Stop quoting Mandela!

2013-12-09 15:12

Watching news reports and beholding masses picketing, rioting or toi-toing about this or that, if one didn’t know any better, one would think South Africa is the happiest place on the planet. Judging by the demeanour of the masses, one would assume there is an unending celebration of sorts , that is until you read the signs.

“Real men don’t rape” read one picket sign. Agreed, real men don’t rape. The real men who comprehend what it is to be a real man don’t fall from sky. Rapists don’t fall from the sky either, they grow up among us, they are shaped and moulded into criminals among us.

About 40% of South Africa’s population is between 0-19 years old, that is about 20 million children, dreams that can either be made or broken during these critical years if not already. At present close to 4 million children are orphaned and this figure will increase to 5.5 million by 2015, according to Actuarial Society of SA. Over 10 million more children are presently living in poverty, the bulk of whom are more than likely to remain trapped in the cycle of poverty if we do not do anything about it, now. According to UNICEF, children classified as vulnerable (orphans or otherwise) are more than likely to become victims of abuse or perpetrators of abuse themselves. Take abuse and crime aside, what sort of workers, perhaps employers, consumers, entrepreneurs or politicians are we likely to see in the next 15-20-30 years?

As it stands, 40% of women would have been raped by the time they reach adulthood, let alone the boys growing into men with the scars no amount of picketing could even begin to address (that is if they are lucky enough to have someone picket on their behalf). One wonders why so much anger and hatred, what drives a human being to infuse such pain on another without blinking?

“We are all born with a blank page, which slowly fills with life experiences that shape us and who we are to become. We are strongly influenced by our upbringing, which serves as the foundation for the pages of our own unique life story.” Dr Amelia Klein

There is no denying one has a choice to defy the odds and rise beyond an abusive past or  inhibiting circumstances but how does one write a story without ever having learnt to read, let alone read beyond verbal cues which often fail to express the true meaning of life? Without a well developed  vocabulary that stems from the literary works that come in the form of everyday role models, how do the young ones evolve into the “ideal” for which we so often quote Nelson Mandela? We may quote till the cows come home but change will come if you and I are willing to be the Mandela of present and future generations, accolades or not.

Corruption does not begin when individuals land in parliament, become directors of companies or public service personnel,  neither does fighting corruption begin when it is exposed. It begins during the formative years of a child, when principles are instilled and good values cemented. Fighting rape, crime and injustice of any kind will not begin by attempting to deconstruct the flawed mind of a grown man or woman, but it begins with giving a roadmap to the young that they may know the way and not depart from it into adulthood. Combating any disease will be impossible if we focus on treating the symptoms rather than addressing the cause and nipping it in the bud.

It takes about R10,000 to look after a prisoner a month, more than what it costs to send a child to a private school, way much more than average household income for many South Africans. We could choose to condemn those filthy criminals, continue to complain about who and what is failing us or we could each play our part to contribute to the ideal we so long to see become a reality by making the sacrifices today for tomorrow’s gains. The ideal for which we so often quote Nelson Mandela. If truth be told, quotes do not change the world, actions do.

“If any many loves me, he will keep my words” If we so love Nelson Mandela and many other leaders we quote, who would have liked to see individuals of all races, societal classes, educational backgrounds, bring to fruition the reality we so desire, we will live by the ideals they lived for. By choosing to do nothing as individuals and giving a million and one reasons why it is impossible for South Africa and Africa to change, we are simply choosing to forever be financiers of many more social grants, upkeep for prisoners, rehabilitation of victims of rape and violence and spending more on security for homes and businesses. Alternatively, we could choose to invest whatever we can in the children of our country for a brighter tomorrow. It doesn’t take tens of thousands to give a child a positive influence, but simply giving our time to show we care enough to correct, reprimand, encourage, mentor and expose the uncared for to positivity so they have something worthy to aspire to.

Agreed, every society has its ills regardless of how evolved but we can certainly curb the high rates of rape, murder, corruption and violence if we apply the “every child is everyone’s child” principle starting today. It may seem all too overwhelming, as though the future is bleak beyond redemption but there is time to re-write tomorrow’s history today.  Many at times we play the highlight reel of individuals like Nelson Mandela in a matter of minutes but his entire life was 95 whole years, close to 35 000 days, 840 000 hours, filled with actions, good and bad, that shaped the legacy he leaves, a legacy that will not be carried forward by mere quotes but by actions. Our Rome like any other Rome will not be built in one day, nor by one person but it will start with individuals simply laying down a single brick today so tomorrow may see generations sheltered from the storms we endeavour weather at present.

Times are tough and like many, you may not have much to spare materially or financially but you can give of yourself, a couple of hours of you time whenever you can. You could even go a step further to host a child for a weekend or take on the responsibility of fostering, mentoring or adopting a child. There are many organisations out there which you can approach and in case you do not know of any, please visit to play your part in transforming this country.

Stop quoting Mandela and start doing what men and women like him would do.


AB praises selfless skipper

2010-11-21 18:15

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