My Opinion:Sumayya Omar,
Head of Politics, South Africa and International Affairs
10- 12- 2013
The death of Former President Mandela and the subliminal looming election banner “Vote ANC, Do it For Mandela”
“Death is something inevitable. When a man has done what he considers to be his duty to his people and his country, he can rest in peace. I believe I have made that effort and that is, therefore, why i sleep for the eternity”- Nelson Mandela
His magically slow, husky and rather entertaining voice which we all try to impersonate will be echoed in eternity. Mabiba shirts will become a worldwide trend, the Madiba dance (of the slow arm movements) will become part of South African Youth moves. History books in the world will be rewritten but most importantly generations will be born and reborn, inebriated with the spirit of Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela.
When mourning the death of former president Nelson Mandela, do not mourn only for his death. Realise through Mandela’s death the other unspoken and forgotten leaders, realise that Mandela was amongst those great leaders who awoke their people for the call of the forward march against white domination. Friends all, mourn the fact that he was the last cadre of his generational leadership who stood in the forefront, regardless of the concrete walls and chains that surrounded him for 27 years. His death signals a closure for those colossal generational leaders and leadership of his time who actively fought against the apartheid regime.
I have attended many protests in South Africa and especially in Gauteng where majority of the chants of the struggle that are sung at these various protest are hardly ever about Nelson Mandela. After many protest (chants) about Oliver Tambo, Chris Hani, Steve Biko, capitalism, socialism, I had addressed a comrade and questioned why masses hardly sing about Tata. She replied and said that whilst he was the leader of the struggle, he was imprisoned and away. Thus actively on the ground it was leaders like Oliver Tambo, Steve Biko, and Walter Sisulu etc. who continuously joined the ranks of the struggle and fought amongst the masses against the system. Those were the leaders who not only visited and resided in the Bantustans where the system had repressed them but these leaders had addressed the masses and continuously restored hope.
This is why there are more songs sung about them rather than Mandela - but the masses never lost hope in Mandela as they knew that whilst Winnie was leading a militant struggle he would eventually bring freedom, justice and equality.
Tata Mandela is their saviour and hero. A man who unapologetically, through a negotiated process, had created and led for a condition that would be a South Africa, for the people of South Africa. It was often his ability to listen to the apartheid government with simplistic demand that the way forward, would be a peaceful, democratic and cohesive transition; which crushed the buffer zones and barriers between the reality of the blacks, the reality of whites and the reality of the world on South Africa. It was his functional words and actions that made us humans realise that you and I, black man and white man can live together.
Apartheid has made us conscious about our physical appearance and colour but for all of us we cannot deny that we have come into a warm and embracing South Africa regardless of our social ills. People expected many things after apartheid, the expectation of eradication of inequality of class, race, and gender. Worryingly somehow South Africa is experiencing a deficit in ‘unity of leadership and purpose’. For one, we cannot say that we don’t inculcate unity of leadership and purpose because we are still a learning infant democracy.
Today is the fourth day of the 10 days mourning period of Comrade Nelson Mandela as well as the official mourning day. Our comrades are on the streets mourning the death of Nelson Mandela, reminiscing the days Madiba stood up on those same streets advocating for freedom, justice and equality. There are others who have written articles and made statements about his death; in doing so highlighting his symbolic meaning, creating the perfect picture and colouring the faultless description of Mandela by the tributes and actions they are paying to him.
In my view, what more can be said about Nelson Mandela? No man, no country, nor any statesmen can tell you about your leader. We have all met Mandela, because we are living in a country that he has fought for and perceived through his eyes the dreams and vision of South Africa that is in peace with itself. No individualistic view about Tata is more important than yours because we have all subjectively experienced and related to Tata to our own selves! But collectively those views are ample enough to write a biography of Mandela by all peoples of the world who have been touched by him, which is to be archived in all libraries of the world- serving as the engine for his legacy to be echoed in eternity.
In 1993 the world and South Africa bided farewell to two great men of the struggle. The first being a man which Nelson Mandela referred to as one of the greatest ‘giants’ who walked the globe, a globe inherited with hatred that is learned from both World Wars and the Cold War and continuation of minority rule over a majority people, regardless of entering a new era of human security. That year we said: “Hamba Kahle People’s Leader” in which Nelson Mandela delivered a speech at Comrade Oliver Reginald Tambo’s (1917-1993) funeral. Mandela said: “We say he has departed. But can we allow him to depart while we live!” So peoples of the world, I ask you , can we allow Tata to depart the soil of this earth as well as the heart of ourselves until the ideals of a peaceful, just, transparent and equal South Africa, Africa, Palestine and the World is realised?
The other great man of the struggle, the revolutionary and internationalist commander, who was assassinated in 1993, was comrade Chris Hani. At his funeral Mandela said:” The struggle is far from over. You are our soldiers of peace, our army for the elections that will transform this country. Go back to your homes, your regions, and organise as never before. Together, we are invincible. That is how we will pay the greatest tribute we can to Chris Hani freedom in South Africa. Let Chris Hani live on through all of us”. Thus being dubbed by Mandela as the armies of South Africa with a transformative nature and it being less than five months until the 5th General Elections; have we transformed South Africa along the lines of ‘development as freedom’, not only employing our political freedoms or ensuring political equality of the notion ‘one man, one vote’ but rather as armies have we strived towards socioeconomic freedoms? Championing the issues of the working class movement and fighting for development of the underdeveloped?
In 2003 again the world and South Africa bided farewell to one of the dedicated anti-apartheid leaders, comrade Walter Sisulu. At Walter Sisulu’s funeral, Nelson Mandela described him as the “spear of the nation”. He said: “The spear of the nation has fallen... let us pick up the spear, to build a country after the example that Walter Sisulu has set for us.” This year Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe delivered a memorial lecture on the life of Walter Sisulu at the University of South Africa, in May. He highlighted the strides of Walter Sisulu in advocating for education throughout the struggle speared through the platform of the South African Student Congress. Comrade Motlanthe said:” He knew that education was not only the means to rise in the world but one of the most potent weapons in the struggle for equality”. So peoples of the world, I ask you, how much have we dedicated to educate the poor, marginalised and under-privileged to create an equal society? We cannot bid farewell to Walter Sisulu because we are far from reaching equilibrium in education for all.
10 years later, on the 05 of December 2013, we have begun to bid farewell to a Nelson Mandela. A man who openly criticised and condemned presidents for their employment of violence to bring a peaceful solution, yet these statesmen will be attending his Funeral i.e. Former President George Bush.
Whilst leadership cannot be concretely defined as containing specific traits, values and skills, good leadership is dependent on the social, political and economic context of the time and goals of a collective rather than the leader himself. For Mandela it was realising the pleading of his people as a leader (before and during imprisonment) through his comprehensive speech and patience, the ideal of a South Africa for all as a non-racist and non-sexist society and the goal to destroy the apartheid regime.
Nevertheless South Africa is alive as a rainbow nation because Mandela along with the generational leaders and founders of the ANCYL had surrendered and dedicated their life to human solidarity, reconciliation and truth. We are alive because it was comrade Mandela who had not incited revenge on the white people of South Africa – he preached that we should hate the system rather than hating on colour.
So in 2013, a year before we collectively reach 20 years of democracy – the body of Nelson Mandela has died but his legacy and spirit lives on. I, for one, am concerned about our President Jacob Zuma’s speech at his Funeral. President Zuma (being only the second president after Nelson Mandela) under his leadership in a democratic has had the highest corruption levels, controversies i.e. State information Bill/ E-toll law and is slowly ensuring a decline in public confidence in the ANC.
In addition, bringing in an awkward twist to the solemn mood, we question already if he would have the audacity during the run up of the next election to deploy the idea that his cadres should encourage voters to vote for the ANC under the banner” Vote ANC, Do it for Mandela”.
Frantz Fanon concludes the leadership of today: “During the struggle for liberation the leader awakened the people and promised them a forward march, heroic and unmitigated. Today, he uses every means to put them to sleep, and three or four times a year asks them to remember the colonial period and to look back on the long way they have come since then”
It would suffice to say that Nelson Mandela’s life was led for us to learn from, he led by an example. In 1999 he didn’t run for a second term in office, this is an example for African leaders that tyranny cannot be bestowed upon the country and her countrymen after the struggle of independence has been accomplished.
South Africans once again will need time to reconcile, face the truth and justly mourn their Former President’s Death. Being servants to the cause of justice, freedom and equality- we have a duty to realise that if we cannot learn from Mandela, or respect the past then how will we be able to build a South Africa which our historic leaders have fought for?
We cannot create another Mandela but what we can do is draw from his strengths and critically identify his weaknesses to create “transformative leadership” that will eventually ensure, for example, unity of purpose. We must acknowledge the turning point and the greatest teaching of Mandela is that he brought blacks and whites on the same foothold. For the ANC, Nelson Mandela’s death should be the reason for introspection and a catharsis. It should serve as a subliminal message that democracy and the South Africa that Mandela envisioned is slipping under their personality based leadership and internal political feuds.
OPINION PIECE BY Sumayya Omar : MSA UNION Head of Politics, South African & International Affairs