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Hubert Khobane
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Our long walk to freedom is not over!

03 June 2014, 10:18
There is not very much else we can say now. We will chew on the bone, tug at it and worry on it, turn it over and attack it from a new and more interesting angle, but the story is the same. Nelson Mandela was a great human being, a giant amongst men, and we were indeed blessed to have had him lead us.
There is not much else to say other than that. The politicians will be somber, the eulogies will be moving, and the mood will be respectful.
We shall burry him, far from the madding crowd, Qunu in his native Eastern Cape, where he chose his own resting place near where he tended cattle as a boy.
He evokes a line by AE Housman who said: “Home is the sailor from the sea/the hunter from the hill!”
After the funeral, when the hypocrisies have been exhausted themselves and the holidays are upon us, the truth will have to be confronted.
This week Mandela has been quoted again and again as having said: “A good head and a good heart are always a formidable combination!”
Our mourning and celebration of his life are matter of the heart. Let us mourn and celebrate. Let us also use our heads and think about what South Africa is and what it could be.
It is the issue of leadership that we will have to confront as the most urgent and necessary issue. If we say we have been shown by Mandela what true leadership entails, how then can be reward him by electing to power leaders who in no way display the attributes that he over time taught our leaders to embody? We cannot claim distance. We were here in the time of Mandela, and therefore we should have learnt most from him. With an election looming next year, this is the question we will have to ask ourselves: “Are we choosing men and women who are worthy of walking in the footsteps of Mandela?”
Let us not beat about the bush here. The current crop in South Africa leadership is a pale shadow of the caliber of women and men who once surrounded Mandela. I do not wish to sully this time of mourning for the Mandela family and our nation. But the truth hurts. We have gone backwards and not forward.
Individuals do not matter, some say, but they do, as leaders matter. The best laid plans are nothing without resolute, ethical leaders to implement them. We are going through a period of drought in the South African leadership, and the question we have to ask ourselves is this: “Is this how we honour Mandela, how we remember him and his legacy?” 
It was Desmond Tutu the moral compass of our nation, who said last Friday: “He would not want just want a stone as his memorial. He would want us South Africans to be his memorial, I you and us.”
These are powerful words. We should heed them. We should heed them because there is a massive scar on the face of South Africa that many of our leaders only nod towards at election time. It is poverty that stalls this land, the vast swatches of young people sitting on street corners in townships without jobs, the poor state of education and the depth of the inequality.
It is an indication on South Africa, that 20 years after we achieved our much vouched democracy, so little is being done to reduce poverty. In 1990, the foreign journalist used to contrast the wealth of Sandton with the poverty of Alexandra and this week as once again, foreign journalist that would be pouring into South Africa, will be doing exactly the same. We call this progress?
Come now, let us be straight! How can we speak of Mandela while our parliament has just passed the apartheid-esque, the Secrecy Bill into law? It is sitting on the president’s desk as we speak. It will jail journalist. It will jail whistle blowers. And we dare say we are following in the footsteps of Mandela, a man who again and again emphasized the freedom of the press?
Let us talk straight. We live in a country where our police service shoot and kill 34 miners in an afternoon, and the chief of police, in answering questions, refuses to acknowledge that her people pulled the trigger stating: “By whom, I would not go that far!” She is still in the job. So are the many others who have stolen from the fiscus, whose families are first in line at the tender trough, who have become elevated merely by being close to those in power.
There is a gaping hole at the heart of the noises we are hearing today about Mandela. That hole is the fact that we are once again a nation that is pointing fingers at the past, not the future. We honour a great man, as we should, but we are not using his life and legacy to reflect on our own failings and how we rectify them.
We are doing Mandela a massive disservice, by merely mourning him. He would have wanted us to accept for once, that we are rearing from the path, a path he outlined in his very first speech in parliament as president in 1994.
He said: “My governments’ commitment is to create a people centered society of liberty that binds us to the pursuit of the goals of freedom, freedom from want, freedom from hunger, freedom from deprivation, freedom from ignorance, freedom from suppression and freedom from fear!”
Let us talk straight. People centered society?
What we now seem to be embracing is a “Big Man’s” idea of leaders, as embodied in that monstrous house in a sea of poverty in Nkandla? Freedom from ignorance, when our children are given sub standard mathematics examination (maths literacy).
Freedom from fear. Let us tell that to the 66 000 women who were sexually assaulted last year. Let us tell that to the friends and relations of Duduzile Zono and Anene Booysen.
We love the past in this country. We love gnawing at it. We celebrate heroes, and ignore their world and their words. We deify Mandela, but we shut down the voice in society that try to navigate close to what he may and wished for.
We live here. The future is what our children have. We can mourn and celebrate this week, and so we should. A great man is dead. At the end of the day, though, it would all be posturing, it would all be lies and playing to the gallery, if we do not achieve half of what he would have wanted us to achieve.

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