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Should Mandela “apologize” before he dies?

13 June 2012, 12:44

Through its president, Amukelani Ngobeni, AZAPO Youth argues, quite hysterically, that Mandela would not have peace should he die without having apologised for "selling out black people's struggle" through secret talks he held with the apartheid government.

"Many of his friends did not get [ the] opportunity to apologise before they died and he must consider himself lucky and use the opportunity for his soul to rest peacefully, before it is too late", Ngobeni reportedly said.

Apart from sharp knacks of a populist harangue and disrespect for elders, Ngobeni and the youth brigade of AZAPO provide no reason why Mandela or the broad ANC-led mass democratic movement owes them, or any South African, an apology. That South Africa has deep seated challenges of inequality, unemployment and poverty is not to be debated. And that South Africa has made serious strides in governance, socio-economic development, and nation-building since 1994 is also beyond any reasonable debate.

For AZAPO Youth to drag the name of the former head of state is poor politicking and blasphemous. It is an indication of the consequences of being part of a political party that is facing demise. Ngobeni and the entire leadership of Azapo Youth must apologize to Mandela, his family, the ANC, and all other South Africans for this irresponsible statement. It is dangerous for them to seek popularity at the expense of the Nobel Peace Prize laureate.

It is not clear whether Ngobeni is suffering from forgetfulness, or is simply using selective memory to assume a pop star position. But, in any case, the following points are important to teach him some basic political lessons.

Firstly, it is important for us to remind Ngobeni that South Africa’s transition to democracy was very delicate and yet complex. To avert an imminent bloodshed, the negotiators on both sides made immense compromises. Part of the compromises that were made, which was necessary, was to ensure that those who owned properties like land, houses, vehicles, etc., retained those rights. The goal was to implement a gradual and phased redistribution of wealth to the previously disenfranchised. Though happening at a slow pace, the latter process is happening. 

Secondly, Ngobeni may or may not have forgotten that, up until 2008, the president of Azapo, Mosibudi Mangena, served as minister in the government which he today insults without any amount of shame. Between 2004 and 2008, Mangena served as minister and deputy minister of Science & Technology and Education departments respectively. That Azapo today is a shadow of its former self is no excuse for its leaders to fire like loose cannons and, in the process, hit at institutions where they themselves have played an active part.

Thirdly, thanks to the ANC, to which Mandela remains loyal, Ngobeni can today utter the gibberish that he has without being labelled an enemy of the state. The institutions of the state which Ngobeni lambasts shall always protect his freedom of speech, despite the amounts of insults and blasphemy coming out of his mouth. So he must actually praise, rather than clobber with infamy, Mandela and the ANC.

Lastly, as president of South Africa, Mandela was part of a collective that included leaders of the ANC and other political parties. Mandela’s cabinet included leaders of reactionary political parties like Inkatha Freedom Party (Mangosuthu Buthelezi, Home Affairs minister), Nationalist Party (FW de Klerk, deputy president), etc. And Mandela remained a deployee of the ANC who was tasked with implementing ANC policy at government. To single him out is tantamount to foul play. So Ngubeni is guilty of playing the man, rather than the ball, in this instance.

It is therefore clear that Ngobeni’s arguments are fundamentally flawed. And his request that Mandela apologize is not only unreasonable, but is also sick. Ngobeni’s assertion that they are following “with interest developments around Mandela’s health” has exposed a sickness in his mind. In Sesotho we would say “O photholehile”, literally meaning that his evil wishes have been exposed for all to see. If there is anyone who must apologize for anything, it is Ngobeni for hoping and wishing for another human being’s death. Rather than try to gain cheap popularity using Mandela’s name, Ngobeni must focus on building his defunct political party, Azapo.

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