Saturday, 7 December 2013
I think its silly, when people call Mandela's death "a tragedy". When a 95 year old man dies, its almost never a tragedy, its often a relief; and in this case its a triumph. Its the end of a life utterly fulfilled, of accomplishment almost unparalleled in his own time.
Nelson Mandela's death is not a tragedy for him; but I can understand how some fear it might be a tragedy for South Africa. Certainly, a cause to grieve the passing of this amazing man who was very much the father of his country. But more importantly, Mandela was a symbol of a sane path, an inspiration to all people as someone who had at one point advocated violence, and later (after his long imprisonment) came to power not to seek revenge but reconciliation, looking not for a violent revolution but to dream of a democratic and inclusive society. He was a roadmark to direct the way forward and a bulwark against excess even in his dotage, as long as Mandela was alive, South African politicians knew they could only go so far in turning away from his high standards.
But now that he's dead, what will stop utter assholes like Jacob Zuma or Julius Malema, both of whom had little problem with veering quite far away from that standard, from going completely off the map and worse still, claiming that "Mandela would have supported me"? Almost nothing.
And you know they're chomping at the bit to do it. Zuma is rotten to the core, a corrupt populist who has transformed South Africa into a toilet of bribery and government inefficiency, done nothing to alleviate poverty or crime, and helped in countless different ways to slowly pick apart the threads of the rainbow weave that Mandela brought together, with Zuma's Zulu-supremacist mentality. Malema, who Zuma once called "the future leader of the nation", has generated controversy but also won himself a loyal cadre of fanatics by his violent overture against all kinds of groups he hates (apparently including women, homosexuals and anyone who isn't black). Zuma represents a generational decline in South Africa's condition; his favorite song is "give me my machine gun". The (four decades younger) Malema represents, tragically, a further generational decline; his favorite song which he has recited at public rallies is "Kill the White Farmer".
In short, the ANC, the party that Mandela so gloriously led, is not a party taking its example from Mandela. Men like Zuma or Malema have no use for Mandela; their model is Robert Mugabe, a slimeball who uses hate and sectarianism to ensure his grip on power, who rejects democracy and rights as meaningless, and seeks to enrich himself even if it means the total societal and economic collapse of his nation. They don't look at Mandela with pride, they look at Mugabe with envy, seeing that as the way forward.
Go to the "Dear Julius Malema" Facebook page, if you don't believe me. You'll see adoring pictures of Robert Mugabe along with quotes of his "great speeches". They aren't being subtle about this.
These are not just my views, they've been shared by many others, people who were there with Mandela and who are deeply troubled by the advancing decline of South Africa as a nation. Winnie Mandela (herself in no way a saint, and really part of the problem as one of those in the first generation of governance that already made vast allowances for corruption and political malfeasance) has expressed disgust at the way Jacob Zuma made use of Mandela in his final year to try to drum up support (and we can only imagine, in the next elections, how Zuma will be disgustingly plastering propaganda painting himself as Mandela's true heir 24/7). Archbishop Desmond Tutu (who may technically qualify for sainthood, I'm not sure; but who with Mandela's passing is the last really viable major figure of respectability left that the corrupt politicians have cause to fear) has expressed his disgust at the actions of Zuma and Malema; asking in a speech before the ANC last year "What have we become"? Malema's supporters talked about how Tutu needs to be put "six feet underground", in response. Malema had been kicked out of the ANC, ostensibly on charges of "causing divisions in the party" but mainly because Jacob Zuma (who used Malema to help him take power from Thabo Mbeki) started to feel politically threatened by the young man of endless ambition.
Meanwhile, 25% of South African youth (a significant demographic in a country full of young people) said in a recent survey they would vote for Malema for president. He has called for taking back land and properties from whites by violent force and with no compensation. The Julius Malema facebook page is absolutely plastered with pictures of Nelson Mandela.
So yeah, the tragedy here is not Mandela's death, but how his death will be used by slimy opportunists to rebrand him into supporting, from beyond the grave, the very things he worked so hard to try to prevent in his beloved country.
I hope that it turns out not to be so, but really, is there anyone left in the ANC, or anywhere in South African politics with a credible chance of winning, who is even cut in the same mold as Mandela? If there is, I'd dearly like to see proof, and fast.
Currently Smoking: Lorenzetti Stanze + Rattray's Accountants' Mix