My drunken scrawl could hardly add any uniqueness to the volumes already written in honor of Mandela. This piece is for those who seek momentary diversion from this now global preoccupation.
Mandela passed not much differently to how my own grandmother passed: undignified. I could drown pages in ink, recounting the tabloid-invoking sensationalism of certain members of the Mandela family, prior to Mandela’s death. One can only feel relieved that old age had already robbed Mandela of the full sense of comprehension of the details as his own family dug up and relocated the remains of other members of his own family.
I could even resort to verbally searing the government-authored systemic incompetence that led to Mr. Mandela being stranded next to the road, in the grip of winter, possibly peeking, for the first time, through the door of death before allegedly being resuscitated and finally taken off to a hospital emergency room—a near-fatal delay that would never have had happened in any other country on this planet! No doubt, the latter drained a substantial amount of whatever remaining life force Mandela had left.
Yet there are people who insist that South Africa is doing fine and, thus, they demand optimism from those like me who write/opine to the public. If you bother to see past your libertarian idealism and look at the reality surrounding you, your optimism should melt like a block of butter shoved into a hot oven. Consider the glaring fact that South Africa could not act with haste, competence, or reliability for its greatest citizen!
If the country’s greatest son and true liberator—a man not born into democracy who still became one of its greatest defenders—can end up next to the road, dying like a common thief, what faith can the average South African have in the belief that their lives have any meaning in South Africa? What confidence can an expat like me muster to even visit South Africa again as a tourist, let alone return and add my newfound skills, experience, and economic ability to the benefit of my home country?
I’ll admit error and say that while I tried to make it clear what I would not write about, I have, unwittingly, succumbed to that viral South African tendency of pointing fingers and complaining. I could correct this in editing, but I’d rather not emulate the behaviour of those who have crippled a nation in an attempt to hide their own failures and shortcomings.
I wish I had some personal account of an inspirational, unforgettable encounter with Mr. Mandela,but I have none such uplifting story to share. But even if I had any such story, I’d say that such platitude-laden bunk drains the ink from the pens of carbon copy writers, conduct unfit for even a self-proclaimed contrarian. Instead, I’ll try to make people think about their conduct and the way forward in the post-Mandela South Africa we no find ourselves in.
First, a bit of biology
The death of Mandela has successfully restored my self-authored theory that humans are still much more primate than any of us (even an evolution-accepting atheist like myself) feels comfortable admitting to. It is indeed a discomforting idea: that all that separates us from our cousin chimpanzees in the wild are the clothes on our backs, the languages on our lips, and the little bits of technology some of us drag along.
Moments like the prevailing sober and morbid one simply reaffirm those non-conformist qualities in me … and those, hopefully, reflect in my writing. While others give in to the compulsion to mourn, I obsessively seek to audit and document the lessons learned about Homo Sapien behaviour when masses of its members are possesses by drama.
On display, and blindingly so, is a nation—indeed a world—that seems poisoned by grief because an alpha male that they barely knew—yet worshipped religiously, as is dictated by their primate DNA—has died. Affirming the image of the panic-stricken troop, now restless and nervous because they find themselves leaderless and without their moral compass, are the scores of media reports reflecting the angst, fear, hopelessness, and bewilderment of those who thought Mandela would always be there for them, enabling their complacency and childlike need to pass their personal responsibility to an elder.
The last time the death of a single Homo Sapien generated as much anguish, sorrow, and introspective reflection was when lady Diana was all over the news, radio, and papers (as well as the interior of the Mercedes) after her untimely demise. And while Diana did nothing but marry a prince to get her fame and fortune (the whole ‘humanitarian of the third-world’ being a carefully-orchestrated publicity act),
Mr. Mandela, on the other hand, went to prison for 27 years and subsequently freed an entire country and brought the hope of equality to tens of millions of its previously-disregarded citizens. What the ANC subsequently did with the democratic power they got from Mr. Mandela’s actions is not a burden Madiba should ever bear.
Dispelling the double standards of Mandela’s haters
So what if Mr. Mandela was somehow involved in a so-called historical ‘terrorist’ attack that caused some people to lose their lives. The world reveres and worships many other ‘revolutionaries’ who reformed their governments and countries by shedding a lot more blood than Mandela purportedly ever did. And you don’t need to look at overseas nations to find an example of this: Koos de la Ray, the Boer general who led South Africa against the English in the second Anglo-Boer war, killed many more people than Mandela has ever been accused of, yet De La Rey gets the reverence of an entire culture (the Afrikaners).
It does not even matter that the only things most white South Africans know about General de la Rey is the little bit of a history lesson inadequately and incompletely conveyed in the lyrics of the a virulent Afrikaans song that has now been transformed into the pro-right-wing Afrikaner’s national anthem! De La Rey is now sung in the same way as Bring me my machine gun. But even Jacob Zuma (of all people) had the decency to say leave the Afrikaners and their De La Rey song, that is their culture. I wish I could be so understanding, but I take personal insult at the De La Rey song because I am not an Afrikaner, I am an English South African.
I should not hope for sympathy, however; I am, after all, talking about the wayward right-wing sect of Afrikaners, who along with Israel and its prime sponsor (America) are the global trendsetters in double standards and self-forgiveness for their countless transgressions. When these self-absorbed, supremacist tribes commit acts of savagery and terrorism it is plainly said that it is in accordance with their own interests. If anyone else does the same, for whatever justified reason, they are branded terrorists and vilified in the media until unrecognizable as even being of human origin.
Concluding with a clarion call
Before I ramble on in drunken stupor, again, let me draw to a close this ‘all over the show,’ ‘what exactly is my point?’ of an article by saying that I think the death of Mr. Mandela marks a moment of maturation for South Africa. We, as a nation, have now been passed the bills and responsibilities we once relied on Mr. Mandela and his legacy to sponsor and maintain.
For two decades now, the average South African has allowed complacency and tradition to dictate their handling of the political carnival that has transpired after Mr. Mandela’s term in office, a carnival that reverted to dragging the body of South Africa behind the bakkie of apartheid.
As this whole fiasco unfolded, South Africans dumped their responsibility on an ailing statesman, hoping that he would rise, again, from the wheelchair and recalibrate South Africa’s moral and political compasses. That never happened and it could not have happened. Madiba was fighting his own battle with biology as he was being naturally robbed of his sanity and wit.
And as this happened, we as South Africans remained childlike and immature in our political lives. We vote for our hopes not based on the facts. We kept thinking that as long as we have Mandela, we have a bit of that bright future we all glimpsed in 1994.
But the day is here and we as South Africans will now no longer have Madiba on whom we can pile our hopes and responsibilities.
If you have dreams of a better tomorrow, you will now have to get out of your comfort zone and go and build that tomorrow with your neighbour, irrespective of his race or culture.
Throughout history, different peoples have united around their common interests. Crime can be that unifying force in South Africa. Everyone hates crime and wants it banished from South African society! Similarly, every South African wants (or should want) a vibrant economy with plenty of jobs and opportunities for all!
Why is there this divide then? Why do we squabble along racial and cultural lines, when we all want the same South Africa?
I salute you, Mr. Mandela! No greater a father figure could any South African have asked for. You taught us how to forgive. You led by example and showed us the way towards a prosperous future for all South Africans. Now that we are grown men and you are now at rest, we will, each of us, live and strive to embody your example of reconciliation, of mutual respect, and of unity. You gave the demonstration; it is our job now to carry it out for the betterment of South Africa and all who call it home!
Beware those of you who love conflict, corruption, and fuel the pestilence of crime. Your days are numbered. A resistive public that no longer stands aside for you out of respect for the man whose actions and sacrifice allowed you to now lead will now meet you.
A possible conspiracy and a lesson on Democracy
You, Mr. President, are accountable to the people of South Africa! You, the ANC, are but a democratic puppet with its entire body animated as per the will of the South African electorate! We have had enough of your shortcomings, your excuses, and your blame shifting. If you cannot rise to the occasion of running the country, then we will take the next democratic occasion (and it is around the corner) and pry you off the levers of power that you operate only for your own benefit!
I know this may be difficult for you, Mr. President, and you, the ANC, to fully appreciate. After all, you never invented democracy; you simply did what the west did and stole the idea from the Ancient Greeks who invented it, specifically the central tenet of democracy: chosen of the people. You relied on tradition, lies, and spook stories to coerce people into voting ANC, but you are not truly ‘chosen of the people.’ An uniformed, lied to, and deliberately kept desperate people cannot make informed choices.
But your conduct and the resulting damage were necessary to awaken a nation from its slumber. Is it then any surprise that Mr. Mandela died in the midst of the biggest investigation into your alleged corruption since your took office? Was this perhaps a cleverly deployed smokescreen to take the heat of your and your cadre?
It matters not, for from this day, we, the South African people will remind you evermore that in those four words (chosen of the people) lies the true meaning of democracy, and you will bow down to them!
HEAR US, OUR LEADERS! WE ARE THE PEOPLE OF SOUTH AFRICA, AND HAVE HAD ENOUGH! THAT POT OF GOLD AT THE END OF THIS RAINBOW NATION DOES NOT BELONG TO YOU!
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