Hands off Mandela's legacy

2013-04-21 10:00

The attempt by DA to appropriate Nelson Mandela as an icon with no political identity but a neutral person who can be in a poster of any political party is a clear desperate propaganda attempt.

The assumption it makes is that because Mandela once posed with Helen Suzman he therefore has a DA identity.

By extension, it should mean that because Mandela took time to visit Hendrik Verwoerd’s widow and posed with her, he can therefore be on an apartheid poster.

That Mandela posed with Margaret Thatcher gives the British Conservative Party the right to use that picture to suggest that they were part of the anti-apartheid movement. It is abuse of the human and humble character of this icon of the struggle for freedom.

The poster reduces the value of the known opposition to the apartheid system by Suzman, which both the ANC and Mandela himself acknowledge.

The shoddy attempt by the DA seeks to project the great stature and stateswomanship of Suzman as opportunistic in the fight against the evils of apartheid.

It is the duty of each South African to separate her role from the opportunistic propaganda of the DA.

The DA will do itself a favour by explaining to the nation that the opposition to apartheid by Suzman, important as it is was, was one which she carried out from the opposition benches of the apartheid parliament.

That lone voice, remarkable we must add, is not only acknowledged but applauded globally.

It is still easily recognisable as the voice of white liberalism in South Africa at a time our country was being torn to shreds by racist minority rule.

The voice and character of liberalism in South Africa has since evolved, from the earlier years through to the Progressive Federal Party, the Democratic Party and, ultimately, the DA.

However, what has remained without fail throughout history and in the evolution of whatever political trend among the white minority – as argued by Dr Pallo Jordan – has been either brazen advocacy for white domination and privilege or some elaborate schemes for its retention in the guise of liberal policies.

The DA is not immune to this.

The national liberation movement has, since time immemorial, been the custodian of democratic values.

As Barney Mthombothi said in his editorial review of the January 8 2012 centennial celebrations in Mangaung: “The ANC’s accomplishments is ... in the values that it has espoused and instilled throughout its existence, values that are now enshrined in our Constitution and, more importantly, in our national consciousness.”

I would argue that very few institutions would receive such vindication from their critics, thereby making the ANC a unique organisation and institution in South African society.

The same values were inculcated in the leadership of the liberation movement.

Among these was the courage and commitment to lay down their lives for the liberation of the people of South Africa.

This concept of taking up arms against a racist and oppressive regime was one of the bones of contentions between the liberation movement and liberal whites in South Africa.

This is besides their military support in defence of racist apartheid rule.

It is in this context that we should critique the DA posters, in particular the use of the revolutionary leadership developed and steeped in the traditions of a revolutionary movement.

Therefore, what does the use of revolutionary ANC leaders – in particular Mandela – on DA posters mean? If he is palatable for use by the DA, does the same “courtesy” extend to another of the esteemed presidents, that is, Oliver Tambo?

I am limiting the question to Mandela and Tambo because both were commanders in chief of Umkhonto weSizwe (MK). They were the main protagonists in the militant direction the ANC took in the 1940s, which led to the formation of the armed wing.

In fact, to be precise, Mandela was not only the founder but the first commander of MK. Therefore his association with the violent overthrow of the oppressive, racist regime is without dispute.

In fact, we would argue that Mandela as with most ANC leaders would have agreed with the sentiments captured in the words of the late Chris Hani, that is: “When we finally launched the armed struggle, we were not abandoning our quest for peace, we were pursuing that quest in the most effective way left to us by an intransigent and brutal regime.”

Consequently, we can make the assumption that the posters mean that the DA would want to be associated with the armed struggle strategy pursued entirely by Mandela.

One wonders if the campaign strategists in the DA considered this in their plans, that they are suddenly reshaping the ideological underpinnings of their party.

Was this consulted and canvassed widely with the party members? One shudders to think what even Suzman herself would have thought of this association the DA makes with the armed struggle.

The privilege of being part of the apartheid parliament is the reality that the DA must deal with honestly.

It should resist the temptation of using Mandela in its cleansing ceremony. It must honestly and candidly deal with it as part of its past.

It must accept that it has over time been invaded by the conservative section of the old National Party, a reality that continues to shape its character.

The disdain with which the DA treats transformation, including employment equity as a basic tool, reflects such a reality.

Instead of opening up the debate, the DA continues to claim that there are not enough black professionals. This is the party that talks from both sides of its mouth.

The black professionals are not competent enough but the DA will liberate them from themselves.

Would Mandela ever co-exist with the DA white domination?

He declared that he had fought against white domination all his life.

The combination of desperation and dishonesty is a lethal one.

Let us conclude by reminding the DA and the country at large that Mandela, as former ANC president, is an ex-officio national executive committee (NEC) member.

And therefore, he can attend any NEC meeting and make a contribution in the same capacity as any current member of this body in between its conferences.

He remains a member of the ANC to date.

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