Doctor of Leadership in Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

Two Pillars for South Africa

Written by: on September 1, 2022

This semester’s reading starts with two important books from two important South Africans—Desmond Tutu and Nelson Mandela. Both biographies will prove to be enduring for generations to come. Both men earned the Nobel Prize for Peace and both men helped bring an end to Apartheid and the beginning of Democracy. They were both pillars of their country, one representing the church, the other the state. Through the efforts of these leaders, the country of South Africa was transformed.

Desmond Tutu’s book, “No Future Without forgiveness” was published in 1999 and it adroitly catalogues the end of Apartheid. Bishop Tutu was the Anglican Archbishop of Cape Town from 1986 to 1996 and a revered man among his countrymen even by those who did not share his faith. The book captures the need for forgiveness to happen among South Africans if they are going to propel their country forward. The book does not brush-over the violence and killing that took place in the many years before the 1980’s and 1990’s; nor does the book flinch at the depth of evil that was perpetrated by human beings upon each other. Despite the atrocities, the book dares South Africans to forgive each other of these sins so the country can heal and have hope for the future.

The principal mechanism that Bishop Tutu used to bring about reconciliation was South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC). Prosecuting every wrong by every white individual that was ever committed against a black South African was not an achievable goal. However, simply brushing over the wrongs committed against the black majority by the white minority for so many years was not going to work either. The solution (coined as “The Third Way”), was Bishop Tutu, working with many different countrymen of different political orientations, through the TRC to bring justice and forgiveness. With an anxious world watching this experiment, it worked.

This book left me wondering what if all nations had a similarly effective TRC that helped resolve issues of race, justice, inequality. The South African experience was unique but the TRC helped show the world justice can prevail, despite years of oppressiveness. Bishope Tutu’s assessment is found on page 231: “It would be less than honest and entirely counterproductive to pretend that the Truth and Reconciliation Commission was perfect. But it is to the credit of all who were part of our process that so much was achieved.”

The second book for this week’s reading assignment was Nelson Mandela’s, “Long Walk to Freedom.” This book is more of a memoir than Bishop Tutu’s “No Future Without Forgiveness” because it focuses more on the development of Mandela the man and not just his professional contribution to his country. The book begins with Mandela’s youth and proceeds chronologically through adolescence, his college years as a young man, the years of his incarceration, and his subsequent release and presidency. Nelson Mandela lived one of the most interesting lives of the twentieth century and the book is worth reading slowly, thoughtfully. He comes across as one part Mahatma Gandhi, one part Abraham Lincoln, and one part Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Mandela’s tome is inspiring and epic, worthy of the man himself. The dramatic arc begins with a recounting of his youth growing up in the Transkei province in southeastern South Africa. He attended a for-blacks-only high school and college and it was such a different experience than my education and upbringing, it captivated me. He changed during these years. His thinking that whites have mostly benefitted his country by bringing science and medical advancements became more sophisticated and saw the oppressive nature of white rule. All of this early history is preamble that helps explain the man he became and it is told skillfully.

The narrative goes on to tell of his participation with the African National Congress Youth League, and his time after school when he practiced law and built alliances with multiracial groups. It was this time period when he starts to fight against the injustices in his country and not just learn about them. I did not know the history surrounding the violence at Sharperville and how that shaped his character and dedication to finding a peaceful solution to end Apartheid. The lessons he learned there encapsulate what the world needs to learn about dealing with oppressiveness and injustice. In this sense the book has been written for the world, no matter what the particular evils exist in a particular country or culture. This book can instruct all governments that they exist for the people they govern.

His imprisonment follows and reading about that experience is a lesson in determination, resilience, and faith. His election as President in 1994 feels like his time in prison prepared him for the task. He proved his mettle much like the biblical Daniel proved his faith while in the lion’s den. The moral lessons found on these pages are never hammered over our heads like an angry preacher, but neither is Mandela’s morality ever far from the political, social, and economic lessons.

Mandela has a rock-solid belief that there is goodness in humanity; it isn’t all darkness that resides in people. He states on page 432, “There is a streak of goodness in man that can be buried or hidden and it emerges unexpectedly.” Such optimism is needed to survive the twenty-seven years in prison, successfully administer a country, and be an example for the world. Reading these two books together and at the beginning of the semester makes me all the more interested and excited to visit South Africa.

About the Author


Troy Rappold

B.A. Communication - University of Colorado M.Div. Theology - Cincinnati Christian University Currently enrolled in D. Min. program at George Fox University

8 responses to “Two Pillars for South Africa”

  1. mm Andy Hale says:

    You picked up on an aspect of the narrative I carried throughout my reading of both authors. What was more inspiring was the compassion for all humanity, including his oppressors, that Mandela carried throughout his life since he was not a man of the cloth, like Tutu. How can someone show such grace after all the persecution, false imprisonment, and captivity for 18+ years? How does one embody that grace as they led the country into revolutionary change?

  2. Kayli Hillebrand says:


    First, I again finding myself going to the dictionary when I read your reflection because you always have a new word or two in there for me – so thank you for expanding my vocabulary!

    Secondly, being the history aficionado that you are, are there specific questions that you have or topics you wish to explore more when you are physically in South Africa for the advance that you didn’t have before the readings?

  3. Troy, this is an excellent summary of these men, their respective books, and their legacy. I was reading the history of South Africa with an eye on American history, but I hesitate to make too quick of comparisons at this point. What, if anything, do you feel American culture can learn South African history, specifically in its transition from Apartheid?

  4. mm Nicole Richardson says:

    Troy I appreciate your summary of the books this week.

    What characteristics of these two men highlight where you aspire to go as a leader and how might you apply them in your context?

  5. mm Eric Basye says:

    Troy, I personally really resonated and enjoy Tutu and was also taken aback by his approach. The world would be a better place if we could apply his principles and practices amid the conflict we have today. In some regards, I found Tutu’s approach weightier on the side of reconciliation than Mandela, though both were obviously compelled for the reconciliation of relationships. Perhaps Tutu was able to take his approach as Mandela had, for years, charted the course the end the Apartheid? It will be interesting to go to South Africa and learn more about this history.

  6. mm Roy Gruber says:

    Troy, such a great job of summarizing both books with eloquence to boot! You pointed out Mandela’s optimistic view of humanity. You have to respect someone who personally experienced some of the worst aspects of humanity’s brokenness yet can still say that. When I think back to Augustine and his book on our reading list, I believe he would have a different take on the “city of man.” What are your thoughts about the nature of mankind – are you closer to Mandela or Augustine?

  7. mm Denise Johnson says:

    I appreciate your view on our readings. I am curious how a TRC approach might be implemented in your leadership venue? Is it transferable? What might make it so?

  8. mm Mary Kamau says:

    Troy, you did a great job summarizing the two books of Desmond Tutu and Nelson Mandela. I took particular interest in your analysis of how the man was transformed to have so much grace, despite of all the persecution and injustices that he and his people experienced. He truly was a great leader, and I agree with you that his book was written for a wide spectrum of audiences and should be read by every person who aspires to conflict management and leadership that adds value to humanity. You put it so well in this extract; “The lessons he learned there encapsulate what the world needs to learn about dealing with oppressiveness and injustice. In this sense, the book has been written for the world, no matter what the particular evils exist in a particular country or culture. This book can instruct all governments that they exist for the people they govern.”

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