Gabriel Banda Peace Notes, 07: Nelson Mandela and Invictus, Part II

This piece is the second part of a reflection on aspects of Nelson Mandela, 1918 – Thursday December 05, 2013. In February 2010, I did, in my “Another View” column in the Post Newspapers of Lusaka, Zambia, two pieces on lessons from Nelson Mandela and the Clint Eastwood “Invictus” movie. The first part came out on Friday, February 12, 2010. The second part came out on Friday, February 19, 2010. The following, with acknowledgement of Post Newspapers for publishing, is the second part:

“Another View Column,”  Friday, February 19, 2010, Post Newspapers, Lusaka.

Invictus and Us


 Gabriel C Banda

LAST week, we discussed the movie “Invictus,” directed by veteran film maker and actor Clint Eastwood. Using some events at a particular time, Invictus is about moving from apartheid and apartness to inclusion and reconciliation.

Change and growth must start from where we are, our self, and team members who are our friends, fellow workers, and family members. Using events involving President Nelson Mandela around the 1995 rugby world cup, the movie is more than about rugby, apartheid, and South Africa in transition.

 It is applicable to many situations. It is about human relations involving individuals and groups. If we open our selves, the movie can speak to us in our own situation. “Invictus” is about the courage and act of forgiveness as a process that is freeing. Forgiveness heals both victim and offender. Forgiveness is not a weakness but a strength. In the movie, Nelson Mandela calls forgiveness a “great weapon.”

“Invictus” is also about realising we have strength within us and are often capable of doing much more. “Invictus” is the title of William Henley’s poem written at the end of the 1800s. “Invictus” is Latin expressing “unconquered,” or “unconquerable.” The last two lines in William Henley’s poem “Invictus” remind us:

“I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.”

 Invictus, the movie, is driven by good story, playscript, directing, acting, and production. Morgan Freeman is Nelson Mandela and Matt Damon plays Francois Pienaar, the Springboks rugby team captain.

 The movie is well made and a masterpiece I recommend you must experience. It is Clint Eastwood and team’s great gift to the world. Writing in agreement with us from Colorado, USA, are colleagues Andy De Roche and wife Heather. “I … found your wonderful article on the movie Invictus. Heather and I saw it in December and we agree with you completely – it real is a classic.”

 And also writing in is our Sister Catherine Musola Kaseketi. Catherine read our column when she was out of Lusaka, travelling to film festivals in Holland and Canada to pick up awards for her screen productions “Suwilanji” and “Unreal Forest.”  Of the “Invictus” tale, she says, it is “a great piece.”

Sadly, although one would have thought the movie would show for long, at least to the end of February 2010 when the world is this month celebrating the twenty years of Nelson Mandela’s release from prison and the beginning of a new South Africa, “Invictus” has stopped showing at the Lusaka cinema place where many saw it.

One hopes other cinema places will show Invictus and that it will come back to Lusaka. The movie may have been made around the time it was so that it could time in with the twentieth anniversary being observed worldwide.

But the poem “Invictus” is a living one that can still inspire us long after its writing. In full, here is the poem “Invictus:”


 By William Ernest Henley

Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.

In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.

Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds and shall find me unafraid.

It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.

William Ernest Henley was faced with great physical suffering which did not defeat him.  I understand he wrote “Invictus” while in hospital suffering from TB.  Although later physically disabled after some amputation to treat TB of the bone, William Henley is said to have lived a full and active life.

 The message leads to:

 “I am the master of my fate:

I am the captain of my soul”

While many issues around us interact with us and shape our lives, the biggest factor in our experience and development is within us. Our response to events favourable or harsh affects our quality of life. The future and circumstances around us lie largely in our individual initiative and control.

We should not just be observers reacting and responding to what others are making but must be active participants in life. Each can initiate. Each person is important for the world. Each can make significant contributions to their own life and to others in society. Each person’s actions now affect others now, nearby and far, and in future generations.

Yes, we are makers, or masters, of our “fate.”  Whether it is health, material and financial situation, and even political issues, we greatly affect the direction of things.

Each should captain their soul. When faced by what appears heavy challenges, we sometimes forget we are designated captains of our souls. We sometimes lose control and end up reacting to what others are creating for us. Not performing our captain role, we become unhappy.

We may be enslaved by others, such as husbands, wives, partners, and employers, and situations, but when we become captains, we are able to free ourselves. By characteristic, we actually hold control over much of our circumstances.

Factors limiting us include fear and panic, anger, hatred, doubt, boastfulness, and other ways of over stretching ourselves. We sometimes fear our role as captain and what great things it can achieve. We abandon ship and become passengers in our own ship.

Yet sitting in the realisation that we are masters of our fate and captains of our souls, we can always captain our selves.  We can soar above challenges. With practice, we eventually settle into the captaincy seat and it is real. It is the way to be.

Once we align our self in the captain’s seat and role, we find adversaries melting away and have no negative effect on us. As we go to the captain’s seat, others may disturb us and slow us down. When we reach the captain’s seat, many challenges are thrown at us. But once in the captain’s seat, things become smooth. We glide over huge challenges.

We realise that as we try to reach one centre, the centre has a centre. So we must keep on growing and developing. Sitting in the realisation of “master of my fate” and “captain of my soul” insulates you and frees you from external aggression.

The captain has a compass. Soul has a compass. And direction. We must reclaim our roles as captains. Sometimes, other persons have hijacked us and we do not perform our role as captain. We forget we are well equipped and have various skills and resources within us. We may forget we have good experiences that can help us deal with what is facing us.

Of course, even if a vessel is designed or owned by another, the captain’s role is still to control and move the vehicle to a destination.  In effect, the captain, designer, and owner work together on the journey and purpose. Invictus is about us.

GCB – February 2010, Lusaka. This reflection posted December 10, 2013


Based in Lusaka, Zambia, the author is involved in writing, social development, and peace issues.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s