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OPINION: Vilifying Madiba tarnishes our heritage


Short of crucifying himself, Madiba could do nothing to prove his commitment to South Africa.

Judging by the cavalier remarks about the sell-out Nelson Mandela was, which commonly climax around July 18th - his birthday - we prove that in Africa, “prophets are never welcomed in their home town”, as Jesus said.

Zenani Mandela-Dlamini specks at Mandela Library Project event for a handover of books about life of Nelson Mandela at Crown Mines Primary School. Picture: Dimpho Maja/African News Agency (ANA)

For me, the crunch came on July 17, 2012, when someone identified as “Youngster” wrote a scathing letter to Madiba, who apparently “sold us as black nation for a Nobel Peace Prize” and birthed “our constitution hailed as the best in the world” which “favours the Caucasians while it oppresses the Africans.”

There is no gainsaying our racially skewed economy. African and coloured young men, like “Youngster”, are most prone to crime and imprisonment due to lack of opportunity. Our constitution protects property rights, which coincidentally suits the interests of white over black South Africans.

That was the outcome of the lobbying of rich white people prior to 1994. The face of poverty, disease and disenfranchisement is overwhelmingly black, and our negotiated settlement of 1994 was far from perfect. However, blaming everything on Madiba as if he elected himself, negotiated the new dispensation by himself and ran the first democratic government solo is disingenuous and ungrateful.

Granted, we have not delivered quality education since 1994; our institutions crumbled under narrow political and business interests; we looked on while corruption wolfed down resources meant for social services, and sang along at rallies without translating our slogans and policies into measurable deliverables. Our critics were branded reactionaries or counter-revolutionaries.

We brazenly declared that there was nothing wrong with black people becoming filthy rich, when a sober assessment of narrow Black Economic Empowerment (BEE) policies was called for.

Tenderpreneurs - mainly fronts with nothing other than political connections - ravaged public procurement expenditure through overpricing and fruitless spending. Pleas from the grassroots and true, skilled entrepreneurs, to better manage economic transformation were rebuffed.

When unqualified and corrupt or gullible cadres were posted to positions of authority and power, we defended them. We cast those critical of malfeasance as being anti-black.

It took the ANC’s own ‘enfant terrible’ Julius Malema and his red-overalls chanting “pay back the money” and persistent credit downgrades, and the whole Constitutional Court to stop the rot, which dates way back before Polokwane 2007.

One can suppose that Madiba presided over all this decay. Yes, he in his old age - most likely aided by his wife and children - conspired to depreciate the new South Africa.

We, Africans, kill, exile or suppress our most talented and enterprising. Wangari Maathai, Nobel Prize winner and founder of the Green Belt Movement, was vilified in her native country of Kenya.

Thomas Sankara, that upright leader of Burkina Faso, was assassinated at 38. The first prime minister of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Patrice Lumumba, was deposed and killed before his 36th birthday; the DRC has been a catastrophe since. Amilcar Cabral, Kwame Nkrumah, Steve Biko, Griffiths and Victoria Mxenge were also “eaten” by their own.

Iman and Alek Wek would surely not have become international supermodels had they stayed in their home countries of Somalia and South Sudan, respectively.

In having Madiba’s name and memory bedraggled by our constant suggestion that he betrayed us, we devalue our own heritage. Even if he had not insisted that he was neither a saint nor a hero it would nevertheless be ungrateful not to let him rest in peace. Like spoiled children, instead of building on what he gave us, we punch holes into his legacy.

Why not just blame him for our child abuse and femicide, as well! Or indict him posthumously for Mark Scott-Crossley feeding his worker to the lion - or Steinhoff.

It is time we took responsibility for improving our lot, instead of tarnishing the legacy of our icons, who never claimed to be perfect.

* Kgomoeswana is the author of Africa is Open for Business, media commentator and public speaker on African business affairs, and a columnist for Destiny Man - Twitter Handle: @VictorAfrica



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