Mandela’s plea to ANC MPs: do the right thing

2017-04-09 06:00
Ndileka Mandela. Picture: Leon Sadiki

Ndileka Mandela. Picture: Leon Sadiki

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Ndileka Mandela is furious.

The eldest grandchild of Nelson Mandela cradles her five-week-old granddaughter as she opens the security gate at her neat townhouse in Sandton.

It is the future of baby Nabeela and her two children, Phumla, 23, and Thembela , 32, that she is now concerned about.

Mandela started speaking out against President Jacob Zuma and poor leadership in the ANC before last year’s local government elections, saying publicly that she was not going to vote for her grandfather’s party.

And despite admonishments from two senior ANC leaders and plenty of hate mail from the rank and file, this week she continued – despite being unable to participate in the marches because she was in Tunisia for the Joy Festival, which was held in honour of her grandfather.

“Some of my cousins have said: ‘Bravo!’ They have. Privately, they have said bravo,” she tells City Press this week. She declined to reveal which of them had sent her messages. They will not be joining her in amplifying the voices of those mobilising against the party leadership any time soon.

“One of the things granddad taught me is that, if you have to stand alone for the truth, so be it,” she says.

“They can see what is happening. They are the progeny of Nelson Mandela. It is up to their conscience to stand up and do something. I am doing something for my children and now I am a grandmother.

“What am I going to say to Nabeela 10 years down the line when things have gone so, so wrong and she asks me: ‘Grandma, what did you do?’ What will I tell her? That I sat by because I am protected by the high walls of Sandton and Morningside, and I didn’t do anything because it doesn’t affect me directly?”

It has been Mandela’s work with the Thembekile Mandela Foundation – which she founded in memory of her father, who died in a car accident in Cape Town at the age of 24, that opened her eyes to the lot of South Africa’s poorest.

Two meetings stand out.

One was at a school in Marapyane, Mpumalanga, where she was handing out a year’s supply of sanitary towels to poor pupils.

“One girl had become tired of asking the neighbours for money every time she had her period. She said that the shame of having to go and ask, knowing that she had asked and asked and asked again, and people were getting tired of her asking, is going to be taken away.”

The other was a visit to Madiba’s old school, Clarkebury in Engcobo.

“The principal took me to a room no bigger than my TV room. I found 30 girls on mattresses; no ablution facilities – they wash in buckets; and no kitchen – they cook for themselves on makeshift hotplates. There was one child who had her bed behind the door and you could see suitcases stacked against the wall,” she says.

“It broke my heart. And it’s not that we don’t have money in the country – we have money.”

"Which side of history do you want to be on?"

Mandela started speaking out after a trip to Houston in the US, where she was advised to “be visible and drive your message across on social media”.

“Then came the Constitutional Court ruling on Nkandla. I remember watching that night what our president had to say to the nation. Five minutes into his speech, I had to switch the TV off because I knew I was going to have a heart attack or a stroke.

“My sister Nandi called me to ask if I was watching and I nearly bit her head off.

“I remember telling my partner: ‘Was it really worth Grandad sacrificing his whole life, and my fathers’ life, and ours – three generations – was it really worth it so that it could come to this?’”

After that, her position was cemented by the Life Esidimeni tragedy and the social grant crisis.

Her outspokenness has earned her an open letter from her cousin, Mandla Mandela, an MP and chief of Mvezo village, who exhorted: “Mafungwashe wasekhaya to reconsider your decision.”

“What we are dissatisfied with in the ANC, is our obligation to set right,” he wrote.

Mandela says there’s “no beef” between her and Mandla – they agree there are problems in the party, but disagree on what to do about them.

When she was seven years old, Mandela moved from Soweto, where her grandmother, Madiba’s first wife, Evelyn, was a community nurse in Pimville, to Cofimvaba, where Mandla grew up in front of her.

“I’m Mafungwashe straight and proper. There are 10 years between us. My grandmother was a very strict person,” she says.

“When Mandla was two, I was baking and I put my ingredients on the table, butter and sugar. I went to
the bathroom and came back and I couldn’t find it. Guess where the butter was? Mandla was sitting there under the table and eating it.”

So, is she going to ring him up and ask him to vote with his conscience at the vote of no confidence in Parliament on April 18?

“I would like to ask every one of those ANC MPs: Have you listened to the people’s stories? To a gogo who goes to a clinic, but they don’t have her medication?” she says.

“I want to ask them: Which side of history do you want to be on?”

Read more on:    anc  |  ndileka mandela  |  nelson mandela

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