How Mandela was killed

2015-03-31 04:53

This past week when black and white students from University of Cape Town and all other Universities broke out of a self-imposed consciousness curfew that they had been in for years and finally rekindled the flame of transformation in institutions of higher learning, I realized just how profoundly important it is to narrate our history and not just to narrate it but to preserve the truth in the process.

This sparked a thought on a very important narrative about South Africa’s history especially about its most prominent freedom fighter and icon, Rolihlahla Nelson Mandela. For the longest time I have been irked by how this important figure is portrayed.  I believe that this distortion about Mandela’s character has got to a point where it has been cemented into reality. This distortion surely appeased a lot of people from outside but this won’t change the fact that it is not true but more of a cognitive dissonance, a narrative of convenience, one that shies away from the truth.

If for a second, you were to close your eyes and imagine your most memorable Mandela moment, you are most likely going to have an image of an old grey-haired man with an amicable smile, probably with his fist held slightly high if not dancing. You are probably going to have a picture of a tall, frail but happy black man in a silk shirt. You are mostly likely going to have a symbol of peace instead of economic and political freedom. I even asked a group of high school learners what Mandela stood for, they all confidently said peace and freedom in our land.  They all affirmed this picture that most of us young people have. This is the picture of Mandela the symbol and epitome of peace and freedom.

This is exactly where the problem is. Truth is, Mandela was never a symbol of peace and even if he was to a certain extent, his predominant quality was that of an economic and political freedom of our people. Mandela fought for total emancipation of our people. But today, by some miracle, his contribution on a peaceful transition all of a sudden surpasses his freedom fighting self.

Today this mild, lukewarm old character is being imposed to us and this is a problem. This ‘dawn of the new era and smooth transition to democracy’ Madiba is all we see on TV. We are no longer told of the youthful Xhosa lion that came to court to declare his preparedness to die for total emancipation of our people.

The beautiful post-1990 narrative belongs to the west and white-liberals in general. Every time when the county is on crossroads and any policy cul-de-sac, when important policy change must be instituted and when there is doubt, the liberals often pose a question, ‘what would Mandela have done?.’ This question actually appears to be rhetorical. We all know the answer to this. This is because the question is used to answer questions we are confronted with at the time. The answer is simple, ‘retain the status quo’. The answer to this is ‘forgive and forget’. It is, ‘don’t disturb our equilibrium lest you irk the west and powers that be’.

We run a risk of allowing this distortion to become a reality. The story of the real radical Mandela must be told. We must not allow political expediency to take charge and use Mandela’s name for convenience. The real Mandela character is being killed for convenience. The revolutionary Mandela is being replaced with a symbol of peace and neo-liberalism. The problem with this is, if we allow it, history will judge, our children will one day call for removal of his monuments.

Let’s tell the real story, let’s preserve Tata’s relentless, unyielding, radical and staunch freedom fighter status.

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