt when I was negotiating was that until I changed myself, I could not change others.”
  29. “You take the front line when there is danger. Then people will appreciate your leadership.”
  30. “Extremists on all sides thrive, fed by the blood lust of centuries gone by”
  31. “If there are dreams about a beautiful South Africa, there are also roads that lead to their goal. Two of these roads could be named Goodness and Forgiveness.”
  32. “The chains on any one of my people were the chains on all of them. The chains on all of my people were the chains on me.”
  33. “When a deep injury is done to us, we never heal until we forgive.”
  34. Let there be justice for all. Let there be peace for all. Let there be work, bread, water and salt for all.”
  35. “We must strive to be moved by a generosity of spirit that will enable us to outgrow the hatred and conflicts of the past.”
  36. “I detest racialism because I regard it as a barbaric thing, whether it comes from a black man or a white man.”
  37. “It is in your hands, to make a better world for all who live in it.”
  38. “Our march to freedom is irreversible. We must not allow fear to stand in our way.”
  39. “Greed and power has turned brother against brother.”
  40. “If you want to make peace with your enemy, you have to work with your enemy. Then he becomes your partner.”
  41. “The habit of attending to small things and of appreciating small courtesies is one of the important marks of a good person.”
  42. “You may succeed in delaying, but never in preventing the transition of South Africa to a democracy.”
  43. “As a leader of a mass organization, one must listen to the people.”
  44. “I have never cared very much for personal prizes. A person does not become a freedom fighter in the hope of winning awards.”
  45. “It is what we make out of what we have, not what we are given, that separates one person from another.”
  46. “Together we must set out to correct the defects of the past.”
  47. “A man is never more truthful than when he acknowledges himself a liar.”
  48. “Only free men can negotiate. Prisoners cannot enter into contracts.”
  49. “There is no such thing as part freedom.”
  50. “You will achieve more in this world through acts of mercy than you will through acts of retribution.”
  51. “If wealth is a magnet, then poverty is a kind of repellent. Yet poverty often brings out the true generosity in others.”
  52. “No one truly knows a nation until he has been inside its jails. A nation should not be judged by how it treats its highest citizens but its lowest.”
  53. “The death of a human being, whatever may be his station in life, is always a sad and painful affair.”
  54. “When a man is denied the right to live the life he believes in, he has no choice but to become an outlaw.”
  55. “Difficulties break some men but make others. No axe is sharp enough to cut the soul of a sinner who keeps on trying, one armed with the hope that he will rise even in the end.”
  56. “Long speeches, the shaking of fists, the banging of tables and strongly worded resolutions out of touch with the objective conditions do not bring about mass action and can do a great deal of harm to the organisation and the struggle we serve.”
  57. “Many people in this country have paid the price before me and many will pay the price after me.”
  58. “I have never regarded any man as my superior, either in my life outside or inside prison.”
  59. “I had no specific belief except that our cause was just, was very strong and it was winning more and more support.”
  60. “A critical, independent and investigative press is the lifeblood of any democracy. The press must be free from state interference. It must have the economic strength to stand up to the blandishments of government officials. It must have sufficient independence from vested interests to be bold and inquiring without fear or favour. It must enjoy the protection of the constitution, so that it can protect our rights as citizens.”
  61. “It is in the character of growth that we should learn from both pleasant and unpleasant experiences.”
  62. “It is never my custom to use words lightly. If twenty-seven years in prison have done anything to us, it was to use the silence of solitude to make us understand how precious words are and how real speech is in its impact on the way people live and die.”
  63. “What counts in life is not the mere fact that we have lived. It is what difference we have made to the lives of others that will determine the significance of the life we lead.”
  64. “We tried in our simple way to lead our life in a manner that may make a difference to those of others.”
  65. “Those who conduct themselves with morality, integrity and consistency need not fear the forces of inhumanity and cruelty.”
  66. “You sharpen your ideas by reducing yourself to the level of the people you are with and a sense of humour and a complete relaxation, even when you’re discussing serious things, does help to mobilise friends around you. And I love that.”
  67. “I knew as well as I knew anything that the oppressor must be liberated just as surely as the oppressed.”
  68. “Men and women, all over the world, right down the centuries, come and go. Some leave nothing behind. Not even their names.”
  69. “Significant progress is always possible if we ourselves try to plan every detail of our lives and actions”
  70. “I have a special attachment to the people who befriended me during times of distress.”
  71. “It is through education that the daughter of a peasant can become a doctor, that the son of a mine worker can become the head of the mine.”
  72. “Our people have the right to hope, the right to a future, the right to life itself.”
  73. “To go to prison because of your convictions and be prepared to suffer for what you believe in, is something worthwhile.”
  74. “Every community in our country has a fundamental right to be free from fear.”
  75. “I was made, by the law, a criminal, not because of what I had done, but because of what I stood for.”
  76. Never, never and never again shall it be that this beautiful land will again experience the oppression of one by another.”
  77. “As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”
  78. “I have spent all my life dreaming of a golden age in which all problems will be solved and our wildest hopes fulfilled.”
  79. “It was during those long & lonely years that my hunger for the freedom of my people became a hunger for the freedom of all people.”
  80. “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.”
  81. “A man who takes away another man’s freedom is a prisoner of hatred. He is locked behind the bars of prejudice and narrow-mindedness.”
  82. “I could not imagine that the future I was walking toward could compare in any way to the past that I was leaving behind.”
  83. “It is an achievement for a man to do his duty on Earth irrespective of the consequences.”
  84. “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate, but that we are powerful beyond measure.”
  85. “There is nothing like returning to a place that remains unchanged to find the ways in which you yourself have altered.”
  86. “Gone forever are the days when harsh and wicked laws provide the oppressors with years of peace and quiet.”
  87. “If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his language, that goes to his heart.”
  88. “Of course we desire education and we think it is a good thing, but you don’t have to have education in order to know that you want certain fundamental rights, you have got aspirations, you have got claims.”
  89. “The greatest glory in living lies not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall.”
  90. “When the water starts boiling it is foolish to turn off the heat.”
  91. “I shall neither impose my own customs on others nor follow any practice which will offend my comrades.”
  92. “Since we have achieved our freedom, there can only be one division amongst us: between those who cherish democracy and those who do not”
  93. “We too will die but that which we collectively contribute to our national cultural identity will live forever beyond us.”
  94. “I am the master of my fate: I am the captain of my soul.”
  95. “Poverty is not an accident. Like slavery and apartheid, it is man-made and can be removed by the actions of human beings.”
  96. “If you want the cooperation of humans around you, you must make them feel they are important, and you do that by being genuine and humble.”
  97. “We need to exert ourselves that much more, and break out of the vicious cycle of dependence imposed on us by the financially powerful: those in command of immense market power and those who dare to fashion the world in their own image.”
  98. “Courageous people do not fear forgiving, for the sake of peace.”
  99. “People respond in accordance to how you treat them.”
  100. “To deny people their human rights is to deny their very humanity.”

Last Edited by:Nduta Waweru Updated: December 5, 2018


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