Sibongile Mafu

Randela madness

2012-11-07 09:36

The long walk to freedom is paved with Madiba notes and scowling faces.

"Madiba is on the money" is a phrase that has taken on a literal meaning, as yesterday saw the widespread release of new bank notes featuring the smiling face of the first black president of South Africa, Nelson Mandela.

An icon in your pocket

The roll out of the bank notes has been known for a while when an announcement by government was made earlier this year. This week, people will be able to keep Mandela in their back pockets, and carry him with them everywhere.

People greeted the new bank notes with mixed, albeit delayed reactions. It seems the Madiba fatigue has set in, and many have just grown tired of seeing his face and name on every pillar and post in the country. When the Eastern Boulevard in Cape Town was renamed to the Nelson Mandela Boulevard, there was mild civil unrest, but it seems the bank notes have become the final straw.

Forget the mass hysteria around little old Zumaville (Nkandla), South Africa in its entirety has become Madibaville.

The outrage around these bank notes is understandable, but also slightly peculiar. This has been in the pipeline for many months, but people kept their disdain quietly to themselves, until the notes were actually released. There is widespread fear that Madiba has been bestowed this "national icon" status, and his face on the bank notes, forsaking all others, is just another thing to add on the quest to immortalise the man.

Yet again South Africans were slow to the trigger, pulling out their pitchforks when all had been said and done. You do however get the sense that when something is given the Madiba name, the legacy lives on and stays relevant. Nelson Mandela will never be old news, and rightly so, but what about the others?

"Struggle Big Five"

Perhaps what would have been right and fair would have been to feature some kind of "Struggle Big Five" - Mandela, Biko, Tambo, Sisulu and Sobukwe, on these notes, and given everyone’s face a chance to be featured on South Africa’s bucks. These bank notes are, what many believe, just another notch on the weighty Mandela brand that has now been affixed on the country's currency for the next while.

Seeing Madiba's name everywhere doesn't make me respect him more than those names that are not in my face every day. I just feel there are more visible reminders of Madiba's legacy around us that may keep what he did alive whilst simultaneously dimming the light of others.

When interviewed, Gill Marcus said that Madiba was excited and humbled about the notes, little does he know another thing has been added to the list of "what to be angry at Madiba about". I doubt the struggle was about who would get the most airports and boulevards and street names at the end of it all, and keeping score on someone's importance and relevance because of that should be avoided.

Children especially are influenced by what they see every day, they become curious of a man whose photographs and name embellishes the country in which they live. It becomes easier for parents to tell the Madiba Story, when it's on the money, so to speak. Some work would actually need to be done to find the stories of the others. Just a little more work. I think parents would be able to manage that.

Those people who want nothing to do with the Randela, perhaps you’ve helped discover the key to wealth distribution. Those who don't want them can give them to those to do. Sometime the greatest ideas come from simple action.

Maybe that’s the legacy these great men wanted to leave behind.

- Sibongile is a videographer, blogger and social media enthusiast who would be nothing without her thumbs. Follow her on Twitter: @SboshMafu.

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