Mandla Mandela: ‘Stop all the Mandelising’

Mandla Mandela next to the Madiba statue at Mvezo Komkhulu Museum. Picture: Lubabalo Ngcukana
Mandla Mandela next to the Madiba statue at Mvezo Komkhulu Museum. Picture: Lubabalo Ngcukana

Why must “everything” be named after former president Nelson Mandela? That is what his eldest grandson, Mandla, is asking, after opposing a move to rename Mthatha Airport after the late statesman.

Mandla Mandela (42), the chief of Mvezo, has lambasted what he calls the “Mandelisation” of “everything in South Africa”.

“People are so fixated on Nkosi Dalibhunga’s name [Madiba’s praise name] that they want to Mandelise everything. So every entity must now be named after Nkosi Dalibhunga, disregarding the entire legacy of the rest of the lineage of abaThembu,” he told City Press at his residence, Mvezo Great Place.

Mandla said his grandfather spoke to him about this before he died, saying he “had been a mere voice and face of the struggle for liberation”, but that there were many ordinary South Africans who sacrificed more than he did, because they died for the struggle.

“They are disregarded. Their stories are untold. Their contributions are unknown. Why? Because we have chosen to be a society that is fixated on the Mandelisation of everything.”

He then spoke of the name-change proposal regarding Mthatha Airport. Previously the KD Matanzima Airport, it was named after the former ruler of the Transkei and Madiba’s cousin.

“Last week, I was approached by the Aviation Board in charge of airports in the Eastern Cape, saying they would like to change the airport to the Nelson Mandela Airport ... I cannot, when I am already the chief of the Mandela family, today be part of a plan to erase KD Matanzima’s name from history. Not me,” Mandla said.

He added that Madiba had called Matanzima “an elegant man” who taught him how to dress properly. He had also welcomed Mandla’s grandmother and Madiba’s first wife, Evelyn Mase, to Cofimvaba and given her a plot in town after her divorce.

Mandla said a better option would have been to rename Port Elizabeth Airport after Madiba because the Nelson Mandela Bay Metro was already named after him.

“But no. You are fixated on this name ... So you run to Mthatha and delete Madiba’s own cousin’s name so that you can put Madiba’s name there. I will only support a decision taken by the Matanzima royal family.”

Mandla played down reports that government had poured millions of rands into Mvezo to turn it into a tourism site, with little to show for it.

Some of the developments in Mvezo include a 10km tar road and Nkosi Dalibhunga Mandela Legacy bridge linking the N2 to the Mvezo Great Place, which cost R127 million.

There is also a multipurpose centre, a cultural centre and a traditional court with administration offices, built for R15 million.

The department of environmental affairs spent R3 million on landscaping. The department of tourism is currently building a backpackers and self-catering lodge for R33 million.

The Mvezo project started after the village was proclaimed a heritage site in 2000 and became a recipient of the government’s Comprehensive Rural Development Programme, seven years before Mandla became chief.

But when he arrived, there was only an open-air museum with four of Madiba’s photographs. Mandla said the Mvezo Traditional Council had raised cash and sponsorships to develop the area.

These include the R100 million Mandela School of Science & Technology, built by Siemens; the Mvezo Komkhulu Museum, funded with R23 million from the National Lottery; the Makgatho Lewanika Mandela Primary School, built with R30 million from the Chung Hon Dak Foundation in Hong Kong; and Nolusapho Preschool, built with R5 million from the Al-Imdaad Foundation.

“We have almost matched government rand for rand with the work we have done here as the traditional council. But no one says anything about the work this council is doing,” Mandla said.


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