Mandela: A Hero badly betrayed

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Mandela: A Hero badly betrayed

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Mandela: A Hero badly betrayed
Nelson Mandela

Nelson Mandela

I have cherished the ideal of democratic and free society in which all person’s live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is an ideal which I hope to live for and to achieve, but if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die.
 – Rolihlahla Nelson Mandela.

Because what we see about ourselves often influences what we do about ourselves, the role of images and the question of how they control our minds are more important now, in our media-saturated society, than ever before.
  Dr. John Henrik Clarke

I must tell you that many people around the world view your continued opposition to sanctions as founded on instinct, not logic and as displaying a misguided tribal loyalty and myopic political vision. The consequences of such perceptions are far-reaching for a country which has traditionally claimed the high ground of principle.

Not only does the mental laager of the Boer seem to be mirrored in your own attitudes, but his fatal concessions of too little, too late are  paralleled by your actions Those who seek to minimise sanctions and their effect will have the blood of thousands, if not millions, of innocents on their hands and on their consciences. My heart will be heavy but my hands will be clean. Will yours?

– Quote from Obasanjo letter to Margaret Thatcher

Finally the Great Rolihlahla Nelson Mandela left us and went home. On December 5, 2013, Madiba finished his long walk to freedom at his Johannesburg home. Mama Winnie Mandela shared with us the last moments she watched as life slowly ebbed away from the greatest Moral Force the world had seen in a very long time.

Her account was as evocative as it was poignant.

Madiba’s death put an end to months of rife speculations, and sometimes insane display of callous insensitivity by shameless officials and family members, intent on milking his name for all its commercial worth.

It was shameful for some of us to watch as the Great Freedom Fighter was hijacked by foundations and corporation that can never think beyond the bottom line.

It pains to see a Great Freedom Fighter for his people reduced to a pitiful puppet, rolled around to garner money and prestige for people with absolutely no sense of shame or history.

It must certainly be painful for the Great Icon to watch, helplessly, as he was dragooned and dragged around like a commercial mannequin. Even in death, corporate media do their best to reduce this highly complex of human beings into a one-dimensional transcendent myth of their creation.

Mandela must certainly be a happy man today wherever he is. Although Mama Winnie Mandela did not tell us, I can imagine his famous iconic beatific smile coming back to his face as he finally embarks on the last journey.

By any standard, Mandela lived a worthy and full life.

Madiba is gone. He paid prices few mortals will not pay; he paid his dues. He has joined the ancestors, may They forgive him his sins and welcome him with open arms.

It hurts somewhat to see those that refused to help when help was needed suddenly took center stage at Mandela’s funeral.

It offends the senses to see the president of the US waxing eloquent about the lessons he took from Mandela. We should ask our silver-tongued brother why he decided to become such a poor student.

The biggest lesson Mandela taught was FORGIVENESS. Yet the man who expanded his country’s Drone attacks to unheard-of proportions tells us, without any sense of shame or irony, that Mandela was his idol and hero.

How can Obama tell us, with a straight face, of his admiration for our departed leader, yet continue (escalated in some cases) with the policy of successive US government policy of pursuing enemies (real or imagined) unto death?

Hypocrisy does not even begin to define the spectacle of leaders who reduced human beings to collateral damages in pursuit of violence against enemies, waxing lyrical about his admiration for the world’s greatest Apostle of Peace?

Our elders say that Leopards do not change their spot. We see the evidence for lack of sincerity when few days after his effusive funeral eulogy at Mandela’s funeral, Obama ordered a Drone attack that killed fifteen innocent wedding-going guests in Yemen.

Few human being will go through what Mandela went through without bristling with bitterness. Yet, he invited his jailers to dinner and shared a Nobel Prize with one of apartheid’s strongmen.

Transforming hatred and bitterness into forgiveness and reconciliation is a feat most human beings are not equipped to perform; performing them with grace and humility is precisely what made Mandela great.

As an African patriot, I feel greatly outraged that while the president of the one country that, more than any other, supported and propped up the horrible apartheid regime, was made to deliver a largely-hypocritical eulogy, the president of Nigeria, a country that fully and totally supported the liberation of Mandela and South Africa was reduced to a mere spectator at the funeral.

In 1979 alone, the US vetoed three UN resolutions to condemn apartheid. In 1983, it vetoed a UN resolution that called for the elimination of apartheid. There were many more such resolutions.

Yet, US president stole the limelight at Mandela’s funeral!

In his book, Mandela revealed the financial backing he received from Africans when he launched the ANC armed struggle. This includes a #10,000 (mighty sums in those days) gift from the Sultan of Sokoto.

Obama’s invitation and the prominence given him show that we are yet to learn to get our priorities right in Africa.

Sadly, we again allowed foreigners to hijack our narratives. Once again we allowed foreigners to steal our history and heap insults on us.

We Africans must learn some very important lessons from the death of Mandela and all the eulogies (most of them hypocritical) heaped upon him.

First, we need to recognize hypocrisy when we see one.

It is necessary to deconstruct the vast hypocrisy the Western world display towards Mandela.

If a friend in need is a friend indeed, there is no basis whatever to take serious Western nations declaration of love.

Ok, let’s forgive them for supporting their kith and kin during apartheid. But how could Western leaders express love for Mandela when they failed to help him at the one critical area that would have made him an undisputed genuine hero to his [Black] people: the economy.

If Mandela had been helped to get about thirty, forty, fifty percent land-redistribution for the Africans deprived of their ancestral land, we won’t be having a debate of whether or not he was a hero or a sell-out.

Sadly, the Great Mandela made the same mistake our ancestors made in the past: crediting our enemies with the humanity and the spirituality they neither claim not deserve.

Mandela’s enemies could have helped him with counter-responses that would have helped him greatly. Rather than respond to his noble and very kind gestures, they chose instead to eat their cake and still keep it. They mistook his moral magnanimity for stupidity and his kindness for political imbecility.

They cynically took all he could offer without responding correspondingly to his kind gestures. They refused to meet him half- not even quarter way. They humiliated him by offering little more than hypocritical adulations made the more painful by their meaninglessness.

Today, those whom Mandela did all he could to reconcile still cling to the over 90% of African land their parents stole through the Native Land Act 1913 and the Native Trust Land Act of 1936.

To add insult to injury, Africans who fought to liberate their own country were roped in with criminal colonial oppressors at the nebulous Truth and Reconciliation Commission, and many of them, like Kenny Motsamai, remain in jail.

This macabre form of injustice could only happen in Africa. Nowhere else would people be jailed for fighting for their nation’s liberation.

True to type and history, the heirs of colonialism know only greed. They want a “rainbow nation.” But they want only one where they will keep the ill-gotten wealth their parents stole, while the majority Black people continue to live in abysmal poverty. They want a reconciled nation where the poor Blacks will reconcile themselves to their inferior status, and continue to live in inhuman conditions and watch the wealth of their country siphoned off by a small white elite.

Those that shed copious tears at Mandela’s funeral refused to help him when Mandela needed them the most. Rather they imposed a most egregious form of crony capitalism that ended up creating the world’s most unequal society.

Emasculated severely on the economic front, a genuine, militant hero who picked up the gun to fight for his people liberation, was reduced to an object of scorn by a large segment of his own people.

How callous!

The truth is that nowhere outside of Africa will Mandela be voted president.

Westerners, with their warrior mentality, will consider him a wimp.

Which brings us to the interesting question of exactly whose interests and what agendas those that promote Mandela as the Greatest African are promoting.

It is obviously an attempt to sell us the dummy that Mandela’s way should be the way for us in Africa.  They try to tell us that we should be happy because of peace and democracy and other abstractions and allow our resources to be siphoned off.

The hypocritical adulation of Mandela betrays the Western penchant to proclaim/promote its abstractions to the level of praxis. And these are abstraction the European himself refuse to abide by. We see example in Western Missionaries propounding ideals to which they do not submit. ‘Turn the other cheek,’ ‘the meek shall inherit the earth,’ ‘love your enemies,’ ‘forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those that trespass against us, etc.

These are ideals in which no European believe, but they have helped Europe greatly to conquer the world and stole most of its resources.

Secondly, we need to see through the agenda being pursued by this vastly sanctimonious expression of love for Mandela.

Why suddenly did they discover that the man they kept on their terrorist List until 2008 was, after all, such a good man?

It is interests, stupid.

Westerners do not make the mistake of not knowing what their interests are and pursuing by any means necessary. It is only those of us in Africa who appear bereft of that capacity.

It baffles the mind greatly that those who glorify Mandela failed to see the lie and the irony in their glowing tributes.

We are told that Mandela was great because he brought peace and reconciliation to a troubled nation.

But South Africa cannot be described as either peaceful or reconciled. It is mystifying that those that promote those ideas do not notice the vast irony in their claims.

Judging the Madiba on those two scores, he would be considered a monumental failure, as South Africa remain among the most violent in the world. The gulf between the rich and the poor has not only widened considerable, but the gulf between the races has never been wider.

South African Reconciliation Barometer – a survey of racial and social attitudes revealed the deep divisions that still exist in almost every social spheres in the country.

Between 2001 and 1011, the gap between the typical white-led households and their black counterparts increased from $17,000 to $30,000. The country’s census analysis show that black South Africans continue to trail in education with many of them having no education at all

Figures also show that a paltry 40% of South Africans socialize with people of another race. Twenty years after the demon of apartheid was supposedly ostracized, only 22% of white South Africans and a fifth of black South Africans live in racially integrated neighbourhoods. Apartheid refused to be banished even from schools as only 11% of white children go to integrated schools. The figure for black children is just 15%.

“I am an African patriot,” were the words of Nelson Mandela. Is that the same man they told us went to his ancestors a happy man, knowing fully well the conditions in which his [African] people continue to exist almost twenty years after they gained their nominal independence?

To be truthful, the reconciliation Mandela wrought was neither African nor European; maybe that explains why it is so difficult to understand.

While forgiveness and reconciliation are the twin-pillars of African traditional jurisprudence, those that committed crimes are made to show remorse and pay penance. Many Afrikaners remain unrepentant until tomorrow. European idea of justice is to exact maximum sanctions against transgressors. It is not in the nature of the European to forgive transgression without exacting retribution – it’s a justice system based on the principle of an ‘eye for an eye.’

The sanctimonious projection of ‘Peace and Reconciliation’ also serves to make Africans forget that colonialism and apartheid were military conquests and impositions, and also to undermine the will to fight against Euro-American aggressions.

As Africans, it is important not to forget that liberation were not given to us on a platter of silver.

The defeat of the expeditionary South African forces at the Battle of Cuito Cuanavale by combined Cuban and Angolan troops broke the invincibility of the Boers.

It hastened the efforts to seek political alternatives to an inevitable military confrontation which could only have ended in the defeat of the White. It was that defeat that finally woke the West up and led Chester Crocker to hasten his diplomatic overtures.

The Great Mandela himself acknowledge the decisive importance of that battle when on a visit to Cuba, he told the Cuban people that the FAPLA-Cuban success at Cuito and in Lubango was “a turning point for the liberation of our continent and my people as well as the Angolan civil war and the struggle for Namibian independence.”

We should be careful with eulogies. No one can take from Nelson Mandela those attributes that made him a special human being.

His kindness, generosity, and humanity are unparalleled in modern history. He left us with no other value-driven politicians.

But to tag him the greatest African of all times is not only ahistorical; it is pure sacrilege.

It is for those that declared Mandela the greatest African to tell us what exactly he did for the African continent that earned him that enviable title.

He is undoubtedly the greatest South African, but to call him the greatest African is an egregious insult to us and our history.

Mandela was undoubtedly a giant Moral voice in the world, but it was a voice that was missing in championing the cause of the continent. He could have used his considerable moral authority to bang heads together to speed up the unification process on the continent. He could have used his influence with his friends in western capitals to stop their corporations from the obscene rape of our resources at thieving prices. The loud voice of the Great Mandela was conspicuously silent when bands of xenophobic compatriot of his descended on fellow Africans with lynching intentions.

It is also somewhat strange that the Great Mandela made absolutely no plan to concretely acknowledge the great contribution the Frontline States made for his emancipation and the independence of his country.

The result today is that Europeans have an easier time entering South Africa than Africans. And they [Europeans] are not objects of xenophobic attacks in the land their kith and kin did so much to despoil.

Unlike the Great Kwame Nkrumah, Mandela did not link his freedom and his nation’s independence to the future of Africa.

That explains why the logic that informed South Africa, together with Nigeria, decision to support the UN resolution NATO used to kill Muammar Gadhafi, remains unfathomable unto this day.

Although Madiba told the world that amnesty should not be confused with amnesia, South Africans very easily seem to have forgotten that many Africans and African nations pay an enormous price to secure their liberation.

He did not do these things and yet we must accept that he was our greatest leader.

We do not speak ill of our dead, but it behooves us to set records straight, lest we are condemned to buy into the lie of those that try to force THEIR version of OUR history on us.

Mandela was undoubtedly great, but it is not for me, or for anyone, to rank him above great men and woman like Mangaliso Sobukwe, Albert Lithuli, Walter Sisulu, Oliver Thambo, Zephania Mothopeng, Nyati Pokela, Govan Mbeki, Joe and Ruth Slovo, Winnie Mandela, Chris Hani, Steve Bantu Biko, and Jafta Masemola.

We Africans do not nor do ourselves any favour if, in our adulation of our recently departed leader, we forget these giants one of whom the apartheid regime had a special law called “Sobukwe Clause,” which allowed the regime to imprison him on Robben Island without even a trial. I talked of Mangaliso Subukwe.

And let no one replace our history with plain hagiography. By whatever yardstick we use to measure the single person that championed the cause of the whole Africa, Kwame Nkrumah towered far above any person.

No, this was not my opinion; Africans, in a poll conducted by the BBC, voted him the African of the Millennium.

We Africans should reject any attempt to whitewash our history and attempts to choose for us who our great heroes should be.

My favourite Mandela’s quote:

Mayibuye iAfrika! Amandla ngawethu! / Africa must return to its people, the power is in our hands.
It is no use to talk about democracy and stability when people cannot put food in their stomachs.
Poverty is not an accident. Like slavery and apartheid, it is man-made and can be removed by the actions of human beings.

So, Prisoner no. 46664 finally left us. Sun re o, Baba Mandela / Tata Mandela Rest in Peace.

Nelson Mandela2

Nelson Mandela2


About the Author

Femi Akomolafe is a passionate Pan-Africanist. A columnist for the Accra-based Daily Dispatch newspaper and ModernGhana, and Correspondent for the New African magazine, Femi lives in both Europe and Africa and writes regularly on Africa-related issues for various newspapers and magazines.

Femi was the producer of the FOCUS ON AFRICANS TV Interview programme for the MultiTV Station.

He is also the Man and Machine Coordinator at Alaye Dot Biz Limited, a Kasoa-based Multimedia organization that specializes in Audio and Video Production. He loves to shoot and edit video documentaries.

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