(What I am about to say might offend some, so first of all I want to clarify that I deeply respect our former and now late president Mandela, and offer my deepest condolences to his family...)
There is a widely held perception in the white-world, that if it hadn't been for Madiba, South Africa would have been a total mess today. This is quite a broad statement which is widely debatable, but in this piece I'm specifically focusing on race and reconciliation.
The most notable example of white paranoia is the spam emails that have been doing the rounds since the nineties about how all whites will be killed like flies on the day Mandela dies. These emails are characterized by dubious sources and testimonies motivating this belief. The believers of this full onslaught on whites typically hold a highly-overated regard for a semi-illiterate prohet called Siener van Rensburg. Basically, a very criptic prophesy allegedly made by this character during the South African War over a hundred years ago predicts the killing off of white South Africans by non- whites. This prophesy however, can't be traced further back than the nineties. What many of these believers don't get, is that Siener did not even regard himself as particularly wow, and often had trouble analysing his own dreams. And then of course, you get your anonymous individuals, claiming that they had been warned by 'the gardener' against this lurking massacre. What upsets me most about these emails, is the total denial of black people's humanity and ability to forgive.
Then, although less visible, among the self-proclaimed 'moderate' South Africans, there seem to be a total lack in awareness of other struggle figures and less militant black people contributing to the dawn of our fairly peaceful transition. To them the only two remarkable and moral black people out there are Madiba and Desmond Tutu. There are quit a few valid opinions of mainly non-white South Africans that Madiba's image has been abused by white people, often as a corporate money maker. Also, the denial of his flaws and humanity. Noteworthy opinion pieces include the following: http://www.okwonga.com/?p=869http://www.jonathan-cook.net/blog/2013-12-06/a-dissenting-opinion-on-nelson-mandela/http://www.citypress.co.za/columnists/madiba-our-fallible-leader/
What saddens me pesonally, is that his struggle has been reduced to a few rugby matches to make white people feel more at ease in their own country. The fact of the watering down of education and emotional genocide of non-white South Africans during Apartheid have been swept under the carpet in the name of reconciliation and the free market system - Business as usual, done by corrupt corporates, under the guise of their great love for tata, aka world peace. And off course the farce of equal opportunities conveniently overlooking the social problems that are still plaguing South Africa, making it impossible for the majority of South Africans to tap into the 'free' economy of our democracy.
And then, the fact that Madiba has been granted, possibly without his concent, the monopoly on humanity and forgiveness. I personally never met Mandela, yet on a daily basis I have come across kindness among all creeds in South Africa, despite the resentment, prejudice and skepticism - be it the random car guard noting that I look extremely sad, and that he'll pray for me, another free-lance security person urging me to wear my seatbelt and arrive alive, that person risking his life by towing my car without asking for financial compensation and those two car guards helping me search for my car in an over-crowded parking-lot at the risk of losing out on potential clients.
Think about those numerous shop assistants saying not to worry when you're short three cents, that friend with a couch awaiting you should you have the need to crash somewhere, that random black person responding to me in my mother tongue when I attempt to speak his and hers - damn, I'm running out of space in addressing all of these selfless acts of kindness from individuals that often have every reason to resent me for growing up with certain privileges, and those white people ready to give up their priviledge should it help their fellow South Africans having a better life. Although these acts of kindness are often superficial and not sufficient to form life long friendships, there is generally a subconscious consensus that we should help each other out.
Thus, to me the biggest anti-climax on the day Mandela died was the fact that I felt that I was supposed to experience some magical comeradery with my fellow South Africans, yet lacking the words to connect with people I don't know. Kindness has always come to me and numerous individuals crossing my path naturally, but on the day of the passing of this great leader I felt under pressure to continue his so-called legacy of kindness and reconciliation. Despite all the doom merchants awaiting the night of the long knives and the more liberal white people fearing the loss of South Africa's one and only moral compass, humanity prevails - resentment aside.
What is problematic though, is that the moment you put so much thinking into it, humanity becomes insincere. What I take from Mandela's death, is that South Africans should reclaim kindness as their own - there are zillions of non-white South Africans that are willing to work towards forgiving white people for the injustices of our past, like there are loads of white people acknowledging that human rights had never been theirs to take or give. The kindness is there, although we are drastically in need of taking step two, which is total and willing integration and further refection on subconscious racial prejudices and inequality, and how to overcome that.
As much as I can give credit to Mandela's contribution to South Africa, I refuse to believe that he was the sole person capable of humanity - he was definitely one heck of a philosopher, but I see him merely as an instrument for wording the things most of us were feeling - a willingness to move on, even though there still prevails some mild resentment and that the struggle is far from over. Humanity is there, but our willingness to further embrace that needs some work - work we can do without the help of Mandela.
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