Thursday, March 11, 2010

Debating Mandela

What is the real legacy of Nelson Mandela? Is he beyond reproach?

It is time that South Africans and others interrogate the legacy of Nelson Mandela.

It is not helpful to just gloss over his towering presence in South African politics.

His ex-wife, Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, has raised a storm by openly criticizing Mandela for "betraying" blacks and getting too friendly with the likes of the last apartheid president, F.W. de Klerk.

Winnie is reported to have said in part:
'You all must realise that Mandela was not the only man who suffered. There were many others, hundreds who languished in prison and died.

'Mandela did go to prison and he went in there as a young revolutionary but look what came out.

'Mandela let us down. He agreed to a bad deal for the blacks. Economically we are still on the outside. The economy is very much "white".
She is right for reminding us that Mandela is not the central figure in the anti-apartheid struggle.

Folks like Anton Lembede, Robert Sobukwe, Steve Biko, Chris Hani, among others, are sidelined by the focus on all things Mandela.

Mandela's legacy must be opened to a more honest critique. Winnie should, therefore, not be maligned for calling him on what she sees and knows.

The rest of the story lies too glossed over in the official fairytale that the ruling African National Congress (ANC) wants to project.

We could start by questioning Mandela's association with that genocidal maniac, Cecil John Rhodes in the Mandela Rhodes Foundation.

Then there is the support for the late Indonesian strongman, Suharto.

The overarching point of debating Mandela is not to deride his contributions. The point is to make the story(s) more complex.

Complexity would necessarily include removing the untouchable saintliness of Mandela and subjecting his legacy to a more real and vigorous interpretation.

I am no fan of Winnie but on this call she is on-track.


Image Credit

UPDATE (March 12): Winne Madikizela-Mandela has issued a statement denying that she made the comments above.

Winnie says in part:
"I did not give Ms Naipul any interview. Any further questions about the content of that fictitious interview should be addressed to her."
I guess asking her directly would be out of the question.

Is there no end to the duplicity that is Winnie?

I should have known.

Nonetheless, I stand by my view that Mandela's legacy must be interrogated against the backdrop of a fuller appreciation of the struggle against apartheid.

Below is a picture of Nadira Naipul (who wrote the story) and her husband, VS Naipaul the famous author, and Winnie. The picture can be viewed at the London Evening Standard where Nadira Naipul's interview/article first appeared.

Go figure hey. Winnie most likely said what she said and never thought that it would appear in print.

You make the call. But anyway you slice it Winnie is in the Pooh again. ;)


Eugene said...

It is so true of so many seen as heroic. It is good to take in the whole, but most people do not like doing that. So many folks are sidelined and folks like Mandela are used to quiet the revolutionary spirit in the people who desire to truly be free on this earth. It happens everywhere. It is a pattern that should be looked at, taken as a whole, and the information used to continue the struggle for freedom and equality in a world that is about to fall apart. Weird.

Ridwan said...

Excellent points Eugene. We are growing complacent in S. Africa.

Part of that complacency is the tendency to just gloss over the larger complexity.

The history is thus lopsided in the favor of the rulers, as usual.

Peace brother,