“South Africa has high unemployment and a wide gap between rich and poor. What has Mandela really done for South Africa?” they asked.
Nelson Mandela’s primary mission was the removal of apartheid. “I have fought against white domination. I have fought against black domination.”
Those were the words of Mandela before he went onto that diabolical rock called Robben Island, a name that ironically implies sandy beaches, rustling palm trees and drinks served in dug-out coconuts. Refusing to compromise on his ideals, Mandela remained on that rock for 27 years.
He was educated, a lawyer by profession, and could have easily accepted the terms offered to him by the apartheid government and gone into exile to practice law. But he put his country’s needs ahead of his own and remained resolute, and his steadfastness became an inspiration for those outside waging the struggle, umzabalazo. These were people using homemade bombs and improvised guns against a well equipped security force. They needed a miracle to give them mental fortitude and it came in the form of their leader, Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela.
Those bent on chipping away with their chisels of jealousy at the reputation of a great man will say Mandela is a Western-made icon. Mandela was a hero to his people and to the continent long before the West rushed with cameras to capture the famous photograph of Mandela emerging into the world after 27 years of imprisonment. The people cheering as he walked hand in hand with Winnie were not Americans. Those were South Africans. The lyrics to Hugh Masekela’s Bring Back Nelson Mandela and Brenda Fassie’s Black President are not credited to Elton John or Kenny Rogers. Those were the cries of Mandela’s own people.
We should not forget that South Africa was in isolation and their people knew little about what went on outside their borders. I recall in 1994 when South Africa’s Bafana Bafana played against Zimbabwe’s Warriors at the National Sports Stadium, that famous game in which Zimbabwe won 4-1, Doctor Khumalo and his teammates came onto the field dressed in little football shorts whose tightness must have cut off the blood supply to their legs. Their kit was still in the ‘80s style. There was no satellite TV – that came after South Africa’s independence.
Mandela – along with Walter Sisulu, Steve Biko and Oliver Tambo – was a hero to them, even before Western media took pictures of him and decades before Britain put a statue of him in London.
Here at home, Zanu (PF) has constantly claimed that the MDC is a British invention, in order to paint the opposition with the same brush and same colours of “the imperialist oppressor”. It is convenient for Zanu (PF) to do that and, sadly, their rhetoric has not gone unnoticed. A lot of young African people, those who are not familiar with the history of the country – the mysterious deaths of Robert Mugabe’s rivals and even his own friends, the torture of civilians, the partisan men in key positions of police and voter registry and not least the mass murders of the 1980s in Matebeleland – have come to sympathise with Mugabe.
It is convenient for Zanu (PF) to connect the opposition parties to Western oppression, the Western agenda for regime change and the Western hunger for our abundant natural resources, yet the oppression in Zimbabwe is led by Mugabe himself, the wish for regime change is held by locals – over 50 per cent of the Zimbabwean, not British, electorate voted Mugabe out in 2008 but he clawed his way back into power before that farcical run-off election. And the only looters of our wealth are Zanu (PF) cronies and the so-called all weather friend, China, whose people quietly plunder not only our minerals but also the animals in our game parks.
The reasonable man or woman will ask: “But why is the Mandela name being attacked by Zanu (PF)?” The answer is simple: jealousy and guilt. Zanu (PF), through their bootlicking journalists, have labelled Mandela a coward and sell-out of the African cause.
Mandela’s mission was the removal of an oppressive and separatist system called apartheid. The ‘whites only’ signs that were a characteristic of public buildings have gone. The war between black and white has ended. His mission is accomplished. Mandela graciously stepped down after one presidential term – something Mugabe and other dictators have failed to do – to pass the torch to younger South Africans, giving them the opportunity to lead the country towards development.
The survival of any species is dependent upon renewal, reinvigoration. Mandela was mindful of that fact.
Leaving their looted land uncultivated, Zanu (PF) apologists instead sow the seed of racial disharmony – if not also watering and fertilising it – by suggesting that Mandela should have taken the wealth from whites.
Nelson Mandela’s mission was equality. It was not to drive the white people out, in the style of Uganda’s Idi Amin. Whites still control the wealth in South Africa but such economic imbalances were built over centuries. The Dutch arrived at the Cape in 1652. To expect one man, even the great Nelson Mandela, to rectify that in a five-year presidential term is both naive and unfair.
Mandela was no fool. He realised that working together was more sensible than expelling the whites from South Africa or seizing mines and farms, in the manner of Zanu (PF) in 2000. It should be born in mind that, at independence, black South Africans did not have the education or the experience to take over commerce. It makes no sense to remove a qualified person from a job to install an under-qualified replacement, purely on the grounds of skin colour. South Africa’s approach was one of a pragmatic and gradual balancing out of wealth, rather than the chaotic revolution that has caused starvation in our own country.
Blacks heavily outnumber whites and the laws of probability suggest that, over time, a natural balancing out of wealth (augmented by the country’s BEE policy) will occur.
Zanu (PF) will point to sanctions, yet it is clear that even areas where sanctions are not an issue, the method of seizing wealth has failed. It was Zanu (PF) – not British sanctions – that placed the majority of arable land in the hands of lazy and incompetent weekend farmers.
Looking back to independence, in 1980, Mugabe’s policy was identical to that taken by Mandela: “Let us beat our weapons into plough shares”. Mugabe only resorted to a militant approach in the face of opposition. The land reform was not a people-centred move but merely a strategy for political survival. Mandela did not have to employ such drastic measures because he was not under fire, like Mugabe in 2000.
What has Mandela really done? Let the South Africans judge that. But whatever his legacy, Mandela has gone to meet his ancestors without the blood of thousands of innocent Ndebele people on his conscience.
All Mandela did was fight to unite a people that were divided on racial lines. There is no record of Nelson Mandela holding himself up as the ideal African leader. It is the collective guilt-ridden conscience of Zanu (PF) that causes them to lash out at the grave of a man even before it is dug. Zanu (PF)’s lickspittles, fattened by bribes and hush-money, should be ashamed of themselves. This is a time for mourning and for reflection, during which we should ask ourselves what we can do to continue the dreams of Nelson Mandela, rather than desecrating the honour of Africa’s greatest son.
RIP Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela
My pen is capped.Post published in: Opinions & Analysis