The Many Unsung Heroes

Any curious observer can easily identify that our country is infatuated with its past leaders. What we have gained in the ongoing socio-political transformation may be lost, since this generation is proving to be no different from the previous in forgetting its own potential and simply singing praises for individuals in power.

We live in a world where positive role models are overlooked and forgotten. Instead, it is leaders in the upper echelons of power that are credited for bringing positive change to society, although they have often been far removed from the public they are tasked with governing. Inappropriately, the great human characteristics of generosity and diligence have become lost in the noise.

When a society is not anchored to a set of values, it becomes difficult for it to operate effectively. Lack of role models can result in this polarisation. As people within one society become less and less alike in what they believe in and strive for, subdivisions unwilling to tolerate each other begin to form.

Undeniably, this is not the way people have always lived and fought for freedom. Heroes such as Nelson Mandela were able to provoke social development by serving as constant, persistent leaders that people could depend on.

Last week I attended an event to celebrate the life and achievements of my hero, Mandela, on the 100th anniversary of his birth at the South African Embassy in Addis Abeba.

I met great young minds and heroes from the continent who are fighting to uphold human rights, equality and the equitable distribution of wealth. Unlike other events, this one made an impression. It recognised and highlighted the achievements of the people of South Africa.

It is unfair to the many South Africans who died in the name of freedom to claim that, had it not been for Mandela, apartheid would still prevail in that country. Apartheid was lifted because of the resistance of the people, under the guidance and leadership of Mandela.

We should recognise the heroes of our country and continent who are not mentioned in the history books. It is a multitude of remarkable feats that bring freedom and pave a path for others to follow.

But when we begin to rely on individuals, we become less cognizant of other people’s significant accomplishments. We become more comfortable with individuals we believe hold all the solutions to our socio-political ills.

Mandela was instantly elevated by the people to lead a great cause, and he did not disappoint. But we must realise that many other men and women also languished in prisons and died. Many unsung heroes of the freedom struggle achieved liberty in the shadow of the great men and women whose names we know.

That is why it is essential for us as a society to recognise the people as well. If there is a need for more heroes, we need to focus on the people. It is encouraging to remember what people of courage, nobility and genius have collectively contributed to the world.

A person who considers Martin Luther King Jr and Mandela as great leaders has a vastly different sense of what human excellence entails than someone who puts, say, the famous Ethiopian musician Teddy Afro, in the same basket.

The heroes to which we aspire do much to determine how we behave and set our life goals. Although society contributes to this, the greater part of the problem is the individual. We should never forget to remind ourselves who our heroes are and what they represent.

Mandela had his share of critics. Nor was he a perfect human being. I heard moving tales about him from people very close to Mandela such as Nicholas Haysom, former advisor, now serving as the United Nations Secretary-General’s Special Envoy to Sudan and South Sudan.

Mandela was down to earth. He respectfully shook hands and personally appreciated guards, attendants and chefs. I also read that during his presidency, Mandela stopped at a supermarket to buy chocolate for a woman he was courting at the moment, breaching presidential security protocol.

Heroes achieve, stumble and, at times, fall. They are like us. What was possible for heroes is possible for us if we are determined enough to fight for our causes. Leaders that see the potential in the transformative power of society are the true leaders that can get people to follow them.


By Eden Sahle
Eden Sahle is founder and CEO of Yada Technology Plc. She has studied law and International economic law. She can be reached at

Published on Jul 28,2018 [ Vol 19 ,No 952]



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