We have let Madiba down

December last year was a time of sadness and celebration in South Africa. As the nation mourned the death of its father, Nelson Mandela, we also celebrated the extraordinary life he lived.

Along with the tears was the dancing in the streets as South Africans sang freedom songs in honour of their liberator.

There were also pledges by the lowly, and the high and mighty, to honour Mandela’s legacy by being loyal to the values and principles he lived by.

In his funeral oration, President Jacob Zuma listed these as “unity, selflessness, sacrifice, collective leadership, humility, honesty, discipline, hard work and mutual respect”.

“We will promote these values and practise them to build the type of society you wanted. That society is outlined in the ideals you espoused, the ideals you lived for and which you were prepared to die for,” said Zuma.

He promised Mandela that the great man would “remain our guiding light, illuminating the path as we continue the long journey to build the South Africa of your dreams”.

This week, as we take stock of the 12 months since Mandela left us, we cannot honestly say we have been true to our promises. We have been deficient in working towards the type of society that he wanted.

National unity remains a mirage. The polarisation of society, politically and racially, appears to be deepening. The wars in Parliament and the disgusting racism incidents in the country are testament to this. The nation’s leadership pays lip service to the fight against corruption, giving lie to the promise to uphold the values of selflessness, sacrifice and honesty.

So when our leaders stand up on Friday to pay tribute to Mandela and recommit themselves to his values, they must also explain how the spirited defence of the Nkandla corruption monument squares with living up to Madiba’s principles.

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