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Any person who makes everyone happy is not real, and the Mandela that does so is not the real Mandela but the one the world has constructed, removing the parts of the man some people did not like.
Many use this Mandela to project themselves as real defenders of his legacy while not living according to his values and disregarding what he stood for.
Like hypocrites in religion, they only extract what makes them happy from Mandela and disregard the rest.
It is an image of a very liberal Nelson Mandela who expected South Africa to be perfect within a very short space of time.
It’s an image of a man who is a messiah, who delivered freedom and democracy to South Africa single handedly.
This cropped out image of Mandela from the real one is ingrained in the minds of those who resist transformation and economic freedom of black people Mandela fought for.
These anti-transformation, anti-justice and very ignorant people use this image to protect what they have.
They easily tell people to “get over apartheid” which Mandela spent his life fighting against.
Any op-ed piece about Nelson Mandela that doesn’t take on the usual peace-loving, always smiling, ‘Rainbow Nation’ messiah format will undoubtedly be met with great criticism and anger from those who were sold and bought into this image of the late anti-apartheid leader and human rights activist (seriously, just read the comments under the article).
But the fact of the matter remains that Mandela did not become a pivotal anti-apartheid figure by establishing himself as everyone’s favourite docile father-figure. From with his early days as a lawyer and later with the African National Congress (ANC), Mandela was a radical who was deemed a terrorist by the West and co-founded the armed wing of the ANC, Umkhonto we Sizwe (Zulu for ‘spear of the nation/people’). During and after his time spent incarcerated on Robben Island, Mandela made many statements that would not sit well with many who in turn seem to calculatedly omit when reflecting on the importance of Madiba’s legacy.
This is not to say that we cannot or should not refer to Mandela’s social and political views and policies when analyzing the current state of the ANC. It’s clear that in many ways, the current ruling party has failed to deliver on promises made as far back s the 1990s. The danger lies when people use Mandela’s words against each other, for their own gain, or as a means of erasure. Citing the term ‘rainbow nation’ as a case for why affirmative action is irrelevant (because apartheid is over and we’re all equal now) is not only ignorant but spits in the face of justice and true reform.
Too often, leaders not from the West are often cast in one-dimensional roles that make them out to either be heroes or villains with no in-betweens when we know that history and politics are always exceptionally complex.
As Hasane so aptly puts it, there’s a difference between ‘getting over apartheid’, and forgiving as a necessary part of the healing process but in no way forgetting the atrocities and injustices of the past. We’d also do well to remember that Mandela was no saint, nor was he perfect in any way. There is no single Mandela story.