History is not a cash cow

2013-07-07 14:00

Nelson Mandela and Martin Luther King Jr have more in common than their iconic stature and their fight for civil rights.

Mcebisi Ndletyana, head of political economy at the Mapungubwe Institute for Strategic Reflection, has warned against the crass commercialisation of Mandela’s legacy after King’s children turned his into a money-spinner.

The King children, he says, went as far as copyrighting his “I Have a Dream” speech and consider their father’s memory to be an industry. They have also turned on one another in court.

The latest grubby fight is over a R3?million advance on a biography about their mother, who died in 2006.

To prevent themselves becoming like the Kings, Ndletyana says the Mandelas should appreciate their father and grandfather’s multiple identities – of father and world icon. “It seems as though they aren’t aware that the role he played in this country has left a legacy, and they are impacting on it.”

All families have disputes, but going to court, he says, is a very bad idea.

“Even if other families take the legal route, it won’t necessarily be scrutinised by the public,” he said. “Such disputes for a family of this stature should have been discussed privately ... If an amicable solution could not be reached, Mandela has a will, which should be respected and adhered to.”

If the Mandelas continue their “public family feud, then we begin to deduce that they don’t care about the interests of their father”.

“Self-interest is what landed King’s children where they are today,” Ndletyana said. “It seems as though the Mandela children don’t care how the public is looking at them.

“Mandela’s legacy is too great for them to tarnish, but they are tarnishing their own public standing and damaging their own reputations.”

The Mandela children, like those of King’s, are failing to emulate their iconic parent. “All children are expected to embody their parent’s best characteristics. Your behaviour should not put your parent’s name to shame...

“As a society we are not being unfair on Mandela’s children to expect them to behave in a manner which would honour their father who was a man of reconciliation, peace and humility,” Ndletyana said. “Their entitlement seems to blind them to their unbecoming behaviour ... With their actions they are taking something away from themselves,” Ndletyana said.

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