Desmond Tutu, the chairperson to South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission gave early warning on the dangers of the world’s hero worshipping of South Africa’s first post apartheid President Nelson Mandela. Tutu feared it would shadow the new South Africa’s many colossal problems.
Mandela humbly believed he “was not a messiah, but an ordinary man who had become a leader because of extraordinary circumstances.”
Those “extraordinary circumstances” have, two decades into freedom, found South Africa a country shaped by an era of “Madiba Magic”.
Madiba’s ‘Magic’ has been orchestrated by white/international capital to retain their “extraordinary circumstances” of economic privilege in post apartheid South Africa.
The name of Mandela has been a wand in the hands of white capital, used to isolate and numb a black democratic majority from any pursuit for economic emancipation.
Brandishing Mandela’s legacy of peace and reconciliation, white capital has kept black South Africa from any attempt at effectively remedying the economic effects of the transition terms that reassured the white minority and guaranteed their economic privilege.
Those that dare challenge the economic realities of the black majority have been vindictively discredited. Their advocacy for the majority’s economic aspirations has been weighed negatively against white capital’s patronising scale of an exemplary Nelson Mandela.
The vilification of Julius Malema, once an ANC youth leader, for advocating nationalisation of South Africa’s economy ignored the fact that he echoed principles held dear by a Mandela of the liberation struggle enunciated in the Freedom Charter of 1955, now left to gather dust in post apartheid South Africa.
President Mandela had reassured a new South Africa that: “We enter into a covenant that we shall build a society in which all South Africans, both black and white, will be able to walk tall, assured of their inalienable right to human dignity — a rainbow nation at peace with itself and the world.”
Yet with his death on December 5, 2013 such “a rainbow nation at peace with itself” eludes a South Africa whose reality has seen a skewed socio-economic landscape shaped by apartheid’s discriminatory economic system.
It is a South Africa Mandela’s then Vice President Thabo Mbeki defined in 1998, as constituting “two nations, the one black and the other white”, the white nation being relatively prosperous while the second and larger nation of black South Africa is poor and living in a grossly underdeveloped economy.
A decade later, in 2008, blacks, accounting for 79 percent of the population captured only 44 percent of national income and 41 percent of total expenditure; whites who account for only 9.2 percent of the population captured 40.3 percent of income and 40.9 percent of total expenditure. The 2011 census revealed that the income of white South African households was six times higher than that of blacks.
Such are the colossal problems inherited from an apartheid system against which the majority now occasionally mounts protest. They are met by an ANC government unleashing lethal force against a majority who see a struggle betrayed. It is a South Africa far from reconciled.
Impoverished black majority see Economic Freedom Fighters as a viable alternative to an ANC failing on “deliver to the poorest of the poor”.
With Nelson Mandela’s death Malema commits the Economic Freedom Fighters to “fulfil where President Madiba left”, to pick up the spear and continue the struggle for total emancipation.
Economic Freedom Fighters amplify the voice of South Africa’s democratic majority above white capital’s self serving trumpeting of Mandela’s legacy of peace and reconciliation. Peace and reconciliation were never understood to be an end in themselves when the majority rallied behind Mandela and the ANC during the anti-apartheid struggle.
Mandela turned the other cheek of a black majority preferring justice after decades of apartheid’s dispossession. They endured a Truth and Reconciliation Commission which, for all its reference to ubuntu, forgot reconciliation through an act of restoration reparation for loss inflicted and suffered.
At the time, Mandela’s Vice President Thabo Mbeki had warned, to deaf ears, that: “You cannot have real reconciliation of a lasting kind if you don’t have a fundamental transformation of society. You have to de-racialise. It is a painful process.”
Today the whispers among Mandela’s people chill the aura of the man white capital crafted into a towering buffer above their economic aspirations.
Mandela’s case is one of a hero besieged upon his homecoming; whose legacy was abducted and he was held hostage to serve the economic interests of white capital.
In July 2013 Mandela’s daughter Dr. Makaziwe Mandela told NewAfrica, “We appreciate that the world made Mandela. But, Mandela and his legacy, is African first.
His face appears on the Rand, gold coins and in so many places with benefits channelled into the unknown.”
At Nelson Mandela’s funeral South Africa’s President Jacob Zuma gave a most fitting eulogy, that Mandela “shall remain our guiding light illuminating the path as we continue the long journey to build the South Africa of your dreams.”
On February 1985, when the apartheid regime sought to entice Nelson Mandela with a conditioned release, he rejected this saying he could not accept freedom while his people were not free. He sent message to his people that “your freedom and mine cannot be separated, I will return”.
Yet when he did return as president, Mandela’s envisioned South Africa was condemned to a stillbirth by white capital’s suffocating hold on his legacy.
America’s own first black president, Barak Obama, could not pass the opportunity at Mandela’s memorial to assert white capital’s interests against African leaders pursuing democracy which contradicted the version crafted for post apartheid South Africa to maintain the economic status quo.
Obama sought to taint leaders such as Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe. Yet the Western leaders and Hollywood consultants of white capital gathered like vultures at Mandela’s memorial service could not accept the fact that Zimbabwe is 13 years ahead of a South Africa still shackled by apartheid’s discriminatory economic system.
In our 20th year, in 2000, Zimbabwe was embarking on an intensive land reform programme as President Mugabe heeded his people’s aspirations above any overtures by white capital. Thirteen years on, with 245 000 households now benefiting from the land reform programme and the reviving agriculture sector, a resolute Robert Mugabe leads his people in establishing an indigenous economy.
A black South African woman from Soweto was being interviewed by CNN while in her home watching Nelson Mandela’s memorial service when she caught a glimpse of Zimbabwe’s President Mugabe walking into the FNB Stadium to wild applause from her countrymen.
With a face lit-up she affectionately muttered “Mugabe that one”. It was a brief expression of admiration stirred by emotions in a moment defining leaders, legacies and a people’s aspirations.
She betrayed the heartbreak of black South Africa envious of economic reflections north of the Limpopo.
It is 2014, South Africa’s majority are no longer enchanted by the “Madiba Magic”.
They are aware of the reality of economic apartheid’s un-exorcised ghost.
Rangu Nyamurundira is a lawyer and indigenisation/empowerment consultant based in Harare, Zimbabwe.