n African Journal of Rhetoric - A corpus-based critical discourse analysis of selected speeches of Nelson Mandela

Volume 7 Number 1
  • ISSN : 1998-2054


This paper examines the high frequency of certain lexical items, such as, African people, ANC, violence, Umkhonto, struggle, country policy and white in select speeches of Nelson Mandela as leader of the ANC and president of South Africa. A corpus-based method has been chosen for this study using Critical Discourse Analysis. In this article, I argue that these key words are imbued with African values based on Ubuntu philosophy. The keywords help frame Nelson Mandela as an example of servant-leadership and model for transformational leadership. Additionally, I suggest that these key terms configure Mandela as a fearless visionary, philosopher-king, strategist, champion of the oppressed and extraordinary human being, whose rare leadership qualities and action contributed significantly to the destruction of the apartheid regime in South Africa. This analysis reveals Mandela as a pro-people leader and performative exemplar of Ubuntu epistemology, whose summation is conceived thus: 'I am because WE are and, since we are, therefore I am' (Mbiti 1989: 141). The select speeches include: the Rivonia Trial speech at the Pretoria Supreme Court on April 20, 1964; his speech on 11 February, 1990 when he addressed a rally in Cape Town upon his release from prison; the speech he delivered at the launch of Mindset Network at the University of Witwatersrand on 16 July, 2003, and his poverty speech delivered in London at the Trafalgar Square on 3rd February, 2005.

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