"Don’t call me, I’ll call you" (Reuters, Guardian) It seems the Old Man Africa has finally finally retired at 86. I remember the day he was released, standing outside the South African high commission in Trafalgar Sq London with two of my friends from Zimbabwe, singing dancing laughing crying – after all those marches, vigils & boycotts was this really happening? What hopes we had then, dreams of a new Africa, a revolutionary Africa with Nelson and Winnie at the helm. Did we expect too much too soon?.
My God we waited so long for a liberated Africa with visionary and radical leaders. The Dream died, first Winnie (the radical element) who despite everything, a woman of courage, strength, and more than anyone, a woman of the people. Then the sell offs and buy outs, otherwise known as the "weakening stage" – capitalism must be upheld no matter what, leaders loose touch with their constituencies, seduced by power and in Papa’s case an unholy worship by the white media, western leaders and ignored by fellow African leaders. They even managed to get rid of his wife. When he has stood up for an African or Black cause these same media and leaders have ignored his pleas for sanity. Abacha in the case of Ken Saro-Wiwa; US in the case against war in Afghanistan and Iraq. Burundi, Zimbabwe….
The problem with Mandela and Mandelaism is he/ it has been hijacked by white liberals, the white media, white leaders – hijacked by whiteness subjected to the white gaze. They love him and that worries me greatly. Why do whites love him so much? First of all obviously he has an aura and presence, is charming and sincere. But he is also non-threatening. Unlike Winnie, he forgave his jailers, his oppressors. He has absolved all white people of guilt with his lack of anger and bitterness. And of course white people love anyone that absolves them of their past, that doesn’t shove it in their face. Doesn’t stand up like Mbeki and question the existence of AIDS and HIV as presented by the West, thereby questioning the very essence of white supremacy: Scientific knowledge.
Mandela was and is at the centre of campaign to end Apartheid particularly in the later years. He gave his whole adult life to the struggle and in the end he succeeded through his perseverance and refusal to budge from his position whilst in jail. There were others in the ANC and PAC who were available to lead the country in its new found freedom. However once released and once apartheid had been dismantled Mandela became an easy option for the white establishment and for us Blacks too so overwhelmed were we by the fact that our leader and hero was finally out of jail and apartheid was in the throes of death. Some of us saw the writing on the wall but we dared not speak the unspeakable, the sacrilege that we had to change the script.
Nevertheless Nelson Mandela has always had and always will have our greatest respect. Happy retirement Papa.
A Long Walk to Freedom: Nelson Mandela
In the words of Nelson Mandela
Letters from Robben Island: A Selection of Ahmed Kathrada’s Prison Correspondence 1964-1989
I write what I like: Steven Biko
The testimony of Steve Biko
Bounds of Possibility: Legacy of Steve Biko and Black Consciousness
~B. Pityana (Editor), et al (Editor)